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Cabinet Committees

Cabinet Committees

  • A group of ministers with the authority to make decisions that are binding on all other ministries and departments is known as a cabinet committee.

  •  To reduce the workload on the cabinet, the prime minister might appoint groups of three to eight ministers to thoroughly examine policy matters. Cabinet committees is the term used to describe these groups.

Features of Cabinet Committees 

  • They are extra-constitutional in emergence, which means that they are not listed in the Constitution.  However, their establishment is allowed by the Rules of Business.
  • There are two varieties of them: Standing and Ad hoc. The former is permanent, whilst the latter is temporary.
  • Cabinet committees typically have three to eight members, all of whom are Cabinet Ministers. Non-cabinet Ministers are not excluded from membership, though.
  • These comprise senior Ministers in addition to the Ministers in charge of the relevant subjects.
  • The Prime Minister heads most of these committees. Their chairman may occasionally also be another cabinet minister. However, the Prime Minister always serves as its chair if he or she is a committee member.
  • They make judgments in addition to resolving problems and creating ideas for the Cabinet's consideration. The Cabinet can, however, reconsider its choices.

List of Cabinet Committees

  • At present there are 8 Cabinet Committees:
    • Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs.
    • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.
    • Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
    • Cabinet Committee on Security.
    • Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
    • Cabinet Committee on Accommodation.
    • Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth.
    • Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development.

Functions of Cabinet Committees

  • Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs-

    • It tackles issues related to Centre-state relations. 
    • It also looks at political and economic concerns that need a broader view but don't affect internal or external security.
  • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs-

    • In order to develop a coherent and integrated economic policy, it is expected to examine economic trends, issues, and prospects, coordinate all actions requiring the highest level of policy decisions, and deal with the fixation of agricultural produce and essential commodity prices.
    • The Public Distribution System and rural development are reviewed, as well as proposals for investments worth more than Rs 1,000 crore.
  • Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.

    • It names candidates for positions such as director general of military operations, commanders of the air and army commands, director general of the defence intelligence agency, and the three service chiefs.
    • It makes all significant selections for officers serving on Central deputations, including their shifts.
  • Cabinet Committee on Security-

    • It includes subjects such as law and order, internal security, foreign policy with consequences for either internal or external security, as well as economic and political issues related to national security.
    • The Department of Defense Production, the Department of Defense Research and Development, and Services Capital Acquisition plans and schemes for the purchase of security-related equipment are all taken into consideration in circumstances where capital defence expenditures exceed Rs 1,000 crore.
  • Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs-

    • It creates the agenda for Parliamentary sessions and keeps track of how business related to the government is proceeding in Parliament.
    • It evaluates non-governmental activities and makes decisions regarding the official Bills and resolutions that should be presented.
  • Cabinet Committee on Accommodation-

    • It establishes the criteria or regulations governing the distribution of government accommodations.
    • It also decides on the allotment of government accommodation to non-eligible persons and organizations as also the rent to be charged to them.
    • It may take into account providing lawmakers with accommodations from the General Pool.
    • It may take into account suggestions for moving current Central Government Offices outside of the capital.
  • Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth- 

    • It will identify any other crucial projects, as may be defined by it, with reference to manufacturing and infrastructure that require investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more and must be carried out on a time-bound basis.
    • It will set deadlines for the relevant ministries to grant the necessary clearances and approvals in the identified sectors, and it will also keep track of how well these projects are coming along.
  • Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development- 

    • All policies, programmes, schemes, and skill-development activities should be guided by it in order to increase workforce employability and effectively satisfy the demands of the fast-expanding economy while also identifying the advantages of the demographic dividend.
    • It is required to enhance workforce participation, foster employment development and identification, and work to bridge skill availability gaps across different industries.
    • It will establish deadlines for the swift implementation of all skill-development efforts by the ministries and reevaluate the results on a regular basis.
    • The prime minister is in charge of all cabinet committees, with the exception of the committees dealing with accommodations and parliamentary affairs.
    • Presently, the Home Minister is in charge of the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation, whereas the Defense Minister is in charge of the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
    • The Political Affairs Committee, frequently referred to as a Super-Cabinet, is the most influential of the Cabinet Committees.

Advantages of Cabinet Committees:

  • They serve as a system of organisation to minimise the Cabinet's heavy workload. They aid in 
  •  in-depth policy analysis and effective coordination is made feasible. When creating policies, the expert's opinions can be consulted.
  • They uphold the idea of group accountability by doing so. Also, the actions of the government reveal its position.
  • The committees make both human and financial resources more effectively usable.
  • These committees are designed around the principle of division of labour, which encourages the efficient use of human resources.
  • They make departmental and interagency coordination easier.
  • It keeps the PM in charge of the cabinet and government and forbids ministers from acting at their discretion.
  • All ministries are required to submit a cabinet note for the draft law for legislative concerns where the distribution of business rules falls under the purview of two or more ministries.
  • The consensus of diverse interest groups serves as the foundation for the Cabinet committee's recommendations.
  • Establishing the agenda for policy conversations promotes policy debate with various high-stakes groups, the current administration, and the representation of many challenges before making decisions, which helps the government formulate policy.

Criticism of Cabinet Committee:

  • Their significance was diminishing as laws were enacted through Cabinet committees without their input. eg farm bills.
  • Ad hoc cabinet committees are diminishing in number, which precludes them from closely scrutinizing legislative proposals.
  • Other ministers inevitably lose relevance because the PM is in charge of most Cabinet Committees. If the other ministers disagree with him on a matter that goes against the Council of Ministers, he might need to resign from the government.
  • The cabinet committees don't meet frequently, and the opinions of experts are only considered when they share the same political ideologies as the party in power. Independent Ministers of States are infrequently appointed.
  • Cases involving conflicts of interest are made possible by broad jurisdiction. The MHA and MoF, which have the capacity to regulate NGO funding matters, are two ministries with more concentrated power.
  • At times, a single topic will overlap with two or more ministries, leading to a power struggle between them. Because of this, decision-making is hampered by bureaucratic stagnation.

Second ARC

  • The Commission stated that due to a large number of Groups of Ministers, many of them are unable to consistently meet to complete their work, which results in significant delays on many crucial issues.
  • The Commission was of the opinion that more effective coordination would be achieved by using the institution of a Group of Ministers less frequently, particularly if they were given the power to make decisions on behalf of the Cabinet and given deadlines for fulfilling the tasks allocated to them.
  • The Commission recommended that actions be taken to ensure that the current coordination structure of the Group of Ministers functions effectively and contributes to problem resolution as quickly as possible. use of a group of ministers with a clear mandate and time frame that is prudent but effective.

Way Forward

  • It is the PM's duty to only serve as chair of significant committees. Both the Cabinet Committee's and the Group of Ministries' responsibilities ought to be distributed equally. The relationship between the cabinet committees and the group of ministers ought to be balanced. Any of these in excess make the government less effective.
  • To safeguard the future ultimate policy of the government and stop market speculation, India should embrace the practises utilised by the Cabinet Committees of New Zealand and Britain. Before the launch of the PLI incentive sector, for instance, there was market speculation.
  • The Cabinet Committees should meet on a regular basis. The Committees should support a political concepts for administrative ease and policy formation.
  • The connection between the Cabinet and the Cabinet Committees ought to be founded on the saying "Swim or Sink Together."