Birla, Naidu discuss attendance of MPs in Parliament panel meets
Minutes after a tumultuous winter session of Parliament ended on Wednesday, at a lively yet informal gathering of senior lawmakers in Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu’s chamber, a lengthy discussion kicked off on attendance in parliamentary committee meetings, people familiar with the matter said.
Earlier, on Monday, in a rare meeting between Lok Sabha Speaker and panel chairpersons, a similar discussion on attendance led to several ideas being put forth, including taking a more lenient view on appearance of MPs and the quorum or minimum attendance of 10 (one-third of panel) not being made mandatory for all meetings.
The Speaker’s meeting was attented by the chairpersons of the 16 department-related standing committees.
“At least three chairpersons at the Speaker’s meeting suggested that the quorum should not /only be required for preparing or adopting a report. They argued that often the witnesses, many of whom come from other places to Delhi, are forced to return without deposition for lack of quorum,” said a senior leader present in the meeting.
Birla assured the members that this proposal would be discussed in Rules Committee and General Purpose Committee for approval, another leader said.
The Speaker also suggested that parliamentary committees should constantly interact with state legislative committees for capacity-building, and all House panels must be strengthened to ensure the accountability of the government, he added.
“The Speaker said that all panel chiefs can even talk to parliamentary committees of other countries to share best practices. He also wanted panels to call subject experts to make the reports more research-based,” the second leader said.
Among crucial suggestions given to the Speaker, one was that panel chairpersons can be authorised to brief the media to ensure credibility and veracity of reports on panel meetings, and avoid leakage. “This way the House panels can put out the official version of what happened in the proceedings without being in breach of Parliamentary privilege,” said a thirdleader, recounting the conversation.
The discussions in a Committee are confidential until reports are tabled in Parliament.
The chairman of a financial committee demanded that more bills should be referred to panel, while another MP suggested that the human resources available to the Committees should be bolstered to ensure maximum output.
During the winter session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself stressed on better attendance and criticised his own party members for ‘poor attendance’ at a meeting of the BJP lawmakers.
For the past few years, both Naidu and Birla have been track of attendance of MPs in House committees. A Lok Sabha official pointed out that some MPs were shifted out of other panels due to lack of attendance.
Meanwhile, at Naidu’s meeting on Wednesday, “much time was spent on attendance in these meetings after the Leader of Rajya Sabha, Union minister Piyush Goyal raised the topic”, said a functionary.
Naidu told the leaders that he has been closely monitoring the attendance in the meetings of the eight Committees of Rajya Sabha, and that attendance has improved substantially over the last three years. He further said these committees are hugely complementing the Parliament in its functions, the functionary added.