The functions of Parliament are not only varied in nature, but considerable in volume. The time at its disposal is limited. It cannot make very detailed scrutiny of all legislative and other matters that come up before it. A good deal of Parliamentary business is, therefore, transacted in the committees.These are committees, with MPs as members, for specialized work on behalf of the entire Parliament.
Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds: Ad hoc Committees and the Standing Committees. Ad hoc Committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report. The principal Ad hoc Committees are the Select and Joint Committees on Bills. Others like the Railway Convention Committee, the Committees on the Draft Five Year Plans and the Hindi Equivalents Committee were appointed for specific purposes. Apart from the Ad hoc Committees, each House of Parliament has Standing Committees like the Business Advisory Committee, the Committee on Petitions, the Committee of Privileges and the Rules Committee, etc.
The Estimates Committee reports on ‘what economies, improvements in organisation, efficiency or administrative reform consistent with policy underlying the estimates’ may be effected. It also examines whether the money is well laid out within limits of the policy implied in the estimates and suggests the form in which estimates shall be presented to Parliament.
The Public Accounts Committee scrutinises appropriation and finance accounts of Government and reports of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It ensures that public money is spent in accordance with Parliament’s decision and calls attention to cases of waste, extravagance, loss or nugatory expenditure.
The Committee on Public Undertakings examines reports of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, if any. It also examines whether public undertakings are being run efficiently and managed in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices.
The Rules Committee of the Lok Sabha recommended setting-up of 17 Department Related Standing Committees (DRSCs). Accordingly, 17 Department Related Standing Committees were set up on 8 April 1993. In July 2004, rules were amended to provide for the constitution of seven more such committees, thus raising the number of DRSCs from 17 to 24. The functions of these Committees are:
to consider the Demands for Grants of various Ministries/Departments of Government of India and make reports to the Houses;
to examine such Bills as are referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha, as the case may be, and make reports thereon;
to consider Annual Reports of ministries/departments and make reports thereon; and
to consider policy documents presented to the Houses, if referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha, as the case may be, and make reports thereon.
Other Standing Committees in each House, divided in terms of their functions, are
Committees to Inquire:
Committee on Petitions examines petitions on bills and on matters of general public interest and also entertains representations on matters concerning subjects in the Union List; and
Committee of Privileges examines any question of privilege referred to it by the House or Speaker/Chairman;
Committees to Scrutinise:
Committee on Government Assurances keeps track of all the assurances, promises, undertakings, etc., given by Ministers in the House and pursues them till they are implemented;
Committee on Subordinate Legislation scrutinises and reports to the House whether the power to make regulations, rules, sub-rules, bye-laws, etc., conferred by the Constitution or Statutes is being properly exercised by the delegated authorities; and
Committee on Papers Laid on the Table examines all papers laid on the table of the House by Ministers, other than statutory notifications and orders which come within the purview of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, to see whether there has been compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, Act, rule or regulation under which the paper has been laid;
Committees relating to the day-today business of the House:
Business Advisory Committee recommends allocation of time for items of Government and other business to be brought before the Houses;
Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions of the Lok Sabha classifies and allocates time to Bills introduced by private members, recommends allocation of time for discussion on private members’ resolutions and examines Constitution amendment bills before their introduction by private members in the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha does not have such a committee. It is the Business Advisory Committee of that House which recommends allocation of time for discussion on stage or stages of private members’ bills and resolutions;
Rules Committee considers matters of procedure and conduct of business in the House and recommends amendments or additions to the Rules; and
Committee on Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House of the Lok Sabha considers all applications from members for leave or absence from sittings of the House. There is no such Committee in the Rajya Sabha. Applications from members for leave or absence are considered by the House itself;
Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, on which members from both Houses serve, considers all matters relating to the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes which come within the purview of the Union Government and keeps a watch whether constitutional safeguards in respect of these classes are properly implemented;
General Purposes Committee considers and advises Speaker/Chairman on matters concerning affairs of the House, which do not appropriately fall within the purview of any other Parliamentary Committee; and
House Committee deals with residential accommodation and other amenities for members;
Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament, constituted under the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, apart from framing rules for regulating payment of salary, allowances and pension to Members of Parliament, also frames rules in respect of amenities like medical, housing, telephone, postal, constituency and secretarial facility;
Joint Committee on Offices of Profit examines the composition and character of committees and other bodies appointed by the Central and State governments and Union Territories Administrations and recommends what offices ought to or ought not to disqualify a person from being chosen as a member of either House of Parliament;
The Library Committee consisting of members from both Houses, considers matters concerning the Library of Parliament;
Committee on Empowerment of Women with members from both the Houses was constituted with a view to securing, among other things, status, dignity and equality for women in all fields;
The Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha.