- Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary system of govt modelled on British pattern, the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister is the real executive authority in India & is our politico-administrative system.
- The principles of parliamentary system of government are not detailed in the Constitution, but two Articles 74 and 75 deals with them in a broad, sketchy and general manner.
- Article 74 deals with the status of Central council of ministers while 75 deals with the appointment, tenure and allowances of the ministers.
(i) Article 74 - Council of Ministers to aid and advice the President
- There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advice the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice.
- However, the President can request the Council to reconsider its advice, after which the President is bound by the reconsidered advice.
- The advice tendered by the Ministers to the President shall not be inquired into by any court.
(ii) Article 75 - Other Provisions as to Ministers
- PM appointed by the President and the other ministers by the President on the advice of the PM
- Total number of minister in the Council: max 15% of the Ls (91st CA 2003)
- A member of either House who is disqualified on the grounds of defection shall be disqualified to be minster. (91st CA 2003)
- Ministers hold office during the pleasure of the President.
- Council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the LS
- President shall administer oaths of office and secrecy to the ministers
- A minister who is not a member of the Parliament for 6 months shall cease to be a minister.
- Salaries and allowances of minsters shall be determined by the Parliament
(iii) Article 77- Conduct of business in the Government of India
- All executive action of the government of India shall be taken in the name of the President
- Orders and instruments are made and executed in his name shall be authenticated in such manner as may be specified in rules to be made by the President. Further, the validity of an order or instrument which is so authenticated shall not be called in question on the ground that it is not an order or instrument made or executed by the President.
- President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among minster of the said business.
(iv) Article 78 - Duties of the PM
- To Communicate to the President all decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and the proposals for legislation
- To furnish such information relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and the proposals for legislation as the President may call for
- Duties of the PM If the President so requires, to submit for the consideration of the Council of Ministers an matter but which has not been considered by the Council.
(v) Article 88 - Rights of Ministers as Respects the Houses
- Every minister shall have the right to speak and take part in the proceedings of either House, any joint sitting of the Houses and any committee of Parliament of which he may be named a member. But he shall not be entitled to vote.
Nature of Advice by Ministers
- 42nd and 44th Constitutional Amendment Acts have made the advice binding on the President.
- The nature of advice tendered by ministers to the President cannot be enquired by any court.
- In 1971, the Supreme Court held that 'even after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, the council of ministers does not cease to hold office as Article 74 is mandatory and, therefore, the president cannot exercise the executive power without the aid and advise of the council of ministers.
- Any exercise of executive power without the aid and advice will be unconstitutional as being violative of Article 74
- In 1974, the court held that wherever the Constitution requires the satisfaction of the President, the satisfaction is not the personal satisfaction of the President but it is the satisfaction of the council of ministers with whose aid and on whose advice the President exercises his powers and functions
Appointment of Ministers
- The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, while the other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister
- Usually, the members of Parliament, either of 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.
- 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.
Oath & Salary of Ministers
(i) Before a minister enters upon his office, administers to him the oaths of office and secrecy In his oath of office, the minister swears:
- To bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India
- To uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India
- To faithfully and conscientiously discharge the duties of his office,
- To do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
(ii) In his oath of secrecy, the minister swears that he will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person(s) any matter that is brought under his consideration or becomes known to him as a Union minister except as may be required for the due discharge of his duties' as such minister.
(iii) The salaries and allowances of ministers are determined by Parliament from time to time.
(iv) A minister gets the salary and allowances that are payable to a member of Parliament.
(v) Additionally, he gets a sumptuary allowance (according to his rank) free accommodation, travelling allowance, medical facilities, etc.
Responsibility of Ministers
(i) Collective Responsibility
- The fundamental principle underlying the working of parliamentary system of government is the principle of collective responsibility. Article 75 clearly states that the council of ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.
- This means that all the ministers own joint responsibility to the Lok Sabha for all their acts of omission and commission.
- They work as a team and swim or sink together.
- When the Lok Sabha passes a no-confidence motion against the council of ministers, all the ministers have to resign including those ministers who are from the Rajya Sabha.
- It is the duty of every minister to stand by cabinet decisions and support them both within and outside the Parliament
- If any minister disagrees with a cabinet decision and is not prepared to defend it, he must resign.
