Mini Parliaments : Department Related Standing Committees (DRSCs)

RBI Governor stresses need for autonomy of central bank.
  • Reserve Bank of India Governor batted for autonomy of the institution in strong terms in his deposition before the Standing Committee on Finance.
  • He made a presentation on the impact of demonetisation and the status of non-performing assets in the banking sector.
  • He made three key points during the meeting. First, he said depositors’ interests were of primary importance for which autonomy was non-negotiable.
  • Second, he said monetary policy should be the exclusive domain of the RBI.
  • He also asserted that maintaining the central banks’ reserves was extremely essential to maintaining the country’s AAA rating.
  • With a view to ensure specialized and Ministry/Department specific scrutiny and oversight of the Executive by the Legislature, the Parliament of India introduced the system of Department Related Standing Committees (DRSCs) in 1993. Initially, consisting of 17 Committees, the DRSCs System was expanded to 24 Committees after reorganization in 2004.
  • They perform three important functions:
    • examine Bills referred to them;
    • select specific topics related to the ministries and examine implementation by the Government;
    • and examine the budgetary outlays of the departments.
  • Their performance affects the overall effectiveness of Parliament as an institution that makes laws, holds the Government accountable, and gives sanction for public spending.
  • There  are  24 Departmentally Related Standing Committees covering under their jurisdiction all  the Ministries/ Departments of the Government of India. Each of these Committees consists of 31  Members – 21  from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha to be nominated by the Speaker,  Lok Sabha and the Chairman,  Rajya Sabha, respectively.  The term of Office of these Committees does not exceed one year.
  • The recommendation of committees are not binding. It is for the Government or any other member to move the relevant amendments, which may then be voted upon by the House.
  • The  Committee,  constituted  under  Rule  331C  of  the  Rules  of  Procedure  and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, consists of 31 members; 21 members from Lok  Sabha,  nominated  by  the  Speaker,  Lok  Sabha  and  10  from  Rajya  Sabha nominated  by  the  Chairman,  Rajya  Sabha.

The Standing Committee on Finance

examines matters concerned with the following Ministries/Departments:-
  •   Finance – Departments of
(a)  Economic Affairs,
(b)  Financial Services
(c)  Expenditure,
(d)  Revenue, and
(e)  Disinvestment,
  •   Corporate Affairs,
  •   Planning (Planning Commission), and
  •   Statistics and Programme Implementation

Advantages:

  • They help Parliament manage its business better. It is easier to examine a topic in depth by a committee of 30.
  • They enable input from experts and those who may be directly affected by a policy or legislation. For example, the DRSCs often invite comments from the public and call people to testify.
  • Being outside direct public glare allows members to discuss issues and reach consensus without worrying about constituency pressures.
  • In the Indian context is that the anti-defection law does not apply to committees — therefore, decisions are not usually made on party lines.
  • Finally, these committees allow members to focus on some specific areas and build their expertise, which helps them scrutinize issues more thoroughly.

Criticism :

  • The DRSC that examined the Right to Education Bill, 2008 did not invite any expert witness.
  • Only 27 percent of Bills introduced in the current Parliament have been so referred to them.
  • A Bill as important as the Constitution Amendment to enable the GST was passed by Lok Sabha without reference to the DRSC;
  • Several Bills piloted by the Finance Ministry have been referred to specially-formed joint committees of the two Houses rather than the DRSCs. (chaired by a member of party in power.)
  • These committees lack standing research support. They are backed by the general support staff of Parliament and do not have a dedicated set of researchers associated with them. While they can (and often do) reach out to outside experts, there is no internal expertise that can finesse such opinion.
  • Transparency: All committees meet behind closed doors and only the final report is published .

 

  • Way forward: strengthening the “mini-parliaments” will improve Parliament’s overall effectiveness.
  • Suggested Reading: Laxmikanth 23.5

15th Loksabha as Least Productive Ever

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