IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt |16th Sep 2020
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EDITORIAL HUNT #140 :“Reconstitution of Standing Committees | UPSC“
Vivek K. Agnihotri
Reconstitution of Standing Committees | UPSC
Vivek K. Agnihotri is Former Secretary-General, Rajya Sabha, Parliament of India
Parliament and its panels
There is a need to rethink the tenurial prescription for reconstitution of Department-related Standing Committees
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Standing Committees : Parliament
There is definitely a need to rethink the tenurial prescription for reconstitution of Department-related Standing Committees. Discuss possible outcomes -(GS 2)
- What Rules say
- The mismatch
- Different Tenures
- The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees have a so-called tenure of one year.
- However, since these are joint committees of the two Houses of Parliament, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha also has to concur.
WHAT THE RULES SAY
- RULES : According to Rule 269 of the Rajya Sabha Rules, the term of office of the “members” of the committees shall not exceed one year.
- TENURE : It is the term of office of the members and not that of the committees per se that is one year.
- RENEWAL OF TENURE : This tenurial issue has to be looked at against the backdrop of the fact that the Rajya Sabha itself undergoes partial biennial renewal, since one-third of its members retire every two years by virtue.
- LOKSABHA TENURE : As far as the Lok Sabha is concerned, it has a fixed tenure of five years, unless sooner dissolved.
- ACTUAL CHANGES : In the Rajya Sabha, the annual renewal is only notional; major changes are brought about only after each biennial election.
- LITTLE MEANING : Since the Rajya Sabha biennial elections have taken place only in June 2020, there is little point in going through the re-nomination exercise again now.
- THE CATCH : Since there is a mismatch between the election schedule of both houses, it is only once in 10 years that the requirement of major reshuffle of the Standing Committees in both the Houses is expected.
- MISMATCH DATES : That is after the second round for the Lok Sabha and the fifth biennial round of the Rajya Sabha.
- UNNECESSARY EXERCISE : Given the different election schedules of the two Houses and since the term is prescribed for the members, there is perhaps no need to mandate the same term for the members of both the Houses.
- NO FIXED TENURE : The Rajya Sabha Rules prescribe no fixed tenure for all the other Standing Committees of the Rajya Sabha listed therein.
- STANDARD PRESCRIPTION : The standard prescription relating to the constitution of those committees states that the committee shall hold office until a new committee is nominated and that the casual vacancies in the committee shall be filled in by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
- OTHER SIDE : As far as the Lok Sabha is concerned, most of its committees listed in the Lok Sabha Rules have a tenure of one year, except a few for which no tenure has been prescribed.
- SERIOUS COMMITTEES : It would appear that committees concerned with deliberations of a serious nature were given a term coterminous with that of the House, while others were prescribed annual renewal.
- IN TOTALITY : Another fact to be taken note of is that there are 24 Department-related Standing Committees, each with a membership of 31 (10 of the Rajya Sabha and 21 of the Lok Sabha).
- ACCOMMODATION : They can accommodate 240 members of the Rajya Sabha and 504 members of the Lok Sabha. Ministers cannot be members of these committees and some senior members opt out.
- EXTRA DUTY : Thus no eligible and available MP is left out of the membership of these committees. As a matter of fact, members of some parties have to perforce do double duty.
- RULE BOOK : The language of the Rules of the two Houses makes it clear that the one-year term is of the members of the committees and not of the committees per se.
- CO-ORDINATION : There should be no difficulty if the terms of the members of the two Houses on these committees are different, in consonance with the tenure of the Houses themselves.
- TERM : It would stand to reason if the tenure of Department-related Standing Committees is prescribed differently for the two Houses.It may be two years for the Rajya Sabha members and for the Lok Sabha members, it may be coterminous with its life.
- VACANCY : The Rules could also provide that casual vacancies may be filled in by the Presiding Officers, who may also be empowered to reconstitute the membership of their respective Houses in the committees, if they so desire.