Friday, June 22, 2007

Legislation by committees

Show the UPA government an issue of concern and it will show you a committee. Perhaps all governments need expert help in framing policy. What makes the present situation unique is a curious result of legislative inaction and judicial enthusiasm which appears to be transforming the role of these committees from advisory to legislative bodies. Take the example of the Sorabjee Committee on Police Reforms - the Executive appoints a Committee to look into the matter - its recommendations don't receive a response from the legislature - the Supreme Court adopts these recommendations and gives them a legal colour. The same story is repeated with the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committee on student politics. Given the sheer number of committees that this government has appointed, the possibilities of judicial/committee legislation are enormous.

The trend adds a new dimension to the old separation of powers debate. Adopting the recommendations of expert committees may be the judiciary's way of responding to the charges of judicial inexpertise in dealing with polycentric policy matters. But the charge of democratic deficit remains unanswered. Should we be worried? Committee watchers should certainly look out for the Menon Committee looking at the Criminal Justice System.
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