There is a call yet again to make the proceedings of Parliament committees public, a move many think would bring about greater transparency and accountability in the system. However, similar demands made in the past had run into firewalls of opposition.
Chairman of Rajya Sabha and vice-president Hamid Ansari on Saturday advocated putting an end to the practice of holding the proceedings of committees behind closed doors.
The vice-president said this while addressing newly elected MPs to Rajya Sabha.
Stating that bringing such meets into the open would be a clear sign of a “maturing democracy”, Ansari said that such proceedings are open to the public in prominent democracies such as the UK and the US. Other panels, including the department-related standing committees, would also get an oversight of the executive’s functioning if they are brought into the open, he added.
The vice-president acknowledged that similar efforts in the past — made by presiding officers and some legislators — had failed to bear fruit. One of the main arguments against this move is the fact that participating MPs — in the current scenario — are free to adopt opinions “independent” of their parties’ rigid public positions. If Parliament committee proceedings come out in the open, they would have to toe the party line or run the risk of displeasing their higher-ups.
However, Ansari said that despite these issues, there was still a need to increase transparency by making the proceedings public.
Later, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Congress leader and a nominated member in Rajya Sabha, used the same forum to raise concerns that 90% of the MPs don’t take committee meetings seriously. Most of the time, the secretariat staff have a hard time bringing together the MPs required to complete the mandated quorum.
Aiyar has had a long association with various parliamentary committees, first as a bureaucrat and later as the union minister in charge of various portfolios such as petroleum, sports and panchayati raj.