Chapter 12
Committees of Parliament

Introduction

 

12.1.1 Parliament constitutes committees for assisting it in dealing with specific items of business requiring expert or detailed consideration. A committee of Parliament may be constituted in pursuance of:

(a)  provisions of the LSR and RSR;

(b)  an Act of Parliament;

(c)  motion or resolution adopted by the House; or

(d)  inherent powers of the Speaker/Chairman.

      A list of Standing Committees of Parliament and other particulars relating thereto are given in Annex 23. General provisions applicable to the committees constituted by the Lok Sabha are given in Chapter XXVI of LSR.

 

12.1.2 Out of the committees of Parliament listed in Annex 23, the following three financial committees deserve special mention:

LSR 308,309

 

(a)  Public Accounts Committee: It examines the appropriation accounts, the annual financial accounts and such other accounts laid before the House as the committee may think fit.

 

LSR 310 to 312

 

(b)  Estimates Committee: It examines the estimates of various departments with a view to reporting economies, suggesting alternative policies and examining whether the final provisions are consistent with the policy.

 

LSR 312A,312B

 

(c)  Committee on Public Undertakings: It examines the working of specified public sector undertakings with a view to finding out whether the undertakings have been organised in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices.

 

Procedure followed by financial committees

 

12.2 The procedure generally followed by these financial committees is to:

(a)  decide the programme of work for the year;

(b)  issue a detailed questionnaire to the departments/public sector undertakings concerned;

(c)  call for papers/documents; and/or

(d)  summon officials and non-officials for evidence; and/or

(e)  undertake tours of offices, projects, undertakings, etc., and/or

(f)  form sub-committees/study groups for detailed scrutiny of the subject covered by the study; and

(g)  submit the final report to the Lok/Rajya Sabha.

 

Scope of applicability of procedures

12.3.1 Some of the procedures to be followed in regard to these three financial committees as described in this chapter are common to them but separate procedures have also been prescribed applicable to one or two of them. Paras 12.10 and 12.15 are, however, applicable to all the committees of Parliament listed in Annex 23.

 

LSR 331
RSR 268,277

 

12.3.2 In addition to the financial committees, there are departmentally related Standing Committees of Parliament (Annex 23(b)). These committees examine the Demands for Grants, Bills, Annual Reports of the departments concerned and long term policy documents presented to the Houses.

 

Nomination of an officer to deal with information called for by financial committees
PRO 12.4

 

12.4 Each department will nominate a senior officer for:

(a)  furnishing information called for by a financial committee;

(b)  rendering such assistance as may be sought for by the committee; and

(c)  co-ordinating action in the department with respect to its recommendations.

The name of such officer will be communicated to the secretariat of the committee.

 

Furnishing of material to financial committees

 

12.5.1 The following material forwarded to a committee will invariably be approved by an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary in the department concerned and if, in unavoidable circumstances, it cannot be signed by him, the communication will mention that approval at that level has been obtained for:

 

PRO 12.12

 

(a)  preliminary material called for by the committee;

(b)  replies to questionnaire;

(c)  replies to points arising out of the evidence of representatives of the department/undertaking before the committee; and

(d)  replies showing action taken by  government on the recommendations contained in the reports of the committee.

 

 

 

12.5.2 Forty copies in English and fifteen copies in Hindi of the above-mentioned material should be submitted within the time stipulated in the communication sent to the department by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

 

Furnishing of material to Public Accounts Committee
PRO 12.6 to 12.11

 

12.6.1 The audit will inform the departments concerned of the cases in which excesses have occurred as soon as the appropriation accounts for a year are finalised and sent to the press for first proof. The department will then submit notes giving reasons for excesses, duly vetted by audit, to the Ministry of Finance. The budget division of that Ministry will be responsible for furnishing the explanatory notes, duly vetted by the audit, to the Public Accounts Committee immediately after the presentation of the appropriation accounts to Parliament or by  31  May, whichever is later.

 

 

 

12.6.2 Apart from the above, even other notes, memoranda, etc., will invariably be shown to audit before their formal submission to the Public Accounts Committee. When it is not possible to do so within the period stipulated by the committee, the department concerned will simultaneously send to the LS Secretariat, advance copies of the notes transmitted to audit to enable the committee to finalise their report without delay.

 

Furnishing secret documents to financial committees

 

12.7 On receipt of a request for supply of secret documents to financial committees, the department concerned will, with the approval of the Minister:

 

PRO 12.5

 

(a)  supply the documents; or

(b)  supply the documents to the Chairman of the committee with a recommendation against their circulation amongst members of the committee; or

(c) decline to supply the documents if it is considered that their disclosure would be prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State.

 

Presence of representatives of the departments at the sitting of financial committees 
PRO 11.15 to 11.17 SD 59

 

12.8 A department or undertaking required to give evidence before a committee on any matter will be represented by the Secretary or the head of the undertaking, as the case may be, unless the Chairman of the committee has permitted, on a request being made to him, any other senior officer to represent it. In case the Secretary/head of the undertaking is unable to appear before such a committee, the reasons for such absence and also the name of the officer to be deputed in his place will be intimated in advance.

 

Coordination of action taken on recommendations of Estimates Committee/ Public Accounts Committee

 

12.9.1 The procedure for examination of the recommendations of the Estimates Committee and the Public Accounts Committee and issue of replies thereto is as follows:

(a)  Recommendations relating to a single department will be dealt with by the department concerned.

