(Last Updated on : 06/12/2010)
Cabinet Committees greatly assist the smooth functioning of the Cabinet. Committees are basically an organisational device for increasing the output of any agency. It is essentially no more than a method of getting a more specialised and larger volume of work performed by any existing organisation. The system of cabinet committee results in considerable reduction in the work of the cabinet. The cabinet committees wield real power of decision on less important general policy matters. Other matters, which must be dealt with in the cabinet, are also largely discussed and divided in committees. Only the more delicate and complex points or those on which several ministers may differ, remain for discussion by the cabinet. It is the Indian Prime Minister
himself who presides over the cabinet committees whose membership is confined only to members of the cabinet. The number of such committees has been changing from time to time and no one outside official life could tell exactly what the committees are at a given moment.
Cabinet committees may be ad hoc or standing. The purpose of the former is merely to settle some specific problems submitted to them. They are automatically dissolved as soon as the task is fulfilled. The standing committees, which are of great importance, have wider competence and their duration is indeterminate. They may be terminated by the fresh decision of the cabinet or the Prime Minister. The committees are set up either by the cabinet on the proposal of the Prime Minister or directly by the Prime Minister himself.
The Cabinet Committees have proved extremely beneficial to the work of the Cabinet. As government business has increased both in amount and complexity the elaborate network of Cabinet Committees has acted as a clearing house. The device of the Cabinet Committee enables the ministers to bargain and compromise with each other and thus reduces pressure of work upon the Cabinet. Consequently, the Cabinet is left free to devote itself to more important matters.
The committee system safeguards the principle of collective responsibility, which is an essential feature of the cabinet system. Thus, ministers who are not members of the cabinet are members of one or more committees. Therefore, all ministers continue to be partly responsible for the government's action. Also, cabinet committees greatly increase the effectiveness of political control over public services. It creates a close contact between politicians and public servants and ensures that those who formulate policy are reasonably well informed. It also eliminates the possibility of any one department carrying a disproportionate weight of opinion.
The Cabinet Committees carry out the important function of acting as a collective check on individual ministers and on the Prime Minister as well. In view of the increase in the size of the cabinet, it is essential that there should be a proper division of labour and effective delegation within the cabinet. Committees of cabinet are necessary in order to perform the functions devolved on them by the cabinet. Another task of such committees is to focus supra-ministry attention on particular sectors of administration, short of cabinet level consideration and the Prime Minister's intervention. In addition, these committees facilitate effective coordination.