We may usefully refer to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha Rules (for short, ‘the Rules’). Rule 2 of the Rules defines the “Parliamentary Committee”. For the sake of completeness, we reproduce the same:-
“”Parliamentary Committee” means a Committee which is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker and which works under the direction of the Speaker and presents its report to the House or to the Speaker and the Secretariat for which is provided by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.”
Chapter 26 of the Rules deals with Parliamentary Committees and the matters regarding appointment, quorum, decisions of the committee, etc. There are two kinds of Parliamentary Committees: (i) Standing Committees, and (ii) Adhoc Committees. The Standing Committees are categorized by their nature of functions. The Standing Committees of the Lok Sabha are as follows:-
“a) Financial Committees;
b) Subject Committees or Departmentally related standing committees of the two houses;
c) Houses Committee i.e. the Committees relating to the day to day business of the House;
d) Enquiry Committee;
e) Scrutiny Committees;
f) Service Committees;
vi) A list of Standing Committees of Lok Sabha along with its membership is reproduced as under:
Name of Committee
Number of Members
Business Advisory Committee
Committee of Privileges
Committee on Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House Committee on Empowerment of Women
Committee on Estimates
Committee on Government Assurances
Committee on Papers Laid on the Table
Committee on Petitions
Committee on Private Members Bills and Resolutions
Committee on Public Accounts
Committee on Public Undertakings
Committee on Subordinate Legislation
Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
Joint Committee on Offices of Profit
Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament
vi) Apart from the above, there are various departmentally related Standing Committees under various ministries.”
From the aforesaid, it is quite clear that there are various departmentally related Standing Committees under various Ministries. It is apt to note here that in the case at hand, Rule 270 of the Rules which deals with the functions of the Parliamentary Committee meant for Committees Rajya Sabha is relevant. It reads as follows:-
Each of the Standing Committees shall have the following functions, namely:-
(a) to consider the Demands for Grants of the related Ministries/ Departments and report thereon. The report shall not suggest anything of the nature of cut motions;
(b) to examine Bills, pertaining to the related Ministries/ Departments, referred to the Committee by the Chairman or the Speaker, as the case may be, and report thereon;
(c) to consider the annual reports of the Ministries/Departments and report thereon; and
(d) to consider national basic long term policy documents presented to the Houses, if referred to the Committee by the Chairman or the Speaker, as the case may be, and report thereon: Provided that the Standing Committees shall not consider matters of day-to-day administration of the related Ministries/Departments.”
Rule 271 provides for applicability of provisions relating to functions. Rule 274 deals with the report of the Committee. The said Rule reads as follows:-
“274. Report of the Committee
(1) The report of the Standing Committee shall be based on broad consensus.
(2) Any member of the Committee may record a minute of dissent on the report of the Committee.
(3) The report of the Committee, together with the minutes of dissent, if any, shall be presented to the Houses.”
14. Rule 274(3) is extremely significant, for it provides that the report of the Committee together with the Minutes of the dissent, if any, is to be presented to the House. Rule 277 stipulates that the report is to have persuasive value. The said Rule is as follows:-
“277. Reports to have persuasive value.- The report of a Standing Committee shall have persuasive value and shall be treated as considered advice given by the Committee.”
Relying on the said Rule, it is argued by the learned counsel for the petitioners that the report of the Standing Committee has a persuasive value and hence, it can be taken note of for the purpose of fact finding by this Court. The learned counsel for the Union of India, on the contrary, would contend that as per the scheme of the Rules, it is meant to have persuasive value and considered as an advice given by the Standing Committee to the Parliament.
It is submitted on behalf of the Union of India that the Rules 277 – 279 deal with submission of the Report of the Committee and provide that if no time frame is given, the same would be submitted within a month from the appointment of the Committee and the reports shall be presented to the House by the Chairperson. It is further urged that the reports submitted by the different Committees are examined/debated by the House and only thereafter they are adopted. Our attention has been drawn to Rule 277 and Rule 278 made for Lok Sabha which provide for Scope of Advice regarding reports submitted by Select/Joint Committees. In essence, the purpose of reliance is, it is a matter of concern to the debates in the Parliament.
At this juncture, we may look at the origin and working of the Parliamentary Committee. The Committee system in India, as has been stated in “The Committee System in India : Effectiveness in Enforcing Executive Accountability”, Hanoi Session, March 2015, is as follows:-
“The origin of the Committee system in India can be traced back to the Constitutional Reforms of 1919. The Standing Orders of the Central Legislative Assembly provided for a Committee on Petitions relating to Bills, Select Committee on Amendments of Standing Orders, and Select Committee on Bills. There was also a provision for a Public Accounts Committee and a Joint Committee on a Bill. Apart from Committees of the Legislative Assembly, members of both Houses of the Central Legislature also served on the Standing Advisory Committees attached to various Departments of the Government of India. All these committees were purely advisory in character and functioned under the control of the Government with the Minister-incharge of the Department acting as the Chairman of the Committee.
After the Constitution came into force, the position of the Central Legislative Assembly changed altogether and the committee system underwent transformation. Not only did the number of committees increase, but their functions and powers were also enlarged.
By their nature, Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds: Standing Committees and Ad hoc Committees. Standing Committees are permanent and regular committees which are constituted from time to time in pursuance of the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. The work of these Committees is of continuous nature. The Financial Committees, Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs) and some other Committees come under the category of 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. Railway Convention Committee, Joint Committee on Food Management in Parliament House Complex, etc. also come under the category of ad hoc Committees.”
In the said document in respect of Standing Committees of Parliament, it has been observed:-
“Standing Committees are those which are periodically elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker, Lok Sabha, or the Chairman, Rajya Sabha, singly or jointly and are permanent in nature. In terms of their functions, Standing Committees may be classified into two categories. One category of Committees like the Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs), Financial Committees etc., scrutinize the functioning of the Government as per their respective mandate. The other category of Committees like the Rules Committee, House Committee, Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances, etc. deal with matters relating to the Houses and members.”
We may state that the procedure of the Committee is neither inquisitorial nor adjudicative. It has its own character. The procedure is sui generis. In the Westminister system, Parliament also deals with the matter of accountability of the executive and standing Committees of Parliament, on many an occasion, examine the propriety and wisdom of the conduct of the executive. The reports of the Committees are for the assistance of Parliament. The procedure for drawing up such reports, is entirely a matter for the Committee and it has authority to receive evidence from witnesses – but it is for their own assistance. No person has a right to be heard by the Committee even if the Committee is examining a matter which may result in an adverse comment on the conduct of such person. The principles of natural justice are not applicable.