It was suggested by N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar that a distinction should be drawn between three types of committees ad hoc, standing and sub-committee. Standing Committees should be regarded as part of the permanent machinery of government, left-over matters should be dealt with by the ad hoc committees which could be created en a temporary basis to deal with such matters. In addition, Ayyangar suggested the need for setting up sub-committees, one in each of the four bureaus under which ministries would be grouped under his plan. He also suggested the setting up of four permanent- standing committees- defence committee, economic committee, administrative organization committee, and the parliamentary and legal affairs committee.
In implementation of the above recommendation, the union government set up in May 1950 four standing committees- defence; economic parliamentary; and legal affairs and administrative organization, the last being set up on ad hoc basis. A fifth standing committee was soon added to the list in the form of the appointments committee. The Indian Prime Minister was given full authority to determine the composition of these committees. Each standing committee was given adequate secretariat assistance. Thus, the cabinet secretariat serviced the defence and economic committees, the department of parliamentary affairs and the law ministry provided secretariat assistance to the parliamentary and legal affairs committee, and the home ministry rendered secretariat assistance to the appointments committee and the administrative organisation committee.
In 1957 the entire structure of cabinet committees was again reorganised. Five existing standing committees were abolished; three ad hoc committees dealing with transient matters were formed; and ten new standing committees were set up on economic affairs, heavy industry, defence, foreign affairs rehabilitation, scientific matters, parliamentary and legal affairs, information and broadcasting, and appointments. An important committee was set up in the wake of the Chinese invasion in 1962, namely, the Emergency Committee. It consisted of the Prime Minister as the Chairman, finance, home and defence ministers. In course of time this committee gathered much power and prestige and in fact became the inner cabinet to which all important matters internal and external, were referred for decision. It used to hold its sessions almost daily and sometimes more than once a day in the early years of its existence. In course of time however, its influence waned and it lost its predominant position.
The Study Team on the Machinery of Government of India, in its report on March 1967) recommended its replacement by the committee of defence and foreign affairs. This study team did not find the working of the cabinet committees satisfactory. In order to remove these basic deficiencies in the working of the committees, the study team made a number of recommendations. The Administrative Reforms Commission in its report of September 1969 did not wholly agree with the above recommendations of the study team. It made its own set of suggestions. The Union Government did not accept these recommendations but these were kept in view during the 1974 reconstitution of these committees. In 1974 the number of such committees was 12. The committee on political affairs was the most important and took precedence over the remaining eleven committees. All important matters relating to defence, foreign affairs and political matters came before it for discussion and decision. There had been a spurt in the use of cabinet committees and sub-committees with the Janata Government coming into power in March 1977. The new ministry made extensive use of these committees. In 1994, there were 13 Cabinet Committees. In practice, however, these Committees have not been consistently effective.
Among the important Standing Committees of the Cabinet today are the Cabinet Committee on economic affairs, Cabinet Committee on Prices, Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, Appointments Committee, Cabinet Committee on Security, Cabinet Committee on WTO Matters, Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, Cabinet Committee on Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) related issues, Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs and Cabinet Committee on Accommodation.