Day 26 – Q 2.What is the role and mandate of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament. Recently the government decided to end the tradition of opposition party chairing the committee. What are your views on this?
2. What is the role and mandate of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament. Recently the government decided to end the tradition of opposition party chairing the committee. What are your views on this?
संसद की विदेश मामलों की समिति की भूमिका और जनादेश क्या है। हाल ही में सरकार ने विपक्षी दल द्वारा समिति की अध्यक्षता करने वाली परंपरा को समाप्त करने का निर्णय लिया। इस पर आपके क्या विचार हैं?
The Standing Committee on External Affairs/Foreign Affairs is one of the Departmentally Related Standing Committees, which has been constituted to examine matters pertaining to the Ministry of External Affairs and the institutions/organizations failing under its purview.
Role and mandate of the Foreign Affairs Committee
As per Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, the activities being performed by the Standing Committee on External Affairs are:
- Examination of Demands for Grants of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and make reports thereon.
- Examination of such bills pertaining to both the above Ministries that are referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker as the case may be and make a report thereon.
- Consideration of Annual reports of both the Ministries and make reports thereon.
- Consideration of national basic long-term policy documents presented to the Houses, if referred to the Committee by the Chairman Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, as the case may be, and makes reports thereon.
- In addition to this, the committee also meets with visiting foreign delegations from various countries from time to time.
Implications of the government decision to end the tradition of opposition party chairing the committee
Parliamentary committee of Foreign Affairs draws its authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business). Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance. Bills that are referred to committee is returned to the House with significant value addition. Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees.
External affairs committee, much like the Public Accounts Committee, is conventionally headed by an MP from the main opposition. Recently the government decided to end the tradition of opposition party chairing the committee. Implications of this move may involve
- Parliamentary Committees comprising members across party lines from both the Houses. They can call for and examine witnesses, look into the minutiae of an issue, and give detailed recommendations, but most important, they allow a member to speak her mind on an issue without the need to toe the party line. This helps build consensus to resolve deadlocks in legislation. The outcome is usually a report tabled in Parliament having “persuasive” or “advisory” value. This move may affect to build consensus to resolve deadlock in legislation
- A Parliamentary committee not only examines each provision within the Bill extensively, giving each member multiples opportunities to present her detailed views and amendments, but also acts as a check on poorly drafted provisions within legislation which is hurriedly passed through a House. Additionally, given the bipartisan nature of such committees, the government all but co-opts the Opposition from opposing the Bill once the report has been tabled. This move may not provide opportunity to express views of the Opposition Parties.
- When a government lacks the numbers in a House to pass the contentious bill, the committee process helps bring on board support which it would otherwise lack. But where a government has adequate numbers to push through legislation, it might view the committee as superfluous at best, and, perhaps, even a disadvantage, as it allows the Opposition to get its dissent noted on record. This move may lead bypassing the views of opposition in the committee which may inimical to parliamentary democracy.
It’s believed that Indian polity has been able to sustain its democratic nature because of the constant scrutinizing by opposition parties. A party might not be able to form the government at the center because of the lack of majority, but that doesn’t take away the responsibility of acting as a watchdog of the ruling party. When it comes to questioning the government and preventing them from taking negative strides, parliament is the most suitable platform for the opposition to leverage.