Cabinet Committees in India

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Cabinet Committees 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 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 varies from time to time.

They are based on the principles of division of labour and effective delegation.

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. Some times 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.

LIST OF CABINET COMMITTEES

1. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs

2. Cabinet Committee on Prices

3. Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs

4. Appointments Committee of the Cabinet

5. Cabinet Committee on Security

6. Cabinet Committee on World Trade Organisation (WTO) Matters

7. Cabinet Committee on Investment

8. Cabinet Committee on Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) related issues

9. Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs

10. Cabinet Committee on Accommodation

FUNCTIONS OF CABINET COMMITTEES

1. The Political Affairs Committee deals with all policy matters pertaining to domestic and foreign affairs. (Most important committee).

2. The Economic Affairs Committee directs and coordinates the governmental activities in the economic sphere.

3. Appointments Committee decides all higher level appointments in the Central Secretariat, Public Enterprises, Banks and Financial Institutions.

4. Parliamentary Affairs Committee looks after the progress of government business in the Parliament.

The first three committees are chaired by the Prime Minister and the last one by the Home Minister.

GROUPS OF MINISTERS

In addition to cabinet committees, several Groups of Ministers (GoMs) have been constituted to look into different issues / subjects. Some of these GoMs have been empowered to take decisions on behalf of the Cabinet whereas the others make recommendations to the Cabinet.

In the past two decades, the institution of GoMs has become a viable and effective instrument of coordination among the ministries.

These are ad hoc bodies formed to give recommendations to the cabinet on certain emergent issues and critical problem areas.

Ministers heading the concerned ministries are inducted into the relevant GoMs and when the advice is crystallised they are disbanded.

LATEST ON GoMs:

Narendra Modi government after coming to power abolished all Group of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoMs).

There were nine Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGOMs) and 21 Groups of Ministers (GOMs), which were set up by the previous UPA government to take decisions on various matters before bringing them for the Cabinet’s consideration.

During UPA-II regime, 27 GoMs and 24 EGoMs were appointed. Former Defence Minister A K Antony was heading most of the EGoMs. The panels were formed to take decisions on issues like corruption, inter-state water disputes, administrative reforms and gas and telecom pricing.

The Ministries and Departments will now process the issues pending before the EGoMs and GoMs and take appropriate decisions at the level of Ministries and Departments itself. Wherever the Ministries face any difficulties, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office will facilitate the decision making process.

Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is a Group of Ministers (GoM) of the Union Government are also authorised (empowered) by the appointing authority to take decisions in such matters after investigation. While a GoM investigates and reports to the Cabinet, which takes the decision, an EGoM additionally takes decisions on matters it is authorised for, and such decisions have the force of the Government decision.

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