In the post-RTI era, a Rajya Sabha member, supported by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and some young MPs, has launched a campaign to bring part of the in camera proceedings of Parliament’s standing committees in public view through telecast or CD recording.
If successful, the effort would open up yet another door shut to public scrutiny but the opposition to the move is said to be substantial.
Independent MP from Karnataka, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, after writing to Chatterjee and Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari, has now appealed to UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader L K Advani and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi to support the cause, which would ensure greater accountability of the standing committees and also put those deposing before these panels under public scrutiny.
The Left parties are in favour of the "opening up" but a similar attempt made by Chatterjee as a simple MP a few years back had been unsuccessful. Proceedings of similar parliamentary institutions are open to public in the US and UK.
"Parliament has two roles — legislative and overseeing the executive. With the opening up of parliamentary proceedings to the people, the role of Parliament as a legislative body is open for all to see. This has improved the quality of legislative debates," Chandrasekhar told TOI.
"But the functioning of parliamentary committees — which, besides helping the legislative process, also provide Parliament a way to oversee the executive through depositions of regulators, bureaucrats and other stakeholders — remains private, not visible outside. It is in the interest of Parliament and parliamentarians to open up the depositions and hearings of such committees to public as well," he said.
Parliamentary panels, which draw members from both Houses, scrutinise some of the crucial aspects of policy implementation in the country.
Top members of the executive responsible for implementation of such policies are often called to present their views and clarifications before these committees. But members of the public and media cannot know how a committee has been performing as they have access only to the final reports.
Last month, the Speaker had proposed that the proceedings of parliamentary committees be made public but MPs from the two main parties, Congress and BJP, did not support him. They said such opening up would prevent MPs from speaking their mind on issues discussed by a committee. They contended that even when a bill brought in by the party in power comes before a committee, some ruling party members oppose it. They wouldn’t do so if proceedings were made open.
Chandasekhar, however, argued that he was not asking for making every minute of committees' functioning open.
"A beginning can be made by recording and later making public what a regulator says when he deposes before a committee. His efficiency concerns the people directly and they should judge whether a regulator or an official has been doing his jobhonestly," he said.