Mandated to inquire into a specific subject, a JPC is constituted either through a motion adopted by one House and concurred by the other, or, through communication between the presiding officers of the two Houses. The members are either elected by the Houses or nominated by the presiding officers. As in the case of other parliamentary committees, they are drawn from different groups. The strength of a JPC may vary. For instance, one JPC comprised 15 members, while two others had 30 members each. The Lok Sabha share is double than that of the Rajya Sabha.
What happens if the term of a Lok Sabha expires before a JPC completes its work?
When a committee is unable to complete its work before the expiry of its term or before the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, it reports that fact to the House. In such cases, any preliminary report, memorandum or note that may have been prepared by the committee is made available to the succeeding committee.
What are the powers of a JPC?
A JPC can obtain evidence of experts, public bodies, associations, individuals or interested parties suo motu or on requests made by them. If a witness fails to appear before a JPC in response to summons, his conduct constitutes a contempt of the House.
The JPC can take oral and written evidence or call for documents in connection with a matter under its consideration. The proceedings of parliamentary committees are confidential, but in the case of the joint committee which went into "Irregularities in Securities and Banking Transactions", the committee decided that considering the widespread public interest in the matter, the chairman should brief the press about deliberations of the committees.
Ministers are not generally called by the committees to give evidence. However, in case of the Irregularities in Securities and Banking Transactions probe again, an exception was made, with the JPC, with the permission of the Speaker, seeking information on certain points from ministers and calling Ministers of Finance and Health and Family Welfare.
The government may withhold or decline to produce a document if it is considered prejudicial to the safety or interest of State. The Speaker has the final word on any dispute over calling for evidence against a person or production of a document.
How many JPCs have been there till date? What have been their findings? Has anyone been convicted by them?
There have been only four investigative JPCs so far.