Chapter 22: PRIME MINISTER AND COUNCIL
He is the head of government or the real
executive in the Indian system. President appoints
the prime minister however no system of appointment is
given in the constitution. However by convention of a
parliamentary democracy the leader of the largest party of
parliament becomes the PM.
The president can exercise discretion when no
party has clear majority. He appoints a person and asks
him to prove his majority in the house. If the PM dies and
no successor is in sight then again the president can
appoint a suitable person at his discretion as caretaker
for continuity. However if the winning party has a
candidate then the president has no choice.
To be a PM a person need not be an MP but he
has to become one within 6 months of being appointed or
else his appointment become void.
Though the PM occupies his post during the
pleasure of the president he can’t be removed till he
commands the majority in the house.
As per the Govt of India (Allocation of business) Rules created by the president, different departments were created to handle governments
business. Ministers and subject distribution was done
to each ministry by the president on advice of the
Powers of the PM:
- As head of the council of ministers he
recommends people to be appointed as ministers to the
- He allocates and reshuffles portfolios
amongst them. He can ask the minister to resign or tell
the president to dismiss him.
- He supervises activities of all ministers.
His resignation or death leads to dissolution of the
council of ministers.
- He communicates to the president all
matters related to administration of the union and
- He furnishes information required by the
president relating to administration of the union or
- He submits to the consideration of the
council of ministers any matter on which decision has
been taken by an individual minister but the Council of
Ministers hasn’t considered it.
- He is the leader of the lower house. He can
advice president to summon or prorogue the house
sessions. He can advice dissolution of Lok Sabha to the
president anytime. He announces government policies on
the floor of the house.
- He is advisor of president regarding
appointments to various regulators and constitutional
bodies of the union.
- He heads the national development council,
national integration council, interstate council, Niti
Aayog, national water resource council.
Council of Ministers
The PM + Council of ministers are the real
executives of the union.
They aid and advice the president in the
exercise of his functions but such advice is binding on
No court shall inquire into the advice given
by the Council of ministers to the
President which means they are liable for official acts of
the president done on their advice. Constitution however
doesn’t grant any immunity either for personal or official
acts hence ministers can be treated like ordinary
The total strength of the PM + Council of ministers shall not
exceed 15% of the strength of the Lok Sabha [91st
amendment]. The person who has been disqualified on
grounds of defection shall also be disqualified to be
appointed as the PM [91st amendment].
Council of ministers is collectively
responsible to the Lok Sabha. A minister who isn’t a
MP for six consecutive months shall cease to be the
minister. A minister can take part in proceeding of both
houses as he is member of the government but can vote only
in the house of which he’s a member.
Collective responsibility: This means that
entire Council of ministers is a team
that sinks or swims together. So if the Lok Sabha passes
a no confidence motion against the Council of ministers then all have
to resign. Only the Lok Sabha can pass the motion of no
confidence; it can’t be against a single minister but
the entire Council of ministers only.
This is due to the provision in the
"Council of ministers is collectively
responsible to the Lok
There are three categories of ministers in
Cabinet: They attend cabinet meetings and
play important role in central government.
Minister of state: They can be independent in
charge of department that aren’t attached to cabinet
ministries or in charge of specific department part of a
ministry /specific work in a
ministry which is headed by a cabinet minister.
Deputy Minister: They are attached to cabinet
ministers or ministers of state and assist them in their
The last two categories don’t form part of
cabinet meetings. Cabinet isn’t mentioned in the original
text of the constitution but only in 44th
amendment it was inserted in article 352.
Cabinet ministers are also part of cabinet
committees which are created to sort out issue or make
policy recommendations to the cabinet.
The 'collective responsibility' has two meanings : the first that all the
members of a government are unanimous in support of its policies and
exhibit that unanimity on public occasions although while formulating the
policies, they might have differed in the cabinet meeting;
The second that the
Ministers, who had an opportunity to speak for or against the policies in the
Cabinet, are thereby personally and morally responsible for their success and
The principle of individual responsibility to the head of the State is embodied in Art. 75(2)-"The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the
The result, is that though the Ministers are collectively responsible to
the Legislature, they shall be individually responsible to the Executive head
and shall be liable to dismissal even when they may have the confidence of
But since the Prime Minister's advice will be available in the
matter of dismissing other Ministers individually, it may be expected that
this power of the President will virtually be, as in England, a power of the
Prime Minister against his colleagues,-to get rid of an undesirable
colleague even where that Minister may still possess the confidence of the
majority in the House of the People.
