Venkaiah Naidu for 2-year fixed tenure for House panels

Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat is mulling over changing the rules governing the standing committees’ tenure to make it to two years from the present one year so that the panels have enough time to work on the subjects selected by them.

The tenure of all the standing committees end on September 11 and they can’t hold deliberations till new panels are formed.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, sources said, was keen on amending the rules to give a fixed two-year tenure for all the committees.

However, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has to agree to it.

Two options

Two options are being looked at: one, to extend the term of the panels for a year, and second, to form new committees with a fixed tenure of two years.

Also read: Standing Committees make up for fewer sittings of Parliament: Naidu

Many chairpersons of the current panels have felt that a significant amount of the tenure of their committees was lost due to the pandemic.

The problem is more acute for the committees headed by Congress leaders. The sources said the party might lose chairmanship of at least one committee out of the eight under the Rajya Sabha purview because of its weakened strength in the House. Currently, it holds the chairmanship of panels on Home Affairs and Science and Technology. In the Lok Sabha, BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey and Rajyavardhan Rathore, who are members of the panel on Information and Technology have sought Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s removal as the Chairman.

Hit by pandemic

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Tharoor batted for an extension of the terms of the present committees. He said that while he respected the tenures and positions in the committees were the prerogative of the presiding officers of both Houses, the functioning of the panels was curtailed due to the pandemic.

“The committees appointed last September were essentially unable to function normally from the third week of March and have not been able to do a meaningful year’s work. I would certainly suggest that it is worth considering extending their tenures to compensate for this lost time especially since by convention, the Committee chairs tend to serve for the entire life of Parliament,” he said.

Many of the panels have not been able to complete reports on the subjects they were working on. For example, the IT panel could not complete deliberations on “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space”, for which it summoned Facebook on Wednesday.

Similarly, the committee headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma has held deliberations on the preparedness for COVID-19 but so far has not been able to finalise the report.

Deliberations uncompleted

Even the panel chairpersons who do not share the view on term extension agree that deliberations on subjects have been left uncompleted.

“We had taken up the subject attracting investments in the post COVID-19 economy. We have had two meetings on this subject, I can take two more meetings in the remaining time, but I would need at least three to four sittings to complete the deliberations,” Commerce Committee Chairperson and YSR Congress leader Vijaysai Reddy said.

Senior Biju Janata Dal leader Bhartruhari Mahtab, who heads the Committee on Labour, said the established convention dictated that usually the same chairpersons continued unless their own party wished otherwise.

“Invariably, the existing committee gets an extension for another year. At least that is what I have seen in the last 20 years. All the subjects selected by the standing committee never really get completed in a year. But we have managed to table 12 reports despite the COVID-19 pressures,” he added.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 1:02:45 AM |

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