Estimates Committee is a Parliamentary Committee in India consisting of 30 members, elected every year by the lower chamber of the Parliament - Lok Sabha - from amongst its Members, to examine the budget estimates of the Union Government.
Under Rule 310 in Chapter XXVI of the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha, the Estimates committee has powers to examine the Budget Estimates and (a) to report what economies, improvements in organisation, efficiency or administrative reform, consistent with the policy underlying the estimates, may be effected; (b) to suggest alternative policies in order to bring about efficiency and economy in administration; (c) to examine whether the money is well laid out within the limits of the policy implied in the estimates; and (d) to suggest the form in which the estimates shall be presented to Parliament.
Rule 312 states that the Committee may continue the examination of the estimates from time to time throughout the financial year and report to the House as its examination proceeds. It shall not be incumbent on the Committee to examine the entire estimates of any one year. The Demands for Grants may be finally voted notwithstanding the fact that the Committee has made no report.
The role meant to be played by the Estimates Committee was articulated by India’s first Finance Minister (Shir John Mathai), who in his Budget speech 1950-51 had said, “ ….This Budget is being presented under the new Constitution. From that fact there are two matters that arise to which I would like to invite the attention of the House. The first is this, that the Constitution lays down a somewhat elaborate procedure for the consideration and discussion of the Budget. …. I would like to say, at this stage, that, as far as I am concerned, I would like the Standing Finance Committee to continue at the same time. There is a real distinction between the work of the Standing Finance Committee and the work of the proposed Estimates Committee. The Standing Finance Committee is concerned with specific proposals of expenditure by each Department of Government, but the Estimates Committee’s business would be to make a comprehensive examination of expenditure in relation to the resources available to Government. The real business of the Estimates Committee would, therefore, be taking the policy and the objectives of Government (with which they are not concerned) to suggest how this policy and these objectives could be carried out with the least expenditure of public resources. That, Sir, is the first matter to which I would like to refer as arising from the introduction of the Constitution.”
The Committee on Estimates was constituted for the first time in 1950. The present list of members may be seen here.
The Chairperson of the Committee is appointed by the Lok Sabha Speaker from amongst its members. A Minister cannot be elected as a member of the Committee. The term of office of the Committee is one year.
Committee can authorize sub-committees to look into specific issues.
Estimates Committee does not look into the working of the public sector undertakings for which a separate committee - Committee on Public Undertakings – is constituted.
Any change in the preparation of budget estimates would need the approval of the Estimates Committee. For instance, before firming up Budget 2016-17, the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance had approached the Estimates Committee inter-alia for (a) approval to change Format of presenting Budget estimates; (b) to merge some Demands for Grants in Budget 2016-17 and (c) power to merge /demerge demand for grants in future without approaching the Estimates Committee. Estimates Committee, vide its report submitted to speaker of the Lok Sabha in January 2016, gave permission on (a) & (b) but denied permission on (c).
More details on the Estimates Committee may be seen here.