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Parliament has had no standing committees for a month, MPs’ attendance is one reason why

Department-related parliamentary panels are constituted in Sept every year. Opposition says the delay is a reflection of the govt's 'overall attitude about the functioning of Parliament'.

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New Delhi: Parliamentary standing committees are reconstituted in September every year. However, this year, the exercise is yet to be completed. This means no parliamentary panels have existed for a month now.

Parliament sources told ThePrint that initially, there was some delay by political parties in sending their nominations for these committees. All nominations are now in, but the secretariats of both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha have written back to the leaders of all parties, suggesting that they take the attendance of their respective MPs in meetings into account before making their nominations.

“Initially, when political parties were asked to submit their nominations for the committees, some took a little longer than others. But then the presiding officers of both houses wrote to the parties asking them to take into account how regularly their MPs, who were nominated last year, attend committee meetings. It is not mandatory — just a suggestion that was made keeping in mind the importance of these committees,” a Parliament source said.

“If there is large-scale absenteeism in important committees such as defence, finance and external affairs, that reflects whether or not MPs are serious about their job. The political parties’ responses are still coming in; hopefully, the committees will be formed by next week,” the source added.

The issue of MPs absenteeism in Parliamentary committees has been flagged multiple times by Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice-President of India M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Parliamentary standing committees function as ‘mini Parliaments’. They scrutinise Bills referred to them, look at the functioning of ministries, the budgetary allocations made, and also make recommendations about how governance and government programmes can be made better. A delay in their constitution means there is less time available for a committee to discharge its duties.

There are 24 department-related parliamentary standing committees — eight constituted by the Rajya Sabha secretariat and 16 by the Lok Sabha secretariat. All of them have MPs from both houses as members. The maximum term allowed for a standing committee is one year.

Also read: Disruption in Parliament isn’t new. But there was a new aggression in this monsoon session

‘Reflection of government attitude’

Opposition MPs have alleged that the delay in the constitution of standing committees is a reflection of the government’s “overall attitude about the functioning of Parliament”. They say this is a part of the “larger plot” to destroy the sanctity of the institution.

Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Vishwam, leader of the CPI parliamentary party, said: “This is a very unfortunate situation. This is part of a systematic effort to put parliamentary committees in cold storage. I have no idea what is causing the delay because my party at least has not been given any information on this. But this goes beyond the timely constitution of standing committees. This is a reflection of the government’s approach as a whole to the functioning of Parliament. Committees function under the framework of Parliament. They want to weaken it.”

Jawhar Sircar, Rajya Sabha member from Trinamool Congress, added: “I was just told that there is an inordinate delay in the constitution of standing committees. It is very demoralising. This means that the members’ time is not being fruitfully utilised for parliamentary work, and that is extremely unfortunate.”

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

Also read: Parliament worked 49 hours, wasted 151 hours — monsoon session was least productive in Modi 2.0


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