COUNCIL OF MINISTERS & CABINET

COUNCIL OF MINISTERS

Cardinal Principles of Parliamentary Democracy:-

  1. Head of state is not the real executive. For all practical purpose Prime Minister is the real executive who is the head of the government.
  2. He along with his Council of Ministers is accountable to the Lower House of the Parliament.
  3. Council of Ministers is drawn from legislature itself. It is not an outside body.

 

Formation of Council of Ministers Council of Ministers is formed as soon as Prime Minister is sworn in. PM alone can constitute Council of Ministers.

Categories of Ministers Constitution does not categorize members of the Council of Ministers. It is done by the Prime Minister following the British conventions. In fact, there are three categories of ministers in India. But it is the prerogative of PM to decide how many categories to be included. These three categories of ministers are as follows:-

Cabinet Ministers – They are senior rank ministers if allotted a portfolio. They always head a ministry. They constitute the cabinet and enjoy the right to attend cabinet meeting. They are assisted by Minister of State or Deputy in discharging official functions.

Minister of States – They are second rank ministers. They are normally not given independent charge. They assist Cabinet Ministers. PM in his discretion can give independent change to Minister of States. He does not enjoy right to attend cabinet meeting. But he can be invited to attend cabinet meetings.

Deputy Ministers – They are junior in rank. They are never given independent charges. They cannot be invited to participate in the cabinet meeting.

Parliamentary Secretaries – They are not member of CoM. They are appointed by PM. Basically; they are Member of Parliament and from the ruling party. They are appointed to assist the ministry in discharging functions in the Parliament. They take oath of office and secrecy conducted by PM.

Strength of Council of Ministers 91st Amendment Act 2003 amended Art. 75 and inserted Art 75 (1A) which provides that “strength of Union CoM shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.

 

CABINET VS COUNCIL OF MINISTERS

Council of Ministers

(1) It is a composite body because it contains Cabinet Ministers, Minister of State and Deputy Minister.

(2) It is a large body and rarely meets as a composite body.

Cabinet

(1) It includes only Cabinet Ministers.

(2) It is a body within Council of Ministers

(3) It meets regularly and deliberates & takes policy decision including proposed legislation.

(4) It is the highest decision making body of the country that runs administration.

(5) Decisions of cabinet automatically become that of Council of Ministers.

(6) Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Home Minister and Defence Minister always remain part of the cabinet.

Collective Responsibility of CoM

Art 75 (3) of the Constitution provides for collective responsibility of CoM to the Lower House of the Parliament. Collective responsibility of CoM to the Lok Sabha means that they enjoy the majority support of the House. If any decision of CoM is defeated in Lok Sabha, decision may pertain to a single ministry but entire CoM shall have to resign.

 

It means each and every decision taken by the government is collectively approved by the Cabinet. Generally, it becomes the collective decision of the CoM and all ministers defend it both within & outside the Parliament. If a decision taken by an individual minister is defeated in the Lok Sabha, before it was collectively approved by the cabinet then the individual minister has to resign and not the whole CoM. Thus, CoM stands or falls together or sinks or swims together.

 

Collective responsibility ensures that there is no difference in CoM once a collective decision has been taken. There may be differences of opinions in the cabinet at the time of deliberation of policy issue but once a collective decision has been taken then all the ministers shall endorse collective decision. Ministers don’t have individual opinion contrary to collective decision that he can express within or outside the Parliament. If a minister has a contrary view to collective decision then he has to change his view and support the collective decision or resign. He can’t oppose the collective decision and at the same time continue to be a member of the CoM.

Individual Responsibility of Ministers

Under Article 75 (2) of the Constitution, ministers are also individually responsible to the President. This means ministers hold office during the pleasure of the President. They can be removed from CoM without assigning any reason. However, they can only be removed after PM advised the President to do so.

 

Article 75 (2) – The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.

 

Individual responsibility is essential to enforce collective responsibility of CoM. For example, minister disagrees collective decision but refuses to resign. In that case PM may advice the President to drop the minister so as to assure collective responsibility of CoM.

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