Like other parliamentary democracies in the world, the Parliament of India has the cardinal functions of legislation, overseeing of administration, passing of budget, ventilation of public grievances and discussing various subjects like development plans, international relations and national policies. The distribution of powers between the Union and the states, followed as per the constitution, emphasizes in many ways the general predominance of the Parliament in the legislative field. Apart from a wide range of subjects, even in normal times, Parliament can, under certain circumstances, assume legislative power, falling within the sphere exclusively reserved for the states. Parliament is also vested with powers to impeach the President and to impeach the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, the Chief Election Commissioner and Comptroller and Auditor General in accordance with procedure laid down in the constitution.
All legislation requires consent of both the Houses of Parliament. In the case of money bills, however, the will of the Lok Sabha prevails. Delegated legislation is also subject to review and control y Parliament. Besides the power to legislate, the constitution vests in Parliament the power to initiate amendment of the constitution.
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 its business is, therefore, transacted in committees.
Both Houses of Parliament have a similar committee structure, with a few exceptions. Their appointment, terms of office, functions and procedure of conducting business, are also more or less, similar and are regulated under rules made by the two Houses under Article 118(1) of the constitution.
Broadly, parliamentary committees are of two kinds — standing committees and ad hoc committees. The former are elected or appointed every year or periodically and their work goes on, more or less on a continuous basis. The latter are appointed on an ad hoc basis as need arises and they cease to exist as soon as they complete the work assigned to them.
Standing Committees : Among standing committees three financial committees — Committee on Estimates, Public accounts and Public Undertakings — constitute a distinct group and they keep an unremitting vigil on Government expenditure and performance. While members of the Rajya Sabha are associated with committees on Public Accounts and Public Undertakings, members of the Committee on Estimates are drawn entirely from the Lok Sabha.
The Estimates Committee reports on “what economies, improvements in organisation, efficiency or administrative reform consistent with policy underlying the estimates” may be affected. It also examines whether the money is well laid out within the policy limits implied in the estimates and suggests the form in which estimates shall be presented to the 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. It calls attention to cases of waste, extravagance, loss or nugatory expenditure. The Committee on Public Undertakings examines the 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 control exercised by these committees is of a continuous nature. They gather information through questionaires , memoranda from representative non-official organisations and knowledgeable individuals, on-the-spot studies of organisations and oral examination of non-official and official witnesses. Between themselves, the financial committees examine and report on a fairly large area of multifarious activities of the Government of India.
Leaders of opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha are accorded statutory recognition. Salaries and other suitable facilities are extended to them through a separate legislation which came into force on November 1, 1977.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs is responsible for coordinating, planning, and arranging Government business in both Houses of Parliament. In the discharge of this function, his Ministry works under the overall direction of the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. The Minister for parliamentary Affairs keeps close and constant contact with the Presiding Officers, the leaders as well as he chief whips and whips of various parties and groups. The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs also nominates Members of Parliamentary , Committees, Councils, Boards and Commissions etc. set up by the Government.
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