In the chapter 'Working of Institutions,' we delve into the functioning of key democratic institutions, namely the legislature, executive, and judiciary. We explore their roles, interconnections, and contribution to a democratic system by examining major decision-making processes in the Indian government.
How is a Major Policy Decision Taken?
A Government Order
On August 13, 1990, the Government of India issued an order which was called an Office Memorandum. The order says that other than SC and ST, the 27% job reservation benefit will be given to a new third category called Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC). Only persons who belong to backward classes were eligible for this quota.
The Decision Makers
Who decided to issue this Memorandum?
Such a major decision would have involved other major functionaries in India, which involves the following points:
Role of Parliament of India
- The President is the head of the state and is the highest formal authority in India.
- The Prime Minister is the head of the government and takes most of the decisions in the Cabinet meetings.
- Parliament consists of the President and two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The Prime Minister must have the support of a majority of Lok Sabha members to pass a memorandum.
Background of Office Memorandum
- In 1979, the Indian government established the Second Backward Classes Commission, chaired by B.P. Mandal, with the objective of identifying socially and educationally backward classes in India.
- The commission submitted a report in 1980, proposing 27% reservation in government jobs for backward classes. The recommendations were deliberated upon in Parliament for several years.
Question for Detailed Chapter Notes (Part - 1) - Working of Institutions
Try yourself:How is a Major Policy Decision Taken?
- As mentioned, the President of India, who is the highest formal authority, plays a significant role, but the ultimate decision-making power lies with the Parliament.
- The Prime Minister, as the head of the government, plays a crucial role in decision-making during Cabinet meetings.
- However, for a major policy decision like issuing the Office Memorandum, it requires the support and approval of the majority of Lok Sabha members in the Parliament.
Therefore, the decision to issue the Office Memorandum involving job reservation for the SEBC category was taken by the Parliament of India.
Events leading to the implementation of the Mandal Commission report
- In 1989, the Janata Dal party promised to implement the Mandal Commission report if they won the Lok Sabha election. After forming the government, V.P. Singh became the Prime Minister.
- The President of India expressed the intention to implement the recommendations in his address to Parliament. Subsequently, on August 6, 1990, the Union Cabinet formally decided to implement the recommendations.
- Prime Minister V.P. Singh informed Parliament about the decision on August 7, 1990. Finally, on August 13, 1990, the Department of Personnel and Training drafted and signed the order, creating O.M. No. 36012/31/90.
Impact and Resolution of the Office Memorandum on Reservation in India
- The passing of the Office Memorandum in India led to widespread debate, protests, and concerns about job opportunities and fairness.
- The Supreme Court resolved the dispute in the case of 'Indira Sawhney and others Vs Union of India', declaring the order valid but requesting modifications to exclude well-to-do individuals among backward classes.
- The Department of Personnel and Training issued a modified Office Memorandum in 1993, resolving the dispute and establishing the policy that has been followed since.
Need for Political Institutions
Several arrangements are made in modern democracies for performing various funtions in country which are called Institutions. Democracy works well when these institutions perform functions assigned to them.
- Institutions involve meetings, committees and routines. This often leads to delays and complications.
- Some of the delays and complications introduced by institutions are very useful as they provide an opportunity for a wider set of people to be consulted.
- Institutions make it difficult to have a good decision taken very quickly. But, they also make it equally difficult to rush through a bad decision.
- The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are institutions that take all important policy decisions.
- The Civil Servants, working together, are responsible for taking steps to implement the ministers’ decisions.
- Supreme Court is an institution where disputes between citizens and the government are finally settled.
The Indian Parliament is an important organ of the Central Government. Let us study its composition and powers.Parliament of India
Why do we need a Parliament?
- Law-making authority: Parliament is responsible for creating, amending, or abolishing laws in the country.
- Government control: Parliament exercises control over the government and its decisions, ensuring they have the support of the people's representatives.
- Financial control: Parliament controls public money and approves government spending, ensuring transparency and accountability.
- Discussion and debate: Parliament serves as the highest forum for discussing critical public issues and shaping national policy.
- Information-seeking: Parliament can demand information on any matter, ensuring the government is held accountable for its actions.
Two Houses of Parliament
In modern democracies, Parliament plays a crucial role and is often divided into two parts, called Chambers or Houses, in most large countries.
- One House, typically elected directly by the people, holds the main power on their behalf.
- The second House, usually elected indirectly, has specific functions such as representing the interests of different states, regions, or federal units.
- The Indian Parliament has two Houses. The Lower House is called the Lok Sabha or the House of the People and the Upper House is known as the Rajya Sabha or the Council of States.
- The total membership of the Lok Sabha is 551. Out of them, the President of India can, however, nominate two members belonging to the Anglo-Indian community, if it is not adequately represented in the House.
- The total membership of the Rajya Sabha has been fixed at 250. Out of this number 238 are elected by the different 28 States and seven Union Territories while 12 are nominated by the President in order to give representation to eminent people in the field of literature, science, art, or social service.
