Committee Systems In SAARC Parliaments

The role played by committees on Legislation, Government Controlling and Internal business and process regularization theoretically is the same.<br><EM>Jeeva Raj Budhathoki</EM>

April 23, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-19 Apr. 20-2012 (Baishakh 08,2069)<br>

A committee is an authority constituted by representatives of the people or any interest groups to fulfill certain purposes. The more numbers of people are there, the more complicated it will be for effective and quick decisions. So a Parliamentary Committee is understood as a shortened body formed by representatives of a Parliament. Now-a-days there is a big volume of Parliamentary works that have to be performed by a Parliament, and this is impossible. So, the Parliaments of the world have developed the Committee System for their convenience to smoothly perform their tasks.

To make the parliamentary committees and their role more comprehensive we can primarily divide them into two categories; Standing Committee and Ad hoc Committees. Standing Committees are of permanent nature, as they remain functional for the tenure of a House. Unlike this, Ad hoc Committees are constituted for some special purposes and cease to exist after accomplishing their tasks. Similarly, a Parliament has mainly three functions; to make statutes, to do oversight and control the government and to regularize its internal businesses and procedures. According to the businesses of a parliament; committees are formulated. So, in general there are 6 types of committees in the worldwide Parliamentary Practice. First, Legislative Committees; these Committees performs legislative functions and discuss on Bills. In most countries, these types of committees are as Ad hoc. Second, Subjective Committees; these Committees make policies, oversee the Government's responsibility and control over it and they also play the advisory role in parliamentary business. In India, these types of committees are Joint Committees. Third, Financial and Investigation Committees which don't make policies, but only scrutinize the financial matter, whether the expenditure of Government authorized by appropriation bill is appropriate or not as referred by the guidelines and financial regulations; like as Public Finance, Estimate Committees and Government Assurance Committee etc. Fourth, Internal Business Regulatory Committees maintain and regulate different Parliamentary internal Businesses and Activities; like Business Advisory Committee, Rules Committee, Petition Committee etc. The fifth type of Special Committees are related to any subject as Parliament requires. The sixth type are Joint Committees; if the Parliament is bicameral and needs to do anything jointly, these Committees are formed accordingly. Now, let's know the Committee System in brief in SAARC Countries.

The Bicameral Parliament of India consists of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha 250 M) and the Lower House (Lok Sabha 552 M). The lower House of India consists of 16 Subjective Committees (as Joint Committees), 5 Financial and Investigation Committees, 7 Internal Business Regulatory Committees and other Legislative Committees, Special Committees and Joint Committees can be formed as required. Likewise, in upper House there are 8 Subjective Committees (as a Joint Committees), 2 Investigation Committees, 10 Internal Business Regulatory Committees and 13 Joint Committees and Legislative Committees and Special Committees can be formed as required.

The Pakistan Parliament also is Bicameral and contains the two houses: the Lower House is National Assembly (342 M) and the Upper House Senate (104 M). The Lower House has 46 Standing Committees, 4 special committees and 3 other Internal Businesses Regulatory Committees. Likewise the Senate has 28 Standing Committees, 3 Functional Committees and 3 other Internal Businesses Regulatory Committees.

The Parliament of Bangladesh named Jatiya Sangsad (300 M) is Unicameral. Now in Bangladesh, Parliament has 48 Committees in total. Of them, 35 are Subjective Committees (Departmentally-related) and 13 other types. The committees set up by recent Parliament have played great roles in almost every function, including scrutinizing legislation and exercising oversight over executive departments.

The Sri Lanka Parliament (225 M) also is Unicameral. There are 2 Ad hoc Committees, 54 Subjective Committees, 2 Legislative Committees, 5 Internal Business regulatory Committees, 3 Financial and investigation Committees, and 4 Special Committees. The Committee System of Sri Lanka, though British in origin, has changed its character in keeping with the changing developments in the Sri Lanka Parliament and the society.

Likewise, the Afghanistan Parliament is also Bicameral: the Lower House (Wolesi Jirga 249) with directly elected members and the Upper House (Meshrano Jirga 102) with Senators. The Lower House has 18 Standing Committees and the Upper House has 12 working committees.

The Bhutan Parliament consists of two houses; Upper House (National Council 25 M) and Lower House (National Assembly 55 M) The Committees are being regulated there by the “National Assembly Committees' Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2004.” There are only 2 Standing Committees; of them 1 is Public Accounts and the another one Legislative Committee under the Lower House. Ad hoc Committees can be formed as required.

In the Maldives, the Majlis (77 M) is the Unicameral Parliament. There are two types of committees; 11 Standing Committees which are responsible for proposing amendments to bills or matters presented to Majlis floor, researching of the proposed bills or matters presented to the Majlis. Besides this, Ad hoc Committees can be formed as required.

In Nepal, the Unicameral Constituent Assembly (601M) is also undertaking the responsibility of Parliament. There are 6 Subjective Committees, 1 Legislative Committee 1 Financial Committee, 1 Internal Business related Committee and 2 Special Committees arranged under the Rules and Procedures of the Parliament.

The role played by committees on Legislation, Government Controlling and Internal business and process regularization theoretically is the same. However, according to the Structure of Parliament (Unicameral or Bicameral), the Political System followed by a Country ( Parliamentary, Presidential or Mixed) and the size of the MP's numbers and the culture, economy, resources and the standard of development of such country; the Committee's names, member's numbers and Subject matters of committees may be different in different countries. For example In Afghanistan Bills are initially discussed in Committees then they go to the House because there is Presidential System. Similarly, In India and other countries where Parliamentary System is followed; Bills are initially discussed in House, then they go to the Committee even though, finally Bills are passed through House. Among the above enumerated Systems of different Countries, only in the Bhutan, Committees are systematized by Special Law. Otherwise, in all other countries, Committees are governed by Rules, Procedures and Standing Orders of related country's Parliament.

In conclusion, Parliamentary Committees are the essential organs of a Parliament. In worldwide Practice, every Parliament has its Committee System and no parliament can perform its Business properly without Committee System. So, without proper knowledge of Committee System Parliamentary procedure can't be understood.

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