PRO 12.18,12.19

 

(b)  Recommendations concerning the department reported upon as well as other departments will:

      (i) if they raise general questions of a financial and budgetary nature, be co-ordinated by the Ministry of Finance (Department of Expenditure) in consultation with the departments concerned (The final reply to the committee will be issued either by the department reported upon or the Ministry of Finance, as may be mutually agreed to); and

      (ii) if they raise other more general policy questions, be dealt with by the department reported upon in consultation with the Cabinet Secretariat.

Ministry of Finance O.M. No. B.12(31)-(Coord)/67 dt.16-5-68

 

(c)  In respect of the reports of the Public Accounts Committee, the responsibility for ensuring that final replies, duly vetted by audit, reach the committee within the prescribed period of six months of the receipt of the report, will rest with:

      (i) the Department of Expenditure in respect of recommendations marked

      - to that department;

      - jointly to that department and one or more of the other departments; and

      - to all departments.

      (ii) the department concerned with the recommendations, in other cases.

Implementation 
of the
recommendations
 made by
Committees of
Parliament 
PRO 12.21 to 12.27

 

12.9.2 The department concerned will furnish the committee with a statement showing action taken on the recommendations contained in the report as well as the views of government on all the recommendations including those which are accepted by the Government.

SD 102 
Cabinet Sectt.
O.M.No. 71/10/CF/66 dt.12.11.66 and No71/10/CF/69 dt. 6.4.70

 

12.10.1 Where it is proposed not to accept any recommendations of a parliamentary committee, the department will:

(a)  submit the case to the Minister bringing out clearly the reasons for non-acceptance, and seeking his orders whether the case may be submitted to the Cabinet;

(b)  take action according to the Minister’s orders; and

(c)  place the Government’s views before the committee.

 

 

12.10.2 The committee may, if it thinks fit, submit a further report to the House after considering the Government’s views.

 

 

12.10.3 If there are any factual statements in the report of a committee of Parliament on which the Government have reasons to disagree, they will be brought to the notice of the committee.

PRO 12.25

 

12.10.4 Statements, comments or observations on the contents of the reports of a committee of Parliament made in public without the knowledge of the committee or without the permission of the Speaker/Chairman may be considered a breach of privilege of the House and, therefore, should be avoided.

Action taken on the recommendations of the financial committees
PRO 12.26

 

12.11 Subject to what is stated in para 12.9.1, each department will furnish to the committee, within six months from the date of presentation of the report to Parliament, a statement showing action taken by the Government on the recommendations contained in the report. No extension is ordinarily granted save in exceptional circumstances. In case of Public Accounts Committee, the statement will be vetted by audit.

Comments on the action taken on reports of the financial committees
PRO 12.28

 

12.12 Once a financial committee has presented its report to the Lok Sabha giving its comments on the action taken by the department concerned on its original report, it may normally be regarded as the completion of the process of examination so far as the committee is concerned. If, however, in the ‘action taken report’ presented by the committee, it has been pointed out that replies to certain recommendations in the original report are still outstanding, the department concerned will furnish its replies to the outstanding recommendations even after the ‘action taken report’ has been presented to the Lok Sabha.

Circulation of administrative reports etc. to members of financial committees 
PRO 12.1 and 12.2

 

12.13 Copies of the annual reports of departments will be supplied separately for use in these committees on specific request made by the Lok Sabha Secretariat in this regard.

Supply of information regarding setting up of new government companies/ statutory Corporations to the Committee on Public Undertakings PRO 12.3

 

12.14 Soon after a Government company or a statutory corporation is set up, the administrative department will send to the LS Secretariat for the information of the Committee on Public Undertakings:

(a)  an intimation regarding its formation;

(b)  two sets of articles and memorandum of association/statute relating thereto; and

(c)  a copy each of the annual reports and accounts of the company/corporation and the budget estimates, if presented to the Lok Sabha.

Conduct and etiquette for guidance of witnesses appearing before Committees of Parliament

 

12.15.1 A witness appearing before a committee of Parliament is expected to behave in a dignified manner. In particular, he will:

(a)  show due respect to the Chairman of the committee/sub-committee by bowing while taking his seat;

(b)  take the seat earmarked for him;

PRO 11.14

 

(c)  take the oath/make affirmation, if so asked by the Chairman and, while doing so, stand and bow to the Chair just before taking the oath/making the affirmation;

(d)  answer specific questions put to him either by the Chairman, or by a member of the committee or by any other person authorised by the Chairman;

(e)  make all submissions to the Chair and the committee in courteous and polite language;

(f)  bow to the Chair when asked to withdraw after completion of his evidence;

(g)  not smoke or chew, when before the committee; and

(h)  note that subject to the provisos of LSR 270, the following acts would constitute breach of privilege and contempt of the committee:

      (i) refusal to answer questions;

      (ii) prevasation or willfully giving false evidence or suppressing the truth or misleading the committee;

      (iii) trifling with committee or returning insulting answers; and

      (iv) destroying or damaging a material document relating to the enquiry.

12.15.2 Where an officer wishes to rely upon any of the provisos to rule 270 [vide sub-para (h) of para 12.15.1 above], he should not state the matter in the form of an objection then and there before the committee, but give an interim reply that it is necessary for him to look into the papers and take a little time before giving an appropriate or a considered reply to the question. He can then get in touch with the Chairman or the Secretary of the committee and state his difficulties. The Chairman will then indicate to him what further steps he should take in the matter and whether it is necessary to bring the Minister into the picture or not.