- It may seem that the Rajya Sabha is more powerful, as it is sometimes referred to as the 'Upper Chamber' and the Lok Sabha as the 'Lower Chamber.'
- However, this does not imply that the Rajya Sabha holds more power than the Lok Sabha. This terminology is just an old-fashioned way of speaking, not the language used in our Constitution.
Powers of Lok Sabha over Rajya Sabha
The Lok Sabha has more power over the Rajya Sabha in several ways:
- In case of a disagreement between the two Houses on an ordinary law, the final decision is taken in a joint session where members of both Houses sit together. Due to the larger number of Lok Sabha members, their view is likely to prevail in such a session.
- The Lok Sabha exercises more power in money matters, such as passing the budget or other money-related laws. The Rajya Sabha can only delay it by 14 days or suggest changes, but cannot reject it. The Lok Sabha may or may not accept these changes.
- The Lok Sabha controls the Council of Ministers, as only a person with the support of the majority of Lok Sabha members can be appointed as the Prime Minister. If the majority of Lok Sabha members express 'no confidence' in the Council of Ministers, all ministers, including the Prime Minister, have to resign. The Rajya Sabha does not have this power.
Question for Detailed Chapter Notes (Part - 1) - Working of Institutions
Try yourself:Which House of the Indian Parliament exercises more power over the other?
The Lok Sabha, also known as the House of the People, exercises more power over the Rajya Sabha, the Council of States, in several ways.
- Firstly, in case of a disagreement between the two Houses on an ordinary law, the final decision is taken in a joint session where members of both Houses sit together. Due to the larger number of Lok Sabha members, their view is likely to prevail in such a session.
- Secondly, the Lok Sabha holds more power in money matters. It has the authority to pass the budget and other money-related laws. Although the Rajya Sabha can only delay the passage of these laws by 14 days or suggest changes, it does not have the power to reject them. The Lok Sabha may choose to accept or reject the suggested changes.
- Lastly, the Lok Sabha has control over the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister can only be appointed if they have the support of the majority of Lok Sabha members. Additionally, if the Lok Sabha expresses 'no confidence' in the Council of Ministers, all ministers, including the Prime Minister, are required to resign. The Rajya Sabha does not possess this power.
Therefore, based on these factors, it can be concluded that the Lok Sabha holds more power over the Rajya Sabha in the Indian Parliament.
- In any government, there are various levels of officials who make daily decisions but do not have ultimate power on behalf of the people.
- These officials are collectively known as the executive, as they are responsible for executing the government's policies.
- When we refer to "the government", we usually mean the executive.
Indian Parliamentary System
Political and Permanent Executive
- In a democratic country, the executive consists of two categories.
- The first category, known as the political executive, includes elected representatives who serve for a specific period and make significant decisions.
- The second category called the permanent executive or civil services, consists of long-term appointees known as civil servants. These individuals remain in office even when the ruling party changes and assist the political executive in day-to-day administration.
Powers of Permanent and Political Executive
- The political executive has more power than the permanent executive.
- This is because the political executive is elected by the people and in a democracy will of the people is supreme.
- The political executive exercises the will of the people on their behalf.
- They are answerable to the people for all consequences of their decisions.
- Permanent executives are more educated and-have expertise on the subject of ministry.
- For instance, the advisor of the finance ministry knows more about economics than the finance minister.
- But still, the decision of the finance minister will be the final.
- Political executive calls take the advice of the permanent executive arid then decide the overall framework and objectives of the policy to be implemented.
Prime Minister and Council of Ministers
The Prime Minister is the head of the government and actually exercises all the government powers. He is the most important political institution in the country.
There is a Union Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers has three categories of Ministers besides the Prime Minister. They are :
- Cabinet Ministers: They are the most important members of the Council of Ministers. They are the full-fledged Ministers who hold important portfolios.
- Ministers of State with independent charge: They are usually in-charge of smaller Ministries. They participate in the Cabinet meetings only when specially invited.
- Deputy Ministers: They are the third category of Ministers who assist the Cabinet Ministers and the Council of Ministers.
Powers of the Prime Minister
The Prime Minister has wide-ranging powers.
Prime Minister of India
- On the advice of the Prime Minister, the President appoints other ministers.
- The Prime Minister is free to choose ministers, as long as they are members of Parliament.
- He chairs and takes most of the decisions in the Cabinet meetings.
- He coordinates the work of different departments and his decisions are final in case disagreements arise between departments.
- He exercises general supervision of different ministries and all ministers work under his leadership.
- He distributes and redistributes work to the ministers.
- He also has the power to dismiss ministers. When Prime Minister quits, the entire ministry quits.
The President is the Head of the State. The President supervises the overall functioning of all the political institutions in India, so that they operate in harmony to achieve the objectives of the state.
