- The Union Council of Ministers is the real executive arm of the state. The Executive arises within the Legislature and thus the Executive must command the majority and the confidence of the House of the People.
- The Union Executive is the principal organ of the State, engaged in policy-making. It has the supreme control over the administration. Its domain is virtually all- encompassing ranging from foreign policy to finance, to legislations to programme execution.
- Parliamentary system of India is modelled on the British pattern, in which, the President is the nominal executive authority (de jure executive) and the council of ministers headed by Prime Minister is the real executive authority (de facto executive). In other words, president is the head of the State while Prime Minister is the head of the government.
- Article 74:
- There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice.
- However, the President may require the Council of Ministers to reconsider such advice, either generally or otherwise, and the President shall act in accordance with the advice tendered after such reconsideration.
- The question whether any, and if so what, advice was tendered by ministers to the President shall not be inquired into by any court.
- A member of either house of Parliament belonging to any political party who is disqualified on the ground of defection shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a minister.
- The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
- Usually, the members of Parliament, either Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, are appointed as ministers. A person who is not a member of either House of Parliament can also be appointed as a minister. But, within six months, he must become a member (either by election or by nomination) of either House of Parliament, otherwise, he ceases to be a minister.
- We can also say the same thing in different way as, a minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of either house of Parliament shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister.
- A minister who is a member of one House of Parliament has the right to speak and to take part in the proceedings of the other House also, but he can vote only in the House of which he is a member.
- The ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President. This means that the Ministers can be removed by the President at his/her will. However, all this is in practise used at the behest of the Prime Minister.
- The council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.
- There shall always be a Council of Ministers and there can arise no situation where there can be no Prime Minister or no Council of Ministers. The advice tendered by the Council of Ministers is bound to be accepted by the President including the suggestion of dissolution of Lok Sabha.
- Before a minister enters upon his office, the president administers to him the oaths of office and secrecy.
- The salaries and allowances of ministers are determined by Parliament from time to time.
RESPONSIBILITY OF MINISTERS:
- Collective Responsibility
- This term is having a wide meaning which involves different things. This responsibility is necessary in the working of parliamentary system of government.
- Council of Ministers are collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. Article 75 clearly states that the council of ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.
- According to Article 75(3) the ministry as a body is under a constitutional obligation to resign as soon as it loses the confidence of the Lok Sabha . A vote of no-confidence against any minister automatically leads to the resignation of the entire council.
- The ministers instead of resigning can advise the President to dissolve the Lok Sabha on the ground that the House does not represent the views of the electorates faithfully.
- Hence the Collective responsibility of Ministers is to the Lok Sabha even though some of the ministers may belong to the Rajya Sabha.
- A corollary of the principle of collective responsibility is that of lntra-Cabinet responsibility expressing the solidarity of the Cabinet. Cabinet Ministers have to follow Cabinet decisions even if they disagree on any matter. Once the decision is taken minister have to stand by cabinet decisions and have to support that decision both within and outside the Parliament.
- In case of a difference of opinion or dissatisfaction with the performance of a minister, the Prime Minister can ask him to resign or advice the President to dismiss him.
- By exercising this power, the Prime Minister can ensure the realisation of the rule of collective responsibility.
- Individual Responsibility
- The principle of Individual Responsibility is embodied in Article 75(2). It says that the ministers hold office during the pleasure of the president, which means that the President can remove a minister even at a time when the council of ministers enjoys the confidence of the Lok Sabha. However, the President removes a minister only on the advice of the Prime Minister.
- Legal responsibility
- The system of legal responsibility of a minister is not prescribed in the Indian Constitution. It is followed in UK.
The major powers of the Council of Ministers are:
- It formulates the policy of the country on the basis of which the administration is carried on.
- It introduced all important bills and resolutions in the Parliament and pilots them through.
- It presents the budget of the country before the Parliament. Though Parliament can modify the budget, it is generally passed in the form in which it is presented.
- It determines the foreign policy of the country and the kind of relations it should have with other powers. All diplomatic appointments are made by the President on the recommendation of the Council of ministers. The Council also approves the international agreements and treaties.
- Cabinet members of the Council of Ministers render advice to the President regarding the proclamation of emergency on grounds of war, external aggression or armed rebellion.
