Special Powers of Rajya Sabha
Due to its federal character, the Rajya Sabha has been given two exclusive or special powers that are
not enjoyed by the Lok Sabha:
- It can authorise the Parliament to make a law on a subject enumerated in the State List (Article 249).
- It can authorise the Parliament to create new All-India Services common to both the Centre and states (Article 312).
An analysis of the above points makes it clear that the position of the Rajya Sabha in our
constitutional system is not as weak as that of the House of Lords in the British constitutional system
nor as strong as that of the Senate in the American constitutional system. Except in financial matters
and control over the council of ministers, the powers and status of the Rajya Sabha in all other
spheres are broadly equal and coordinate with that of the Lok Sabha.
Even though the Rajya Sabha has been given less powers as compared with the Lok Sabha, its utility
is supported on the following grounds:
- It checks hasty, defective, careless and ill-considered legislation made by the Lok Sabha by
making provision of revision and thought.
- It facilitates giving representation to eminent professionals and experts who cannot face the
direct election. The President nominates 12 such persons to the Rajya Sabha.
- It maintains the federal equilibrium by protecting the interests of the states against the undue
interference of the Centre.
Public Accounts Committee
This committee was setup first in 1921 under the provisions of the Government of India Act of 1919
and has since been in existence. At present, it consists of 22 members (15 from the Lok Sabha and 7
from the Rajya Sabha). The members are elected by the Parliament every year from amongst its
members according to the principle of proportional representation by means of the single transferable
vote. Thus, all parties get due representation in it. The term of office of the members is one year. A
minister cannot be elected as a member of the committee. The chairman of the committee is appointed
by the Speaker from amongst its members. Until 1966–67, the chairman of the committee belonged to
the ruling party. However, since 1967 a convention has developed whereby the chairman of the
committee is selected invariably from the Opposition.
The function of the committee is to examine the annual audit reports of the comptroller and auditor
general of India (CAG), which are laid before the Parliament by the president. The CAG submits
three audit reports to the president, namely, audit report on appropriation accounts, audit report on
finance accounts and audit report on public undertakings.
The committee examines public expenditure not only from legal and formal point of view to discover
technical irregularities but also from the point of view of economy, prudence, wisdom and propriety
to bring out the cases of waste, loss, corruption, extravagance, inefficiency and nugatory expenses.
In more detail, the functions of the Committee are:
- To examine the appropriation accounts and the finance accounts of the Union government and
any other accounts laid before the Lok Sabha. The appropriation accounts compare the actual
expenditure with the expenditure sanctioned by the Parliament through the appropriation act,
while the finance accounts shows the annual receipts and disbursements of the Union government.
- In scrutinising the appropriation accounts and the audit report of CAG on it, the Committee
has to satisfy itself that:
(a) the money that has been disbursed was legally available for the applied service or purpose;
(b) the expenditure conforms to the authority that governs it; and
(c) every reappropriation has been made in accordance with the related rules.
- To examine the accounts of state corporations, trading concerns and manufacturing projects
and the audit report of CAG on them (except those public undertakings which are allotted to
the committee on public undertakings).
- To examine the accounts of autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, the audit of which is
conducted by the CAG.
- To consider the report of the CAG relating to an audit of any receipts or to examine the
accounts of stores and stocks.
- To examine money spent on any service during a financial year in excess of the amount
granted by the Lok Sabha for that purpose.
In the fulfilment of the above functions, the committee is assisted by the CAG.
The origin of this committee can be traced to the standing financial committee set up in 1921. The first
Estimates Committee in the post-independence era was constituted in 1950 on the recommendation of
John Mathai, the then finance minister. Originally, it had 25 members but in 1956 its membership was
raised to 30. All the thirty members are from Lok Sabha only. The Rajya Sabha has no representation
in this committee. These members are elected by the Lok Sabha every year from amongst its members,
according to the principles of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote.
Thus, all parties get due representation in it. The term of office is one year. A minister cannot be
elected as a member of the committee. The chairman of the committee is appointed by the Speaker
from amongst its members and he is invariably from the ruling party.
The function of the committee is to examine the estimates included in the budget and suggest
‘economies’ in public expenditure. Hence, it has been described as a ‘continuous economy
committee’. In more detail, the functions of the committee are:
- To report what economies, improvements in organisation, efficiency and administrative
reform consistent with the policy underlying the estimates, can be affected.
- To suggest alternative policies in order to bring about efficiency and economy in
- To examine whether the money is well laid out within the limits of the policy implied in the
- To suggest the form in which the estimates are to be presented to Parliament.
The committee continues the examination of the estimates from time to time, throughout the financial
year and report to the House as its examination proceeds. It is not incumbent on the committee to
examine the entire estimates of any one year. The demands for grants are finally voted despite the fact
that the committee has made no report.
