COMMITTEE ON PETITIONS
SCOPE AND FUNCTIONS OF THE COMMITTEE ON PETITIONS
In a democratic country, the people have an inherent right to present Petitions to the Legislatures in order to express their grievances and also to offer constructive and useful suggestion on matters of general public importance.
The concept of petitioning for redress of grievances has been indirectly enshrined in the constitution of India also.
In Lok Sabha, the committee on Petitions is one of the oldest Committee of the House and dates back to the Legislative assembly of the pre-independence era. It owes its origin to a Resolution moved by a Member in the Council of States on 15th December, 1921, The Committee was known as the "Committee on Public Petitions", until 1933 when its name was changed to "Committee in Petitions".
In Punjab, Prior to the year 1973, the Committee on Petitions of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha was not an effective Committee and it would be interesting to note that during a span of as long as 17 years i.e., from 1952 to 1968, no meeting of this Committee was ever held to consider any petitions. From the year 1969 to 1973, only five meetings were held. It was 19th July, 1972 that the Committee on Petitions decided that desirability of activating this Committee to bring its scope and functions at par with those of its counterpart in the Lok Sabha may be considered. The Committee exchanged views with the Committee on Petitions of the Lok Sabha.
In the year 1973, the rules relating to the scope and functions of the Committee on Petitions were amended and were recast on the central pattern.
According to the rules relating to the Committee on Petitions (Rules 250 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Punjab Vidhan Sabha ), the Committee consisting of 13 Members is nominated by the Speaker at the commencement of the Assembly or from time to time, as the case may be. Prior to 1973, the strength of the Committee used to 5 and the Deputy Speaker used to be the ex-officio Chairman of the Committee. The functions of the Committee have been detailed in Rule 251 of the Rules ibid which reads as under:
"251 (1) The Committee shall examine every petition referred to it by the Speaker and if the petition complies with these rules, the Committee may direct that it be circulated. Where circulation of the petition has not been directed, the Speaker may at any time direct that the petition be circulated.
(2) Circulation of the petition shall be in - extenso or in summary form as the Committee or the Speaker, as the case may be may direct.
(3) It shall also be the duty of the Committee to report to the House on specific complaints made in the petition referred to it after taking such evidence as it deems fit and to suggest remedial measures either in a concrete form applicable to the case under review or to prevent such cases in future.
(4) The Committee shall also meet as often as necessary to consider representations addressed to the Secretary from various individuals, associations etc., duly recommended by any Member of the Assembly after permission from the Speaker, which are not covered by the Rules relating to petitions and give directions for their disposal."
This rule is identical to rule 307 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha, which deals with the functions of the Committee on Petitions of the Lok Sabha. The position of Petitions relating to Bills, General Public Interest and Representations is as follows:-
Petitions may be presented or submitted to the House with the consent of the Speaker on a Bill, which has been published or introduced in the House. In the case of Petitions on a Bill pending before the Select Committee, the petitions are referred to that Committee without being presented to the House and Petitioner is informed accordingly. The Committee may direct that the Petitions be circulated in-extenso or in summary form to all Members of the House.
2. PETITIONS ON MATTERS OF GENERAL PUBLIC INTEREST
The committee also examines every petition relating to General Public Interest. According to the procedure being followed in the Lok Sabha a copy of the petition is sent to the Ministry concerned for their comments. On receipt of comments from Ministry, the petition in-extenso along with the comments are supplied to the Members of the Committee on Petitions in a form of memorandum so that they may be able to come prepared and also posted with facts in the meeting. Then the whole matter is thrashed out and discussed threadbare in the meeting and if the Committee desires, the petitioner is called for oral evidence. Subsequently, the department concerned satisfies the Committee and if it is prepared to redress the grievance of the petitioner(s) the matter is dropped and the petitioner is informed accordingly but, in case the department is not prepared to redress the grievances of the petitioner (s) and the Committee holds the view otherwise, they submit their Report to the House which is to be implemented by the Department after the presentation of the same to the House.
In Punjab, the Committee on Petitions for the year 1974-75, considered two different positions on a matter of general public interest regarding allotment of residential plots at Garha Road, Jalandhar and at Mohali (Near Chandigarh) and made recommendations for the redressal of grievance of the petitioners.
The Honorable Speaker, Punjab issued a direction for the Committee on Petitions to consider representations inadmissible as petitions. Accordingly, the Committees can also consider representations, letters and telegrams from various individuals etc, which are not covered by the rules relating to the petitions and can give directions for their disposal. However, the representations which fall in the following categories are not considered by the Committee but are filed on receipt in the Secretariat:-
(i) Anonymous letters or letters on which names/addresses of senders are not given or are eligible; and
(ii) Endorsement copies of the letters addressed to authorities other than the Speaker or House unless there is specific request on such a copy praying for redress of the grievance.
In 1974, it was decided that all such representations as are addressed to the Assembly or Speaker as the Chairman of the Committee on Petitions, should, when received by the Sabha Secretariat, be examined thoroughly by the Secretariat and thereafter placed before the Committee with Secretariat comments for disposal. So far as the representations/ applications, which are sent to the Lok Sabha Secretariat and redirected to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Secretariat are concerned, those may be sent to the Department concerned for necessary action and the representations/ applicant informed accordingly.
Scope of Petitions as envisaged in rule 266 of the Rule of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha (Punjab Legislative Assembly).
266 (1) Petitions may be presented or submitted to the House with the consent of the Speaker on :-
(i) a Bill which has been published under Rule 121 or which has been introduced in the House.
(ii) any matter connected with the business pending before the House ; and
(iii) any matter of general public interest provided that it is not one :
(a) Which falls within the cognizance of Court of Law having jurisdiction in any part of India or a court of enquiry or a statutory tribunal or authority or a quesi-judicial body, or a Commission ;
(b) Which should ordinarily be raised in a parliament ;
(c) Which can be raised on substantive motion or resolution ;
(d) for which remedy is available under the law ; including rules, regulations, bye-laws made by the Government of Punjab or an authority to whom power to make such rules, regulations etc. is delegated.
2. Petitions to the Vidhan Sabha (Assembly) must :-
(a) relate to some matter, which is within the competence of the Assembly to consider ;
(b) not propose expenditure of public money or the imposition of any charge on public revenue.
DIRECTION ISSUED BY HON'BLE SPEAKER
Committee on Petitions to consider representations inadmissible as Petitions
" The committee shall meet as often as necessary to consider representations, letters and telegrams from various individuals, associations etc., which are not covered by the rules relating to the petitions and give directions for their disposal. Provided that representations which fall in the following categories shall not be considered by the Committee, but shall be filed on receipt in the Secretariat:-
(i) anonymous letters or letter on which names/address of senders are not given or are illegible;
(ii) endorsement copies of the letters addressed to authorities other than the Speaker or House unless there is a specific request on which a copy praying for redress of the grievance ."