The Public Accounts Committee examines how the Government spends public money. It examines the amount granted by the Parliament and the amount actually spent. A Speaker in the past, has passed a direction which specifies clearly that a Minister cannot be summoned by the Financial Committees. This has been incorporated in a document titled "Directions by the Speaker" available here. The actual text of the direction reads - "99. (1) The Committee on Estimates or the Committee on Public Accounts or the Committee on Public Undertakings may call officials to give evidence in connection with the examination of the estimates and accounts, respectively, relating to a particular Ministry or Undertaking. But a Minister shall not be called before the Committee either to give evidence or for consultation in connection with the examination of estimates or accounts by the Committee." -Co-authored by Chakshu
What is petitioning? Petitioning is a formal process that involves sending a written appeal to Parliament. The public can petition Parliament to make MPs aware of their opinion and/ or to request action. Who petitions and how? Anyone can petition Parliament. The only requirement is that petitions be submitted in the prescribed format, in either Hindi or English, and signed by the petitioner. In the case of Lok Sabha, the petition is normally required to be countersigned by an MP. According to the Rules of Lok Sabha, "This practice is based on the principle that petitions are normally presented by members in their capacity as elected representatives of the people, and that they have to take full responsibility for the statements made therein and answer questions on them in the House, if any, are raised." Petitions can be sent to either House in respect of:
- Any Bills/ other matters that are pending before the House
- Any matter of general public interest relating to the work of the Central Government
The petition should not raise matters that are currently sub-judice or for which remedy is already available under an existing law of the Central Government. Petition formats can be accessed at: Lok Sabha; Rajya Sabha What happens to the petition once it has been submitted? Once submitted, the petition may either be tabled in the House or presented by an MP on behalf of the petitioner. These are then examined by the Committee on Petitions. The Committee may choose to circulate the petition and undertake consultations before presenting its report (For instance, the Petition praying for development of Railway network in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and other Himalayan States). It may also invite comments from the concerned Ministries. The recommendations of the Committee are then presented in the form of a report to the House. Previous reports can be accessed at the relevant committee pages on the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha websites.
In the late 1960s and 70s, defections (elected legislators changing parties after the election) in Parliament and State Legislatures became very frequent, so frequent in fact, that the epithet "Aaya Ram Gaya Ram" was coined to describe the same. To curb this problem which created instability in our legislatures, Parliament amended the Constitution. They inserted the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution "to curb the evil of political defections". As a result, we currently have an anti-defection law with the following features: 1. If an MP/MLA who belongs to a political party voluntarily resigns from his party or, disobeys the party "whip" (a direction given by the party to all MPs/ MLAs to vote in a certain manner), he is disqualified. The party may however condone the MP/ MLA within 15 days. 2. An independent MP/ MLA cannot join a political party after the election. 3. An MP/ MLA who is nominated (to the Rajya Sabha or upper houses in state legislatures) can only join a party within 6 months of his election. 4. Mergers of well-defined groups of individuals or political parties are exempted from disqualification if certain conditions are met. 5. The decision to disqualify is taken by the Speaker/ Chairman of the House. The table below summarizes provisions of anti-defection law in some other countries. (For more, click here). As one may note, a number of developed countries do not have any law to regulate defection.
Regulation of defection in some countries
|Country||Experi-ence||Law on defection||The Law on Defection|
|Bangladesh||Yes||Yes||The Constitution says a member shall vacate his seat if he resigns from or votes against the directions given by his party. The dispute is referred by the Speaker to the Election Commission.|
|Kenya||Yes||Yes||The Constitution states that a member who resigns from his party has to vacate his seat. The decision is by the Speaker, and the member may appeal to the High Court.|
|Singapore||Yes||Yes||Constitution says a member must vacate his seat if he resigns, or is expelled from his party. Article 48 states that Parliament decides on any question relating to the disqualification of a member.|
|South Africa||Yes||Yes||The Constitution provides that a member loses membership of the Parliament if he ceases to be a member of the party that nominated him.|