The enormous range and magnitude of the government activities in the present day State has led Parliament/Legislatures to shift emphasis from lawmaking activities to supervision/control of the administration. This is not limited only to the voting of moneys by the Parliament/ State Legislatures but also extends to ensure that expenditure is incurred in a prudent & specified manner on plans and programmes approved by the Legislature and that the objectives underlying these programmes are achieved. Parliament/ State Legislature as a body, however, is not in a position to undertake this stupendous task on its own nor it is practically possible. As a matter of fact, it can not use the floor time for minute details nor it has enough time for doing so. Therefore, to make parliamentary surveillance effective and more meaningful, a suitable machinery is required. The Committees are constituted to ensure this accountability of the Executive to the Legislature. Besides, enabling more people to become associated with the governmental processes, these also help in making use of the experience and expertise in guiding and supervising the government's functioning. These Committees are, therefore, referred to as "House in Miniature" or "House in Perpetuity"
Public Accounts, Estimates, Delegated Subordinate Legislation, Government Assurances, Business Advisory, Privileges, Petitions and the Rules Committees were first constituted during the Legislative Assembly of the Himachal Pradesh Part-C State in the early 1950s. Two new Committees namely, Committee on Public Undertakings and the Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were constituted in 1973. Committee on Papers' Laid on the Table of the House (1981) and Official Languages Implementation Committee (1986) were added to the list later on. Members of the Estimates , Public undertakings and Public Accounts Committees used to be elected by the House every year from amongst its Members according to the principle of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote, where as the rest of the Committees used to be constituted by nomination by the Speaker in the month of April/May every year, normally at the end of the Budget Session. The Rules, were later amended to constitute even there financial committees by nomination by the Speaker.
As a significant development Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha constituted Departmentally Related Standing Committees in 1993 on West minister Model. Prior to that Kerala Legislative Assembly had taken a lead by constituting Subject Committees. HP Legislative Assembly followed by constituting 3 Subject Committees based mainly on the Kerala pattern. The Committee were Tourism, Agriculture & Horticulture and Forest & Environment. In March 1994 these three Subject Committee were replaced by 7 Department Related Standing Committees namely - Committee on Agriculture & Horticulture, Forest & Environment, Tourism, Education, Land Revenue, General Administration and Health & Family Welfare. The existing Committee on Welfare of SC/ST was entrusted with the additional work relating to the Demands for Grants pertaining to Welfare of SC & ST.
In 2001 after careful study of the working of the Committees in general and Department Committees in particular certain changes were brought about in the Rules. It was decided first to reduce the number of Departmental Committees from seven to four. Names of these Committees are Public Administration Committee, Human Development Committee, General Development Committee and Rural Planning Committee. The Assembly Rules were also amended to revive the previously abolished Committees on Estimates and Subordinate Legislation on a vociferous demand from the Hon'ble Members. It was also thought proper to completely do away with the Committee on Petitions and Committee on Paper's Laid. Members Amenities and Library Committees were clubbed together. By another significant move, a new Committee on Ethics was constituted to suggest ways for improving the falling ethical standards of the Members both with in and out side of the House.
In functions and working procedure these Committees replicate the corresponding Committees of the Parliament. From 1977 onwards it became a convention in Himachal Pradesh to have Chairman of PAC from Opposition Party.
The Chairmen of the Committees such as the Business Advisory Committee, Rules Committee and Members Amenities and Library Committees are headed by the Speaker himself. Other committees than the above mentioned, are headed by Members nominated by the Speaker keeping in view their seniority and experience.
Representation on each of these Committees is roughly proportionate to the strength of the parties/groups in the House.
Functions of Departmentally Related Standing Committees are:- i) to consider the demands for grants; annual administrative reports; policy documents and other important matters; ii) to suggest measures to effect efficiency and economy in the administration; iii) to scrutinise the assurances and government's promises given on the floor of the House; and iv) to examine Bills, if referred to them; and to report to the House whether the power to make rules, regulations, sub-rules etc. conferred by the Constitution or delegated by any lawful authority, are being properly exercised within such delegation.
Budget Scrutiny : Under Article 203 (2) of the Constitution while the Legislature may refuse to assent to a Demand for Grant or assent it subject to a reduction of the amount specified therein but may not increase the Demand. Thus while examining a Demand for Grant, the Departmentally Related Standing Committee may recommend variations from one sub-head to another but such variations shall not have the effect of increasing the total allocation under such a Demand. So, if an increase is to be made under one sub-head a corresponding saving has to be shown under another sub-head within the same Demand. Though those Departmentally Related Standing Committees were constituted in the H.P. Assembly in year 1994, scrutiny of the Budget estimates by the Committees, before it is passed by the House was started in the year 1998. Experience during these years have shown that substantial contributions is made by the new Committee System especially through the process of scrutiny of the Budget Estimates. A number of recommendations are being made by these Committees which are responded to positively and adequately by the Govt. It may hence be concluded that the discussions taking place in these Committee meetings, results in a wide range of ideas and suggestions as a feed back for the Govt. which helps the latter in knowing the needs and aspirations of the people. Realistic and need based Budget for the following year is thus formulated keeping in view the recommendation made by these Committees.