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Explain the structure of the Parliamentary Committee system. How far have the financial committees helped in the institutionalisation of Indian Parliament ?

1. Types of Committees:

  • Standing Committees: These are permanent and regular committees that are constituted every year or periodically. Their work goes on continuously, irrespective of whether Parliament is in session or not. Examples include the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Committee on Estimates.
  • Ad hoc Committees: These are temporary committees formed for a specific purpose, and they cease to exist after they complete their task. Examples include Select Committees and Joint Committees on specific bills.

2. Examples of Key Committees:

  • Public Accounts Committee (PAC): This committee examines the yearly audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), which are laid before Parliament by the President.
  • Estimates Committee: It examines the estimates included in the budget and suggests ‘economies’ in public expenditure.
  • Committee on Public Undertakings: This oversees the performance of public undertakings.
  • Department-related Standing Committees: These committees deal with demands for grants of the respective ministries/departments.

How Financial Committees have helped in the Institutionalization of the Indian Parliament:

1. Strengthening Oversight: Financial committees, especially the PAC, play a crucial role in ensuring the executive’s accountability to the Parliament, particularly concerning financial propriety and utilization of funds.

2. Expert Analysis: Through these committees, Parliament can delve deep into the intricacies of financial matters. For instance, the Committee on Estimates goes into the details of budgetary allocations and ensures that funds are being allocated efficiently.

3. Non-partisan Functioning: Traditionally, the chairperson of the PAC is a member of the opposition, ensuring that the committee’s functioning is not just a rubber stamp of the executive’s decisions.

4. Specialized Scrutiny: Given the vast scope of budgetary allocations, it’s not feasible for the entire Parliament to discuss each line item. Financial committees, thus, allow for specialized scrutiny.

5. Recommendations: These committees don’t just critique but also recommend. For instance, the PAC, while examining CAG reports, has highlighted financial mismanagement and suggested ways to rectify them.

Examples with Facts:

  • CAG Reports and PAC: Over the years, several CAG reports highlighting irregularities, such as the 2G spectrum case, the coal block allocation case, etc., have been taken up by the PAC, leading to significant political and policy ramifications.
  • Committee on Estimates: In its 30th report (2018-19), the Committee on Estimates, while discussing the Defence Services budget, highlighted the need for dedicated allocation for capital expenditure.
  • DRSCs (Department-related Standing Committees): These committees, in their reports, often influence policymaking. For example, the DRSC on Health and Family Welfare, in its 115th report, made observations about the functioning of the AIIMS institutions and suggested measures for their betterment.

Conclusion:

The Parliamentary Committee system, especially the financial committees, have played a pivotal role in strengthening the institution of Parliament in India. They ensure a deeper and more nuanced examination of various issues, especially financial matters, thereby holding the government more accountable. The recommendations and observations of these committees have, over the years, significantly influenced public policy and governance.


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