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Why in news?

  • The Lok Sabha Speaker initiated an exercise to assess the effectiveness of the Parliamentary Standing Committees, from taking stock of the rate of attendance at their meetings to the list of recommendations that have not been accepted by the government.
  • Lok Sabha Speaker, in a rare move, has suggested a host of ideas for parliamentary committees to consider.

Details of Why such moves came up:

  • This comes in the backdrop of efforts by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats to hold online meetings of the committees.
  • None of the department related standing committees (DRSCs) have met since the Parliament Sessions ended abruptly due to the COVID-19 Lockdown.
  • The Rajya Sabha secretariat had done a similar analysis and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha on March 1, pointed out that a total of 95 MPs did not attend a single meeting of the eight DRSCs that reviewed allocations for 18 Ministries after the presentation of the 2020-21 Union Budget on February 1.
  • The Lok Sabha Speaker asked the secretariat to “follow up intensely” with the members to ensure that they attended meetings of the panels.
  • The Speaker also asked all the committees to give suggestions to improve the rating/ranking of India in global indices.
  • During a performance review of 16 department-related standing committees under the Lok Sabha on May 12 and 13, the Speaker also emphasized that the panels should work with an eye on the last people in line and keep them at the centre of their recommendations.

Government Orders

  • The government gave blanket instructions on March 1 to all Ministries to improve Indian’s position on various global tally, including the World Press Freedom Index.
  • The Lok Sabha secretariat, according to the sources, had been asked to prepare a list of cases where a committee’s recommendations have not been accepted by the government or where required action is pending for more than three months.
  • Both, Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman have acceded the demands and now the National Informatics Centre will provide a safe platform for holding meetings.

Ideas of Parliamentary Panels

  • This was the first comprehensive review of the panels in many years, said the two officials, and it is part of efforts to improve the efficiency of Parliamentary panels.
  • The parliamentary committees, established in 1993, are seen as an extension of the house.
  • Indian Parliament has 24 department related standing panels out of which 16 belong to Lok Sabha and remaining come under purview of Upper House.
  • The Lok Sabha Speaker has also asked for detailed background notes for panels, a compilation of major recommendations of all committees which have had a significant impact on common citizens, and a report on recommendations which have an impact.
  • For railways panel, Speaker suggested looking into use of land along railway lines to develop horticulture, floriculture and solar power plants, and privatization in Railways.

Powers and Duties of the Lok Sabha Speaker

  1. He maintains order and decorum in the House for conducting its business and regulating its proceedings. This is his primary responsibility and he has final power in this regard.
  2. He is the final interpreter of the provisions of
    • the Constitution of India,
    • the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha
    • the parliamentary precedents, within the House.
  3. He adjourns the House or suspends the meeting in absence of a quorum. The quorum to constitute a meeting of the House is one-tenth of the total strength of the House.
  4. He does not vote in the first instance. But he can exercise a casting vote in the case of a tie. In other words, only when the House is divided equally on any question, the Speaker is entitled to vote. Such vote is called casting vote, and its purpose is to resolve a deadlock.
  5. He presides over a joint setting of the two Houses of Parliament. Such a sitting is summoned by the President to settle a deadlock between the two Houses on a bill.
  6. He can allow a ‘secret’ sitting of the House at the request of the Leader of the House. When the House sits in secret, no stranger can be present in the chamber, lobby or galleries except with the permission of the Speaker.
  7. He decides whether a bill is a money bill or not and his decision on this question is final. When a money bill is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for recommendation and presented to the President for assent, the Speaker endorses on the bill his certificate that it is a money bill.
  8. He decides the questions of disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha, arising on the ground of defection under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule. In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the Speaker in this regard is subject to judicial review.
  9. He acts as the ex-officio chairman of the Indian Parliamentary Group which acts as a link between the Parliament of India and the various parliaments of the world. He also acts as the ex-officio chairman of the conference of presiding officers of legislative bodies in the country.
  10. He appoints the chairman of all the parliamentary committees of the Lok Sabha and supervises their functioning. He himself is the chairman of the Business Advisory Committee, the Rules Committee and the General-Purpose Committee.

-Source: The Hindu, Hindustan Times

December 2023