- For example, Dr BR Ambedkar resigned because of his differences with his colleagues on the Hindu Code Bill in 1953. CD Deshmukh resigned due to his differences on the policy of reorganisation of states. Arif Mohammed resigned due to his opposition to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986
(ii) Individual Responsibility
- Article 75 also contains the principle of individual responsibility. It states 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.
(iii) No Legal Responsibility
- Unlike Britain, in India, there is no provision in the Constitution for the system of legal responsibility of a minister.
- It is not required that an order of the President for a public act should be countersigned by a minister.
Composition of The Council
1. The council of ministers consists of three categories of ministers, namely, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, and deputy ministers.
2. At the top of all these ministers stands the Prime Minister -the supreme governing authority of the country
(a) Cabinet Ministers: The cabinet ministers head the important ministries of the Central government Like home, defence, finance, external affairs and so forth. They are members of the cabinet, attend its meetings and play an important role in deciding policies.
(b) 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 attachment, they may either be, given the charge of departments of the ministries headed by the cabinet ministers or allotted specific items of work related to the ministries headed by cabinet ministers.
- In both the cases, they work under the supervision and guidance as well as under the overall charge and responsibility of the 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
(c) Deputy Minister
- They are not given independent charge of ministries/
- They are attached to the cabinet ministers or ministers of departments, state and assist them in their administrative, political and parliamentary duties.
- They are not members of the cabinet and do not attend cabinet meetings.
- It must also be mentioned here that there is one more category of ministers, called parliamentary secretaries.
(d) Parliamentary Secretaries
- They are the members of the Last category of the council of ministers (which is also known as the 'ministry').
- They have no department under their control.
- They are attached to the senior ministers and assist them in the discharge of their parliamentary duties.
Distinction Between Council of Ministers and Cabinet
Role of The Cabinet
- Highest decision-making authority in our politico-administrative system
- Chief policy formulating body of the Central government.
- Supreme executive authority of the Central government
- Chief coordinator of Central administration
- Advisory body to the president and its advice is binding on him.
- Chief crisis manager and thus deals with all emergency situations.
- Deals with all major legislative and financial matters.
- Exercises control over higher appointments Like constitutional authorities and senior secretariat administrators.
- Deals with all foreign policies and foreign affairs
- Ramsay Muir: "The Cabinet is the steering wheel of the ship of the state."
- Lowell: "The Cabinet is the keystone of the political arch"
- Sir John Marriott: "The Cabinet is the pivot around which the whole political machinery revolves"
- Barker: "The Cabinet is the magnet of policy "
- Sir Ivor Jennings: "The Cabinet is the core of the British Constitutional System. It provides unity to the British system of Government".
- L.S. Amery: "The Cabinet is the central directing instrument of Government".
- The cabinet a small body consisting of the prime minister as its head and some 15 to 20 most important ministers, is the highest decision-making body in the formal sense.
- However, a still smaller body called the 'Inner Cabinet' or Kitchen Cabinet' has become the real centre of power.
- This informal body consists of the Prime Minister and two to four influential colleagues in whom he has faith and with whom he can discuss every problem.
- It advises the prime minister on important political an administrative issues and assists him in making crucial decisions
- It is composed of not only cabinet ministers but also outsiders like friends and family members of the prime minister.
- Every prime minister in India has had his Inner Cabinet'-a circle within a circle. During the era of Indira Gandhi, the Inner Cabinet' which came to be called the Kitchen Cabinet was particularly powerful.
- The PMs have resorted to the device of 'inner cabinet' due to its merits,
≫ It being a small unit, is much more efficient decision making body than a large cabinet.
≫ It can meet more often and deal with business much more expeditiously than the large cabinet
≫ It helps PM in maintaining secrecy in making decisions on important political issues.
- However, it has many demerits also. Thus,
≫ It reduces the authority and status of the cabinet as the
≫ It circumvents the legal process by allowing outside persons
- The phenomenon of 'kitchen cabinet' (where decisions are cooked and placed before the cabinet for formal approval) is not unique to India. It also exists in USA and Britain and is quite powerful in influencing government decisions there.