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Inquiry Committees of Parliament

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee has recommended the expulsion of Member of Parliament Mahua Moitra due to allegations of “unethical conduct” and “breach of privileges.”

About Inquiry Committees of Parliament

Types of Parliament Committees

  • Standing Committees: Permanent bodies constituted every year or periodically; Operate on a continuous basis, examining and reporting on matters related to specific areas or sectors.
  • Ad Hoc Committees: Temporary committees formed to address specific issues or tasks; Disband once the assigned task is completed.

Committees to Inquire

A specific category of Standing Committees includes:

  • Committee on Petitions: Deals with grievances and issues raised by the public through petitions.
  • Committee of Privileges: Examines cases of breach of privileges of the House and its members.
  • Ethics Committee: Focuses on enforcing the code of conduct for Members of Parliament.

 

Ethics Committee

  • A standing committee with a term period of one year.
  • Enforces the code of conduct for Members of Parliament, ensuring ethical behaviour.
  • Examines complaints filed against MPs by other members, outsiders through a member, or referred by the Speaker.
  • Consists of 15 members appointed by the Speaker; and members serve a term of one year.
  • The term ‘unethical’ is not explicitly defined, giving the committee discretion to determine the ethical nature of actions.

 

History of Ethics Committees

·       The idea of ethics panels was first suggested at a Presiding Officers’ Conference in 1996.

·       Rajya Sabha: Ethics Committee constituted in 1997 by then Vice President K. R. Narayanan.

·       Lok Sabha: The Committee of Privileges recommended the constitution of an Ethics Committee during the 13th Lok Sabha. Initially ad hoc, it became a permanent part of the House in 2015.

 

Privileges Committee

  • Examines cases of breach of privileges of the House and its members.
  • Recommends appropriate action in response to violations.
  • Functions are semi-judicial in nature, serving to safeguard the freedom, authority, and dignity of Parliament.
  • The privileges protected are enjoyed by individual Members as well as the House as a whole.

 

Difference between Ethics and Privileges Committee

  • The work of the Ethics Committee and the Privileges Committee often overlaps.
  • More serious accusations, including corruption allegations against MPs, are typically directed to the Privileges Committee.
  • An MP can be examined for breach of privilege, and a non-MP can be accused of breach of privilege, attacking the authority and dignity of the House. The Ethics Committee, however, specifically deals with cases of misconduct involving MPs.

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