Committee on Public Undertakings
This committee was created in 1964 on the recommendation of the Krishna Menon Committee.
Originally, it had 15 members (10 from the Lok Sabha and 5 from the Rajya Sabha). However, in
1974, its membership was raised to 22 (15 from the Lok Sabha and 7 from the Rajya Sabha). The
members are elected by the Parliament every year from amongst its members according to the
principle of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. Thus, all parties get
due representation in it. The term of office of the members is one year. A minister cannot be elected
as a member of the committee. The chairman of the committee is appointed by the Speaker from
amongst its members who are drawn from the Lok Sabha only. Thus, the members of the committee
who are from the Rajya Sabha cannot be appointed as the chairman.
The functions of the committee are:
- To examine the reports and accounts of public undertakings.
- To examine the reports of the comptroller and auditor general on public undertakings.
- To examine whether the affairs of the public undertakings are being managed in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices.
- To exercise such other functions vested in the public accounts committee and the estimates
committee in relation to public undertakings which are allotted to it by the Speaker from time to time.
The committee is not to examine and investigate any of the following:
- Matters of major government policy as distinct from business or commercial functions of the
- Matters of day-to-day administration.
- Matters for the consideration of which machinery is established by any special statute under
which a particular public undertaking is established.
Departmental Standing Committees
On the recommendation of the Rules Committee of the Lok Sabha, 17 departmentally related standing
committees were set-up in 1993. In 2004, seven more such committees were set-up, thus increasing
their number from 17 to 24.
The standing committees assist the Parliament in debating the budget more effectively. The main
objective is to secure more accountability of the Executive to the Parliament, particularly financial
The 24 standing committees cover under their jurisdiction all the ministries / departments of the
Each standing committee consists of 31 members (21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha). The
members of the Lok Sabha are nominated by the Speaker from amongst its members, while the
members of the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the Chairman from amongst its members.
A minister is not eligible to be nominated as a member of any of the standing committee. In case a
member, after his nomination to any of the standing committee, is appointed as a minister, he then
ceases to be a member of the committee.
The term of office of each standing committee is one year from the date of its constitution.
Out of the 24 standing committees, 8 committees work under the Rajya Sabha and 16 committees
work under the Lok Sabha.
The functions of each of the standing committees are:
- To consider the demands for grants of the concerned ministries/departments before they are
discussed and voted in the Lok Sabha. Its report should not suggest anything of the nature of cut motions.
- To examine bills pertaining to the concerned ministries/departments.
- To consider annual reports of ministries/departments.
- To consider national basic long-term policy documents presented to the Houses.
The limitations that are imposed on the functioning of these standing committees are:
- They should not consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the concerned ministries/departments.
- They should not generally consider the matters which are considered by other parliamentary committees.
It should be noted here that the recommendations of these committees are advisory in nature and hence
not binding on Parliament.
The merits of the standing committee system in the Parliament are:
- Their proceedings are devoid of any party bias.
- The procedure adopted by them is more flexible than in the Lok Sabha.
- The system makes parliamentary control over Executive much more detailed, close, continuous, indepth and comprehensive.
- The system ensures economy and efficiency in public expenditure as the
ministries/departments would now be more careful in formulating their demands.
- They facilitate opportunities to all the members of Parliament to participate and understand
the functioning of the government and contribute to it.
- They can avail of expert opinion or public opinion to make the reports. They are authorised to
invite experts and eminent persons to testify before them and incorporate their opinions in their reports.
- The opposition parties and the Rajya Sabha can now play a greater role in exercising financial control over the Executive.
Business Advisory Committee
It regulates the programme and time table of the House. It allocates time for the transaction of
legislative and other business brought before the House by the government. The Lok Sabha committee
consists of 15 members including the Speaker as its chairman. In the Rajya Sabha, it has 11 members
including the Chairman as its ex-officio chairman.
Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions
It classifies the bills and allocates time for the discussion of bills and resolutions introduced by private members (other than ministers). This is a special committee of the Lok Sabha and consists of 15 members including the Deputy Speaker as its chairman. The Rajya Sabha does not have such a committee. The same function in the Rajya Sabha is performed by the business advisory committee of that House.
Committee on Government Assurances
It examines the assurances, promises and undertakings given by ministers from time to time on the
floor of the House and reports on the extent to which they have been implemented. In the Lok Sabha, it
consists of 15 members and in the Rajya Sabha, it consists of 10 members. It was constituted in 1953.
Committee on Subordinate Legislation
It examines and reports to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules, sub-rules and bye-laws delegated by the Parliament or conferred by the Constitution to the Executive are being properly exercised by it. In both the Houses, the committee consists of 15 members. It was constituted in 1953.
