The Parliamentary Committees are conceived as eyes and ears of a legislature and that’s why they are often termed as ‘mini legislatures’. A dynamic committee system can achieve tangible accountability of the executive to the legislature and of the legislature to the people. To strengthen the role of Parliamentary Committees is to strengthen the legislature. The Assembly transacts a great deal of its business through committees. These committees are appointed to deal with specific items of business requiring expert or detailed consideration. The system of parliamentary committees is particularly useful in dealing with matters which, on account of their special or technical nature, or better considered in detail by a small number of members rather than by the House itself. Moreover, the system saves the time of the House for the discussion of important matters and prevents the Parliament from getting lost in details and thereby losing hold on matters of policy and broad principles.
Chapter XVII of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997, deals with the constitution, composition and functions of the Standing and other Committees.
At present, the Punjab Assembly has a total of 49 Committees as detailed below:-
47 Standing Committees (a Standing Committee is a committee of the Assembly constituted for the tenure of the Assembly). They are further divided into two categories as under:-
· 40 Standing Committees for Government Departments; and
· 7 Other Standing Committees (PAC-I, PAC-II, PAC-III, Privileges, Library, Government Assurance, Finance)
2 Other Committees (Business Advisory Committee and House Committee)
All the 40 Standing Committees for Government Departments and 6 out of 7 other Standing Committees (with the exception of Library Committee) are elected by the Assembly; whereas Library Committee among Standing Committees and both the other Committees (Business Advisory Committee and House Committee) are not elected by the Assembly and are nominated by the Speaker. The Deputy Speaker is the Chairman of the Library Committee. Business Advisory Committee may be constituted by the Speaker from time to time and the House Committee is constituted on yearly basis by the Speaker.
Each Standing Committee for Government Department consists of 11 members; PACs and Privileges consist of 17; Library and Government Assurance 10; and Finance Committee 9 members); the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary concerned are ex-officio members of a Committee. The members to the Committees are elected by the Assembly in accordance with the agreement of the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. In case there is no agreement, the members of each Committee shall be elected by the Assembly according to the principle of proportional representation. A Committee elects its Chairman from amongst its members. A Committee may, with the approval of the Speaker, appoint a sub-committee for a specified function arising out of the matter referred to the Committee.
The quorum for a sitting of a Committee shall be four elected members. However the quorum for a sitting of a Public Accounts Committee or Committee on Privileges shall be six elected members.
Besides the above Standing Committees, there are certain other Committees of the Assembly.
Committees for specific purposes
The Assembly may, by motion, appoint a Special Committee which shall have such composition and functions as may be specified in the motion. The Committee shall consist of not more than twelve members excluding the Speaker or a Minister, if any of them is named as a member of the Committee in the motion.
After the report of the Standing Committee on a Bill has been presented to the House and on a day appointed for consideration of the Bill, a member may move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. The Minister-in-charge of the Department to which the Bill relates, the Chairman of the Committee concerned with the Bill, the member-in-charge and the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs shall be included in a Select Committee. The other members of the Committee shall be nominated by the Assembly from amongst its members when a motion that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee is adopted. The Chairman of the Committee concerned with the Bill shall be the Chairman of the Select Committee.