Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Cabinet Committees and Empowered Group of Ministers in Indian Parliament

The Cabinet is the highest decision making government body of our country which is headed by the Prime Minister.

However, given the huge workload of various issues which need to be addressed, sometimes either the Cabinet or the Prime Minister delegate some of the work to special committees.

These committees deal with special problems and are constituted according to the situation.

Following important points can be noted with respect to these Cabinet committees

1. The concept of Cabinet committees is not mentioned in the constitution, hence they are called extra constitutional.

These committees are based on the Rules of Business which provide a provision for setting up of such committees

2. There are two types of Cabinet committees, Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees.

Standing Cabinet Committee is a committee which is permanent in nature.

Ad Hoc committees are those committees which are temporary in nature.

These committees are formed periodically to deal with special problems.

Once the situation is resolved by the relevant committee, it is then dissolved.

For example, in 1962 after the Chinese invasion, an Emergency committee was setup.

3. Cabinet committees are formed by the Prime Minister as per the requirements of the situation and time.

Therefore the number of such committees which differ from time to time and their composition also varies.

4. The number of members in a Cabinet committee can be anywhere between three members to eight members.

These members are generally cabinet ministers but other ministers are also not banned from such committees.

5. Such committees not only include senior Cabinet ministers but also those ministers who are closely related to the situation at hand.

6. The Cabinet committees are generally headed by the Prime Minister.

But if the Prime Minister is not a member of a Cabinet committee, then other members of the Cabinet can also be the head of the committee, especially the Finance Minister and the Home Minister.

However, whenever the Prime Minister is a member of a Cabinet committee, he automatically becomes the chairman of the committee.

7. The main objective of these committees is to examine and investigate the situations at hand and also make some proposals for the resolution of such issues.

These proposals are presented to the Cabinet which then takes the appropriate decision.

This does not mean that the Cabinet committees don’t have the authority to take decisions.

But any decision taken by the Cabinet committee can be reviewed by the Cabinet

8. The Cabinet Committees serve as a device to reduce the huge load of work that falls upon the Cabinet.

Also, with the formulation of such committees, it is possible for government to examine a certain issue thoroughly so that desirable consequences can be achieved.

The principle behind the formation of such communities is the division of labor and efficient delegation of workload.

9. Some of the important standing committees are the Political Affairs committee, the Economic Affairs Committee, Appointments Committee and the Parliamentary Affairs Committee.

Out of these Committees, the first three are chaired by the Prime Minister himself whereas the Parliamentary Affairs Committee is headed by the Home Minister.

The most powerful Cabinet committee is the Political Affairs Committee which is also known as a Super Cabinet.

Functions of the Standing Committees

Political Affairs Committee: This committee deals with all policy making or policy revision matters including both domestic and foreign.

Economic Affairs Committee: This committee monitors and examines the government’s activities in the economic sector.

Appointments Committee: This committee deals with all the higher level appointments in The Central Secretariat, Public Enterprises and Financial Organizations.

Parliamentary Affairs Committee: This committee monitors the development of the government’s business in the Parliament.

Empowered group of ministers

A GoM is a group of ministers appointed either by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet or the Cabinet Committees to investigate, examine and propose solutions for a certain issue.

An Empowered Group of Ministers or EGoM is a Group of Ministers who are authorized to take decisions after appropriate examination of the issue.

In other words, GoM only has the authority to investigate and report to the Cabinet, which then takes the appropriate steps and decisions for the resolution.

But an Empowered or authorized GoM can also take the appropriate decisions themselves to resolve the issue that they have investigated.

This authority is provided to them by the permission of the establishing body like the Cabinet, the Cabinet committees or the Prime Minister.

Both of these group of ministers are appointed in accordance with the Indian Transaction of Business Rule, 1961.

This rule provides for a provision of setting up of an Ad Hoc committee of ministers, including Group of Ministers which may be appointed by the Cabinet, or the standing committees of the Cabinet like the Parliamentary Affairs Committee etc, or by the Prime Minister, to investigate and report directly to the Cabinet about matters which have been delegated upon them.

This provision is mentioned in para 6(4).

This rule also states that all decisions taken by such group of minister and ad hoc committees are subject to be reviewed by the Cabinet.

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