Cabinet Committees – UPSC Notes (Prelims and Mains)

Cabinet Committees – UPSC Notes (Prelims and Mains)

What does the Cabinet Committees do?

 Cabinet Committees :The Cabinet Committee is an institutional arrangement to reduce the workload of the Cabinet. These committees are super-constitutional in nature and are not mentioned in the constitution. Therefore, the President should promulgate rules to handle Indian government affairs most conveniently and distribute such affairs among ministers. Supervise a department (department) and handle all the business assigned to his or her subordinate departments. But matters involving multiple departments must be decided at the same time. If there is no such consent, the decision must be made by the Cabinet or its authorization.

Formation of Cabinet Committees

 The Prime Minister constitutes Standing Committees of the Cabinet and sets out the specific functions assigned to them. S/he can add or reduce the number of committees. Ad hoc committees of ministers, including Groups of Ministers, may be appointed by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for specific matters. The strength of each committee varies from three to eight members. It usually includes cabinet ministers but non-cabinet members are not debarred.

Key Cabinet Committees

 Cabinet Committee on Appointments – This panel makes appointments to posts of three service chiefs, Director General of Military Operations, chiefs of all Air and Army Commands.

 It also makes appointments to the posts of –

  • Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency
  • Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister
  • Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services
  • Director General of Ordnance Factories
  • Director General of Defence Estates
  • Controller General of Defence Accounts
  • Director of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses viii. Solicitor-General
  • Governor of the Reserve Bank of India
  • Chairman and Members of the Railway Board
  • Chief Vigilance Officers in Public Sector Undertakings xii. Secretariat posts of and above the rank of Joint Secretary in the Central Government

 It also decides on all important empanelments and shift of officers serving on Central deputation.

 Cabinet Committee on Accommodation – This determines the guidelines or rules with regard to the allotment of government accommodation.

 It also takes a call on the allotment of government accommodation to noneligible persons and organisations, and decides the rent to be charged from them.

 It can consider the allotment of accommodation from the General Pool to Members of Parliament.

 It can consider proposals for shifting existing Central Government Offices to locations outside the capital.

 Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs – This panel is supposed to review economic trends, problems and prospects.

 The objective is to evolve a consistent and integrated economic policy.

 It also does the following:

 i. coordinates all activities requiring policy decisions at the highest level ii. deal with fixation of prices of agricultural produce and prices of essential commodities

 iii. considers proposals for investment of more than Rs 1,000 crore iv. deal with industrial licensing policies

 v. review rural development and the Public Distribution System Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs – This draws the schedule for Parliament sessions and monitors the progress of government business in Parliament.

 It scrutinises non-government business and decides which official Bills and resolutions are to be presented.

 Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs – The committee addresses problems related to Centre-state relations.

 It also examines economic and political issues that require a wider perspective but have no internal or external security implications.

 Cabinet Committee on Security – It deals with issues relating to law and order and internal security.

 It also deals with policy matters concerning foreign affairs with internal or external security implications.

 It also goes into economic and political issues related to national security.

 It considers all cases involving capital defence expenditure of more than Rs 1,000 crore.

 It also considers issues related to the –

  • Department of Defence Production
  • the Department of Defence Research and Development
  • Services Capital Acquisition plans
  • schemes for procurement of security-related equipment

The following are the features of Cabinet Committees:

  • They are extra-constitutional in emergence. In other words, they are not mentioned in the Constitution. However, the Rules of Business provide for their establishment.
  • They are of two types-standing and ad hoc. The former are of a permanent nature while the latter are of a temporary nature. The ad hoc committees are constituted from time to time to deal with special problems. They are disbanded after their task is completed.
  • They are set up by the Prime Minister according to the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situation. Hence, their number, nomenclature, and composition vary from time to time.
  • Their membership varies from three to eight. They usually include only Cabinet Ministers. However, the non-cabinet Ministers are not debarred from their membership.
  • They not only include the Ministers in charge of subjects covered by them but also include other senior Ministers.
  • They are mostly headed by the Prime Minister. Sometimes other Cabinet Ministers, particularly the Home Minister or the Finance Minister, also acts as their Chairman. But, in case the Prime Minister is a member of a committee, he invariably presides over it.
  • They not only sort out issues and formulate proposals for the consideration of the Cabinet, but also take decisions. However, the Cabinet can review their decisions.
  • They are an organisational device to reduce the enormous workload of the Cabinet. They also facilitate in-depth examination of policy issues and effective coordination. They are based on the principles of division of labour and effective delegation.

The following four are the more important cabinet committees:

  • The Political Affairs Committee deals with all policy matters pertaining to domestic and foreign affairs.
  • The Economic Affairs Committee directs and coordinates the governmental activities in the economic sphere.
  • Appointments Committee decides all higher level appointments in the Central Secretariat, Public Enterprises, Banks and Financial Institutions.
  • Parliamentary Affairs Committee looks after the progress of government business in the Parliament.

Composition of Cabinet Committees

  • Their membership varies from three to eight. 
  • They usually include only Cabinet Ministers. 
  • Non-cabinet ministers can also be included as members.
  • Apart from the ministers in charge of the subjects covered, other senior ministers can also be included as members
  • Such Committees are usually chaired by the PM. At times, other Cabinet ministers like Home, Finance, etc. can also be the chairperson. But, if the Prime Minister is a member of the committee, then, he or she is the head of the committee.

Cabinet Committees Formed

The updated list of Cabinet Committees is below:

  • Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
  • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.
  • Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs.
  • Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth.
  • Cabinet Committee on Security.
  • Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
  • Cabinet Committee on Employment & Skill Development.
  • Cabinet Committee on Accommodation.

All committees except Cabinet Committee on Accommodation and Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs are headed by Prime Minister.

Role of Cabinet Committees

  • They are an organizational device to lessen the enormous workload of the Cabinet. They facilitate an in-depth examination of policy issues and effective coordination. They are based on the principles of division of labor and effective delegation. 
  • They not only resolve issues and frame proposals for the Cabinet’s consideration, but they also take decisions. The Cabinet can, of course, review their decisions.

Difference between Cabinet Committees and Council of Ministers (COMs)

They are different from the Council of Ministers as COMs is a constitutional body, dealt in detail by the Articles 74 and 75 of the Constitution, unlike cabinet committees which are extra-constitutional in emergence. 

  • The Council of Ministers is a wider body comprising of 60 to 70 ministers including all 3 categories of ministers, namely, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, and deputy ministers. 
  • COMs are vested with all powers but only in theory. It implements the decisions taken by the cabinet while Cabinet Committees help the cabinet in decision making. 
  • COMs are collectively responsible to the Lower House of the Parliament while there is no such clause for cabinet committees. 
  • Although Cabinet Committees are not constitutional bodies their work can’t be under-estimated as they provide crucial guidance to the cabinet.

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