Committee on Welfare of SCs and STs
It consists of 30 members (20 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha). Its functions are: (i) to
consider the reports of the National Commission for the SCs and the National Commission for the
STs; (ii) to examine all matters relating to the welfare of SCs and STs like implementation of
constitutional and statutory safeguards, working of welfare programmes, etc.
Committee on Absence of Members
It considers all applications from members for leave of absence from the sittings of the House; and
examines the cases of members who had been absent for a period of 60 days or more without
permission. It is a special committee of the Lok Sabha and consists of 15 members. There is no such
committee in the Rajya Sabha and all such matters are dealt by the House itself.
It considers the matters of procedure and conduct of business in the House and recommends necessary
amendments, or additions to the Rules of the House. The Lok Sabha committee consists of 15
members including the Speaker as its ex-officio chairman. In Rajya Sabha, it consists of 16 members
including the Chairman as its ex-officio chairman.
General Purposes Committee
It considers and advises on matters concerning affairs of the House, which do not fall within the
jurisdiction of any other parliamentary committee. In each House, the committee consists of the
presiding officer (Speaker/Chairman) as its ex-officio chairman, Deputy Speaker (Deputy Chairman
in the case of Rajya Sabha), members of panel of chairpersons (panel of vice-chairpersons in the case of Rajya Sabha), chairpersons of all the departmental standing committees of the House, leaders of recognised parties and groups in the House and such other members as nominated by the presiding officer.
Committee of Privileges
Its functions are semi-judicial in nature. It examines the cases of breach of privileges of the House
and its members and recommends appropriate action. The Lok Sabha committee has 15 members,
while the Rajya Sabha committee has 10 members.
Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members
It was constituted under the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954. It
consists of 15 members (10 from Lok Sabha and 5 from Rajya Sabha). It frames rules for regulating
payment of salary, allowances and pension to members of Parliament.
It deals with residential accommodation of members and other amenities like food, medical aid, etc.
accorded to them in their houses and hostels in Delhi. Both the Houses have their respective House
committee. In the Lok Sabha, it consists of 12 members.
Committee on Petitions
It examines petitions on bills and on matters of general public importance. It also entertains
representations from individuals and associations on matters pertaining to Union subjects. The Lok
Sabha committee consists of 15 members, while the Rajya Sabha committee consists of 10 members.
It considers all matters relating to library of Par-liament and assist the members in utilising the
library services. It consists of nine members (six from Lok Sabha and three from Rajya Sabha).
It was constituted in Rajya Sabha in 1997 and in Lok Sabha in 2000. It enforces the code of conduct
of members of Parliament. It examines the cases of misconduct and recommends appropriate action.
Thus, it is engaged in maintaining discipline and decorum in Parliament.
Committee on Empowerment of Women
It was constituted in 1997 and consists of 30 members (20 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya
Sabha). It considers the reports of the National Commission for Women and examines the measures
taken by the Union government to secure status, dignity and equality for women in all fields.
Committee on Papers Laid on the Table
It was constituted in 1975. The Lok Sabha Committee has 15 members, while the Rajya Sabha
Committee has 10 members. It examines all papers laid on the table of the House by ministers to see
whether they comply with provisions of the Constitution, Act or Rule. It does not examine statutory
notifications and orders that fall under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation.
Joint Committee on Offices of Profit
It examines the composition and character of committees and other bodies appointed by the Central,
state and union territory governments and recommends whether persons holding these offices should
be disqualified from being elected as members of Parliament or not. It consists of 15 members (10
from Lok Sabha and 5 from Rajya Sabha).
The consultative committees are attached to various ministries / departments of the Central Government. They consists of members of both the Houses of Parliament. The Minister/Minister of State in-charge of the Ministry concerned acts as the chairman of the consultative committee of that ministry.
These committees provide a forum for informal discussions between the ministers and the members of
Parliament on policies and programmes of the government and the manner of their implementation.
These committees are constituted by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. The guidelines regarding
the composition, functions and procedures of these committees are formulated by this Ministry. The
Ministry also makes arrangements for holding their meetings both during the session and the intersession
period of Parliament.
These committees are normally constituted after the new Lok Sabha is constituted, after general
elections for the Lok Sabha. After the constitution of the 14th Lok Sabha, 29 consultative committees
were constituted in October 2004. Subsequently, three more consultative committees were
constituted, thus raising their number to 32.
In addition, the separate Informal Consultative Committees of the members of Parliament are also
constituted for all the Railway Zones. The members of Parliament belonging to the area falling under
a particular Railway Zone are nominated on the Informal Consultative Committee of that Railway
Zone. After the constitution of 14th Lok Sabha, 16 Informal Consultative Committees for the 16
Railway Zones have been constituted.
Unlike the Consultative Committees attached to various ministries/departments, the meetings of the
Informal Consultative Committees are to be arranged during the session periods only.