After a large-scale rejig at the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister effected some changes in Cabinet committees.
Explain the purpose of a cabinet committee while giving a short description of the types and their composition.
About Cabinet Committees:
● They are extra-Constitutional in emergence. In other words, they are not mentioned in the Indian Constitution. But, the Rules of Business offer for their establishment.
● The terms of the cabinet committees are defined in Government of India’s Transaction of Business Rules, 1961.
● Cabinet Committees are basically sub-committees within the Union Cabinet to look at specific remits and deliberate on various issues including security, economy.
● The role of a cabinet committee — which comprises cabinet ministers and ministers of state — is to deliberate and take a final call on important policy issues related to different sectors such as security, politics, economy, among others.
● Their primary aim is to reduce the workload of the cabinetand expedite the decision-making process.
● Their membership varies from three to eight. They usually include only Cabinet Ministers. However, the non-cabinet Ministers are not excluded from their membership.
Types and Composition of Cabinet Committees:
● Standing Cabinet Committee: These are permanent in nature with a specific job. The Cabinet Ministers are called its ‘members’ while the people without the rank of Cabinet Committee are called ‘special invitees’.
● Ad-hoc Cabinet Committee: These are temporary in nature and are formed from time to time to deal with specific tasks.
● Composition: The composition of a Cabinet Committee varies from 3 to 8 people. Even Ministers who are not part of the Cabinet can be added to a Cabinet Committee. Usually, each cabinet committee has at least one Cabinet Minister. The members of the Cabinet Committee can be from both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
● At present (2021), 8 Cabinet Committees are functional. The two new cabinet committees were formed in 2019. They are Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth and Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development.
Significance of Cabinet Committees:
● Article 77(3) of the Constitution states: “The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.”
● To solve issues and formulate proposals for the consideration of the cabinet and take decisions on matters assigned to them. However, the cabinet is empowered to review such decisions.
● Bargain and Compromise: It enables ministers to bargain and compromise with each other and this reduces pressure of work upon the cabinet.
● Discretion to handle important matters: the cabinet is left free to devote itself to more important matters.
● Collective Responsibility: The committee system safeguards the principle of collective responsibility, which is an essential feature of the cabinet system.
● Examination of Policies: These committees facilitate deep examination of the policy issue and effective coordination.
● Focussed Attention:when an activity/agenda of the Government acquires prominence or requires special thrust, a Cabinet Committee may be set up for focussed attention.
● In all areas delegated to the Cabinet Committees, normally the decision of the Cabinet Committee in question is the decision of the Government of the day.
● Ministers of state and deputy ministers who are not members of the cabinet are members of one or more committees. This is a way in which they can and are brought into a closer association with the work of the cabinet.
● It increase the effectiveness of political control over public services.
● Collaboration and Coordination between public servants and politician: The public servants are called upon by the committees to justify their proposals and comment on problems under review. This procedure establishes a close interface between a politicians and public servants and ensures that those who formulate policy are reasonably well informed.
● Eliminates the possibility of any one department carrying a disproportionate weight of opinion. The committees also act as a collective check on individual ministers and on the Prime Minister
● Division of work:In view of the growth in the volume and complexity of the government business, a proper division of labour and effective delegation within cabinet requires committees to perform functions devolved on them by the cabinet.
● They focus supra-ministry attention on particular sectors of administration. Effective coordination is their major contribution.
The cabinet committees wield real power of decision on less important general policy matters. Other matters, which must be dealt with in the cabinet, are also whittled in committees. Only the delicate and complex points, or those on which ministers differ, remain for discussion by the cabinet. What has saved the cabinet, as the central decision-making body, is the elaborate network of cabinet committees, which have acted as a clearing house.