Reforming Joint Parliamentary Committee – JPC

Introduction:

It has become a recent phenomena that whenever a bustling scam is unearthed by a government agency, media or by a public spirited citizen then immediately a demand arises to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee for an inquiry. This demand could either come from opposition or proposed by ruling dispensation but at the end of the day, government decides because it is assumed that it has the required strength in house. This paper dwells deep about what utility JPC’s served until this day. Reviews if it is really effective? If not why? Why the past probes failed to deliver what is expected out of them and it also looks in to the scope of reforming this whole institution and makes it more result oriented instead of just being used as a time buying tactic or distort a regular investigation carried out by an Investigating officer or an agency.

Contemporaries of JPC:

Our parliamentary form of government is based on Westminster model of UK. Being a former colony may be we have had no choice but we have made enough room for Bharth i.e., India’s widespread diversity in our staggering written constitution. But why the committees are so ineffective when compared with those of UK. We can use the select committee appointed in UK to investigate Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World phone hacking scandal. From the time select committee released report since Feb 2010 and arrest of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International in July 2011 all happened swiftly at the same with no haste. The close counter part of joint parliamentary committees in US could be independent commissions whose utility is unmatched by the Indian parliamentary committees.

Re-structuring the institution of JPC

But then what is the way forward? Does that mean all the members of JPC must be legal experts or they should have an efficient legal advisor? If we want to add some sanctity to this institution, involving a legal mind is the only option. It is taken for granted that most of the instances a break out of information on a mammoth scandal like the one’s of 2G Scam or Bofors etc., setting up JPC is the way out. It is assumed that here we are referring to the committees (JPC) which are formed especially to inquire in to scam, corruption and embezzlement of public funds on a massive scale.

The current exercise of JPC formation is widely considered as a political gimmick and wastage of taxpayer’s money, then it also gives a room for political maneuvers in its current form.

Formation is straight forward. A motion is raised in one house of the parliament and passed by both the houses or chairman of each house write to each other to initiate. Silver line is members of loksabha in JPC are double when compared to members from Rajyasabha. The chairman could be a member of principal opposition for eg: – Murali Manohar Joshi in the case of JPC on 2G scam. Please see – http://realityviews.blogspot.in/2010/11/know-and-understand-what-is-joint.html for the history of JPC’s and what the end result was? In no case we have had a logical conclusion. Party’s interest comes to the fore than the interest of nation itself which is treacherous. None of the JPC reports have been implemented till day.

The daily workings of JPC are more like mini parliament, now we can make a guess how it would function. Rather than spending energies to bring the truth to light the ruling clique would work hard to exonerate itself and the opposition members would intend to pin down the Government and the chairman is just like a speaker of parliament? And this is the aspect of JPC as an institution, where we should try and make it more meaningful and accountable.

The chairman of the JPC must be a retired or sitting judge of either Supreme Court or High court.
The single largest party/coalition in parliament must have only half the strength of the whole committee and the other half must constitute other political parties in equal proportion.
Recording evidence and deciding on the admissibility of evidence will be strictly within the purview of chairman.
The chairman must take in to account every independent argument of each member of the committee only if they are proved with facts/proof.
The solicitor general/additional solicitor general, Advocate general, either any one of them or all of them, or any other govt. appointed legal luminaries could be ex officio members of the committee. Preferably not more than three. The strength must be odd in number.
The committee must be submitting the report within 6 months, it can be extended it should submit valid reasons to president.
The government must implement this report within 6 months if it cannot, then it shall require parliament approval, approved by 2/3 members present and voting.
A judge as a chairman is certainly equipped with the ability to handle partisan rivalries. Legislation must be brought in to effect which mandates the parliament to ensure that report released is implemented as per the timeline mentioned.

Conclusion:

In light of our lessons learnt with the already appointed JPC’s we shall no more go for new ones as they are exercises in vain, instead of that inclusion of legal mind will help make this institution more just and reasonable. It is understood that still conspicuous government could block any moves which goes against it. But in a democratic government, democracy is the victim of ruling party’s whim.

References :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14124020
http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/committees
http://www.parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/intro/p21.htm

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