Usually, the Prime Minister exercises
this power by asking an undesirable colleague to resign, which the latter
readily complies with, in order to avoid the odium of a dismissal.
But, as stated earlier, the English principle of legal responsibility
has not been adopted in our Constitution.
In England, the Crown cannot do
any public act Without the counter-signature of a Minister who is liable in a
Court of law if the act done violates the law of the land and gives rise to a cause of action in favour of an individual.
But our Constitution does not expressly say
that the President can act only through Ministers and leaves it to the
President to make rules as to how his orders, etc., are to be authenticated;
and on the other hand, provides that the Courts will not be entitled to
enquire what advice was tendered by the Ministers to the executive head.
Hence, if an act of the President is, according to the rules made by him,
authenticated by a Secretary to the Government of india.
There is no scope
for a Minister being legally responsible for the act even though it may have
been done on the advice at the Minister.
As in England, the Prime Minister is the "keystone of the Cabinet
arch". Article 74(1) of our Constitution expressly States
that the Prime Minister shall be "at the head" of the
Council of Ministers.
Hence, the other Ministers
cannot function when the Prime Minister dies or
In theory, all
Ministers or members of the Cabinet have an equal position, all being
advisers of the Crown, and all being responsible to Parliament in the same
manner. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister has a pre-eminence, by conven-
tion and usage.
Even though any particular Minister has tendered any advice to
the President without placing it before the Council of Ministers, the
President has (through the Prime Minister) the power to refer the matter to
be considered by the Council of Ministers. The unity of the Cabinet system
will thus be enforced in India through the provisions of the written
In a Parliamentary form of government, the tenure of office of the
virtual executive is dependent on the will of the Legislature; in a Presidential
Government the tenure of office of the executive is independent of the will of
Thus, in the Presidential form of which the model
is the United States, the President is the real head of the Executive who Is
elected by the people for a fixed term.
He is Independent of the Legislature
as regards his tenure and is not responsible to the Legislature for his acts. He
may, of course, act with the advice of ministers, but they are appointed by
him as his counsellors and are responsible to him and not to the Legislature.
Under the Parliamentary system represented by England, on the other hand,
the head of the Executive (the Crown) is a mere titular head, and the virtual
executive power is wielded by the Cabinet, a body formed of the members
of the Legislature and responsible to the popular House of the Legislature
for their office and actions.
While the so-called Cabinet of the American President is
responsible to himself and not to Congress, the Council of Ministers of Indian
President shall be responsible to Parliament.
The reason why the framers of the Constitution discarded the American
model after providing for the election of the President of the Republic by an
electoral college formed of members of the Legislatures not only of the
Union but also of the States, has thus been explained
stability with responsibility, they gave more importance to the latter and
preferred the system of 'daily assessment of responsibility' to the theory of
'periodic assessment' upon which the American system is founded.
the American system, conflicts are bound to occur between the Executive,
Legislature and Judiciary; and on the other hand, according to modem American writers the absence of co-ordination between
the Legislature and the Executive is a source of weakness of the American political
What is wanted In india on her attaining freedom from one and a
half century of bondage is a form of Government which would be
conducive to the manifold development of the country without the least
friction,-and to this end, the Cabinet or Parliamentary system of Government of which India has already had some experience, Is better suited than
Q. Consider the following statements :
1. The Executive Power of the union of India is vested in the Prime Minister.
2. The Prime Minister is the ex officio Chairman of the Civil Services Board.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?(UPSC CSAT 2015)
Both 1 and 2
Neither 1 nor 2
Ans . D
Executive power of the Union of India is vested in the President of India.
Cabinet Secretary is the ex-officio head of the Civil Services Board, the Cabinet Secretariat, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and head of all civil services under the rules of business of the Government of India.
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