- The Constitution does not classify the members of the Council of Ministers into different ranks. All this has been done informally, following the English practice. The Council of Ministers consists of the Prime Minister & such other ministers that he may like to appoint.
- The number of members is not specified in the constitution. However a provision was added by the 91st Amendment Act of 2003 according to which the total number of ministers, including the Prime Minister, in the Council of Ministers shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.
- The Prime Minister is technically free to choose his team but is generally guided by practical consideration such as ensuring representation to various states, regions, communities, prominent leaders of his party etc. While the constitution does not classify the Council of Ministers into different ranks it has been done informally at the centre.
- The council of ministers consists of three categories of ministers, namely, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, and deputy ministers.
- The difference between them lies in their respective ranks, emoluments, and political importance. At the top of all these ministers stands the Prime Minister—the supreme governing authority of the country.
- The Constitution originally did not indicate the word “Cabinet”. However this word was inserted by the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act with regard to emergency provisions. The cabinet refers to an elite group within the council of ministers who hold powerful portfolios like defence, home, finance etc.
- The rest of the council of ministers attend cabinet meetings only when they are called to do so. Cabinet meetings are usually held every week to take stock of the State affairs.
- Ministers of State
- The ministers of state can either be given independent charge of ministries/departments or can be attached to cabinet ministers.
- In case of independent charge, they perform the same functions and exercise the same powers in relation to their ministries/departments as cabinet ministers do. However, they are not members of the cabinet and do not attend the cabinet meetings unless specially invited when something related to their ministries/departments are considered by the cabinet.
- In case of attachment, they work under the supervision and guidance as well as under the overall charge and responsibility of the cabinet ministers.
- Deputy ministers: They are not given independent charge of ministries/departments. They are attached to the cabinet ministers or ministers of state and assist them in their administrative, political, and parliamentary duties. They are not members of the cabinet and do not attend cabinet meetings.
Council of ministers
It is a wider body consisting of 60 to 70 ministers.
It is a smaller body consisting of 15 to 20 ministers.
It includes all the three categories of ministers, that is, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, and deputy ministers.
It includes the cabinet ministers only. Thus, it is a part of the council of ministers.
It does not meet, as a body, to transact gov-ernment business. It has no collective functions.
It meets, as a body, frequently and usually once in a week to deliberate and take decisions regarding the transaction of government business. Thus, it has collective functions.
It is vested with all powers but in theory.
It exercises, in practice, the powers of the co-uncil of ministers and thus, acts for the latter.
Its functions are determined by the cabinet.
It directs the council of ministers by taking policy decisions which are binding on all ministers.
It implements the decisions taken by the cabinet.
It supervises the implementation of its decisions by the council of ministers.
It implements the decision taken by the Cabinet.
It supervises the implementation of its decisions by the Council of Ministers.
It is a constitutional body, dealt in detail by the Articles 74 and 75 of the Constitution. Its size and classification are, however, not mentioned in the Constitution. Its size is determined by the prime minister according to the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situation. Its classification into a three-tier body is based on the conventions of parliamentary government as developed in Britain. It has, however, got a legislative sanction. Thus, the Salaries and Allowances Act of 1952 defines a ‘minister’ as a ‘member of the council of ministers, by whatever name called, and includes a deputy minister’.
The word ‘Cabinet’ was inserted in Article 352 of the Constitution in 1978 by the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act. Thus, it did not find a place in the original text of the Constitution. Now also, Article 352 only defines the cabinet saying that it is ‘the council consisting of the prime minister and other ministers of cabinet rank appointed under Article 75’ and does not describe its powers and functions. In other words, its role in our politico-administrative system is based on the conventions of parliamentary government as developed in Britain.
It is collectively responsible to the Lower House of the Parliament.
It enforces the collective responsibility of the council of ministers to the Lower House of Parliament.
- Article 75: Parliamentary system of government in India is modelled on the British pattern, in which, the President is the nominal executive authority (de jure executive) and the council of ministers headed by Prime Minister is the real executive authority (de facto executive). In other words, president is the head of the State while Prime Minister is the head of the government.
