Select Committee reports to Dewan Rakyat (legislature), not to Cabinet (executive) ― Hafiz Hassan

DECEMBER 2 ― I refer to the report “Liew: Enhanced IPCMC bill expected to be tabled next week”, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong was reported to have said that the 36 proposals to enhance the Independent Polic Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill by the Special Select Committee on Bills Consideration would be presented to the Cabinet.

“If the Cabinet [agrees with the proposals], we can table the Bill [in Dewan Rakyat] next week.” he said at the Parliament lobby.

I am rather amazed by what the de facto law minister said.

A Bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to amend an existing law. When a Bill is formally presented before Parliament at its first reading, it starts the whole process of law making ― a process that is governed by the Standing Orders.

For the uninitiated, Standing Orders (SO) are the written rules which regulate the proceedings of each House of Parliament ― the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara.

SO 54(2) allows a Bill, at its second reading, to be committed to a Select Committee on a motion in the House. Upon such committal, the Bill proceeds to what is referred to as the Committee Stage and a number of Standing Orders come into effect.

First, SO 55 empowers the Select Committee to make amendments to the Bill as it thinks fit provided they are relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. The SO also mandates the Select Committee to report the amendments to the House.

Second, SO 58 obligates the Select Committee to follow the provisions of SO 83 and SO 84, which makes the latter two SO as the third and fourth SO that take effect.

SO 83 regulates the proceedings of the Select Committee, which is quite elaborate. Suffice here to state the SO obligates the Chairman of the Select Committee to report the meetings, deliberations and considerations of the Select Committee, including its examination of witnesses (in verbatim), to the House. A report of a Select Committee need not be verbatim.

SO 84 allows each member of the Select Committee to vote according to his or her voice and sets out how he or she may vote.

Finally, SO 86 makes it clear and succinct that every Select Committee must make a report to the House upon the matters referred to it ― as soon as possible and presented by the Chairman.

The upshot is that, after the Select Committee completes its deliberations and scrutiny of a Bill, it must present a report to the House. The House then must proceed under SO 60 to consider the Bill as reported from the Select Committee. In the British Parliament, this is referred to as the Report Stage.

So a Bill, once formally presented to the House, takes on a course that is governed only by the Standing Orders. The report of the Special Select Committee to consider the IPCMC Bill should therefore be presented to the House as mandated by SO 55 and SO 86. Up to this point, the course that the IPCMC Bill should take is as shown in the attachment.

With due respect, the Bill as amended by the Special Select Committee does not require the approval of the Cabinet to proceed to the Report Stage, ie. to be presented or tabled to Dewan Rakyat.

The doctrine of separation of powers, which the High Court so admirably upheld in its decision on section 13 of the Security Offences (Special Measure) Act dictates that the Special Select Committee to consider the IPCMC Bill should report to Dewan Rakyat (the legislature) without interference from the Cabinet (the executive).

The very purpose of a Select Committee is to check on the executive and not the reverse. This does not mean that the Cabinet is totally ‘hands off’ the Bill. Like any Member of Parliament, the Cabinet is entitled to consider the report of the Special Select Committee.

Indeed, the Cabinet is entitled to decide to withdraw or postpone the Bill. SO 62 allows the Minister to request to the House that the Bill be withdrawn or that the next stage of the Bill be postponed.

So let the Special Select Committee report the IPCMC Bill as amended to Dewan Rakyat without further ado.

* Hafiz Hassan researches on the law, including on Parliamentary Select Committees.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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