President of India
Election of President
The President is not elected directly by the people. A candidate standing for the President’s post has to get a majority of votes from Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Members of the Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) to win the election.
Powers of President
- All governmental activities take place in the name of the President.
- All laws and major policy decisions of the government are issued in the name of the President.
- All major appointments are made in the name of the President, which includes the appointment of the Chief Justice of India, the Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts of the states, the Governors of the states, the Election Commissioners, Ambassadors to other countries, etc.
- All international treaties and agreements are made in the name of the President.
- The President is the supreme commander of the defence forces of India.
The President exercises all these powers only on the advice of the Council of Ministers. The President can only appoint the Prime Minister by his/her own will.
Additional Information (Not in Syllabus)
The information mentioned below has been removed from both the CBSE curriculum and the NCERT syllabus. They are provided here for reference purposes, but you can ignore them if you wish.
1. Speaker of the Lok Sabha
- In order to conduct the business of the Lok Sabha at the centre and Vidhan Sabha in the states in a proper manner, the Indian Constitution has made a provision for the office of the Speaker and the Deputy-Speaker.
- The Lok Sabha at the Centre and Vidhan Sabhas in the States elect the Speaker in their very first session from among its own members.
- The Speaker is an important or perhaps the most important member of the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha.
2. Powers and Functions of the Parliament
Although the primary function of the Parliament is law-making, our Parliament has to perform a galaxy of other functions too.
Legislative or Law-Making Functions
- It frames new laws and amends or repeals them, if necessary, on the 97 Subjects of the Union List and all the Residuary Subjects which have not found a place in any of the lists.
- In certain cases, it can enact laws on the Subjects of the State List also.
- The Parliament along with the State legislature can pass laws regarding the 47 Subject on the Concurrent List. In case of any clash, the law passed by the Parliament shall prevail.
- The Union Parliament has the sole right to amend the Constitution, although in certain cases, these amendments should be ratified by a majority of the states. The States can, in no case, initiate an amendment to the Constitution.
Control on the National Finance or Financial Powers
- The Union Parliament is the custodian of the national purse. Neither a penny can be spent on any item nor a paisa can be collected by way of taxes without the prior approval of the parliament.
- The Parliament passes the Budget of the Union Government. It is, however, empowered to vote for a cut in the Budget or to reject it altogether.
- Thus, the Parliament acts as the controller of the national finance.
Control over the Government or the Executive Powers
- The most important function of the Parliament is to exercise control over the Government.
- The Government is directly responsible to the Parliament for its acts of Commission and Commission, if the Government faults the constitution, it can be voted out of office by passing a vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister the Ministry as a whole, or any of its members.
- The members of the Parliament can move an adjournment motion on any urgent matter requiring the immediate attention of the Government. If such a motion is admitted, the Minister in charge of such a department, where any untoward event has happened, is reprimanded for the flaws or failure of his ministry.
- Then again, an hour a day in the daily routine of the Parliament, when in session, is reserved for asking questions from the Government. The members can ask any question relating to the administration of the state and the Ministers are obliged to answer them. In this way, they can keep a check on the functioning of the various departments under different ministers.
- Not only this, the parliament can hold the strings of the Government tight by voting a cut in the annual budget. The salaries and allowances of the ministers are decided by the parliament.
Judicial Powers or Functions
- The Parliament enjoys certain judicial powers also.
- It can impeach the president, a judge of the Supreme Court, or the High Court, in case they are found counteracting against the Constitution or misusing their status, or indulging in corruption of any nature.
Electoral Powers or Functions
- The Parliament plays an important role in the election of the president and the Vice-President.
- Moreover, the Lok Sabha elects its own Speaker and Deputy Speaker from its own members, the Rajya Sabha elects its Deputy Chairman.
3. How is a Bill Passed in the Parliament?
- The proposal for the law when introduced in the legislature is called a bill.
- When a bill is passed by the proper procedure, it is called a law. Until it is not passed, the bill is not called a law.
4. When can the Parliament legislate on the subject provided in the State list?
The constitution has established a federation in India but still, the Centre has made more powerful.
In certain circumstances, the Parliament can legislate on state matters:
- If the Rajya Sabha or the Council of States by 2/3 majority passes a resolution that a particular subject mentioned in the state list has assumed national importance, then the Parliament can legislate on that subject.
- If the legislature of two or more states requests the Parliament, then it can make laws on that subject.
- When a state of emergency is proclaimed in the country.
5. No-Confidence Motion
- In a Parliamentary setup, the Council of Ministers works till it enjoys the confidence of the Legislature.
- If a successful motion of no-confidence is passed in the Parliament, the Council of Ministers has to resign and if on the other hand, the majority votes against the motion, the Government survives.
- No-confidence motions are very important. Because when a debate is held on the no-confidence motion, members discuss the general policies of the Government in detail and not the matter of a particular bill.
- In such a way, much light is shed on different problems and the attitude of different parties towards them.