- The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. Article 75 says that the Prime Minister shall be appointed by the president. However, this does not imply that the president is free to appoint any one as the Prime Minister. In accordance with the conventions of the parliamentary system of government, the President has to appoint the leader of the majority party in the Lok Sabha as the Prime Minister. But, when no party has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, then the President may exercise his personal discretion in the selection and appointment of the Prime Minister. In such a situation, the President usually appoints the leader of the largest party or coalition in the Lok Sabha as the Prime Minister and asks him to seek a vote of confidence in the House within a month
- A person who is not a member of either House of Parliament can be appointed as Prime Minister for six months, within which, he should become a member of either House of Parliament; otherwise, he ceases to be the Prime Minister.
- Constitutionally, the Prime Minister may be a member of any of the two Houses of parliament.
- In Britain, on the other hand, the Prime Minister should definitely be a member of the Lower House (House of Commons).
- Before the Prime Minister enters upon his office, the president administers to him the oaths of office and secrecy.
- The term of the Prime Minister is not fixed and he holds office during the pleasure of the president. However, this does not mean that the president can dismiss the Prime Minister at any time. So long as the Prime Minister enjoys the majority support in the Lok Sabha, he cannot be dismissed by the President.
- However, if he loses the confidence of the Lok Sabha, he must resign or the President can dismiss him.
- The salary and allowances of the Prime Minister are determined by the Parliament from time to time. He gets the salary and allowances that are payable to a member of Parliament.
- Additionally, he gets a sumptuary allowance, free accommodation, travelling allowance, medical facilities, etc.
POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE PRIME MINISTER
- The powers and functions of Prime Minister can be studied under the following heads: In Relation to Council of Ministers The Prime Minister enjoys the following powers as head of the Union council of ministers:
- He recommends persons who can be appointed as ministers by the president. The President can appoint only those persons as ministers who are recommended by the Prime Minister.
- He allocates and reshuffles various portfolios among the ministers.
- He can ask a minister to resign or advise the President to dismiss him in case of difference of opinion.
- He presides over the meeting of council of ministers and influences its decisions.
- He guides, directs, controls, and coordinates the activities of all the ministers.
- He can bring about the collapse of the council of ministers by resigning from office.
- Since the Prime Minister stands at the head of the council of ministers, the other ministers cannot function when the Prime Minister resigns or dies. In other words, the resignation or death of an incumbent Prime Minister automatically dissolves the council of ministers and thereby generates a vacuum. The resignation or death of any other minister, on the other hand, merely creates a vacancy which the Prime Minister may or may not like to fill.
- He advises the president with regard to the appointment of important officials like attorney general of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, chairman and members of the UPSC, election commissioners, chairman and members of the finance commission and so on.
- He is the chairman of the National Integration Council, Inter-State Council and National Water Resources Council.
- He plays a significant role in shaping the foreign policy of the country.
- He is the chief spokesman of the Union government.
- He is the crisis manager-in-chief at the political level during emergencies.
- As a leader of the nation, he meets various sections of people in different states and receives memoranda from them regarding their problems, and so on.
- The Prime Minister is the leader of the Lower House of the parliament. However, there are exceptions such as PM Manmohan Singh, who was member of the Rajya Sabha.
- He is leader of the party in power. He is political head of the services.
- Thus, the Prime Minister plays a very significant and highly crucial role in the politico-administrative system of the country. Dr B R Ambedkar stated, ‘If any functionary under our constitution is to be compared with the US president, he is the Prime Minister and not the president of the Union’.
- He has the right to intervene in any debate in the Parliament.
- He announces the government policies on the floor of the House.
- He can recommend dissolution of the Lok Sabha to the President at any time.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESIDENT
- The following provisions of the Constitution deal with the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister:
- Article 74
- There shall be a council of ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice. However, the President may require the council of ministers to reconsider such advice and the President shall act in accordance with the advice tendered after such reconsideration.
- Article 75
- The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other ministers shall be appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister;
- The ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the president; and
- The council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People.
- Article 78 It shall be the duty of the Prime Minister:
- to communicate to the President all decisions of the council of ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation;
- to furnish such information relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation as the President may call for; and
- if the President so requires, to submit for the consideration of the council of ministers any matter on which a decision has been taken by a minister but which has not been considered by the council.
- Article 74