Parliament's constitutional watchdog committee agreed Wednesday to review the legality of a controversial order that has sent army and police patrols into streets of Soviet cities in the name of law and order.

The official Tass news agency said the Supreme Soviet's Constitutional Compliance Committee heeded the request of Boris Yeltsin's Russian parliament for a review of the Interior Ministry order for the joint patrols."The compliance committee today began a review of decisions on the beginning of joint army and police patrols in major cities," Tass said.

The patrols began Feb. 1 and the order sanctioning them has been criticized as non-constitutional in the non-communist liberal press.

The brief Tass dispatch did not indicate whether the oversight body would either halt the reinforced patrols or declare invalid the order that set them in motion.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the original decree for the joint patrols, has defended the unorthodox measure as the type of visible law and order Soviet people are demanding.

Liberal critics have charged that the joint foot patrols are the latest link in a chain leading to a new dictatorship in the country and the end of the democratic accomplishments of perestroika.

The patrols, so far unaccompanied by armored vehicles, have become a centerpiece in the personal battle between Yeltsin, representing the 15 Soviet republics, and Gorbachev, standing for the authority of the central government.