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Subjects /Indian Polity / Prime Minister And The Council of Ministers

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22 Jul 2020

The Constitutional Head of the Union Executive is the President, whereas Prime Minister is the Real Head of the Union Executive.

The position of Prime Minster with reference to Council of Minsters called as ‘PRIMUS INTER-PARES’, i.e., first among the equals, he is the key stone of the cabinet arch. If Prime Minster dies or resigns the entire Council goes automatically, the so called life and death of the ruling party is the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minster is appointed by the President in normal circumstances in the appointment of Prime Minster, President has hardly any discretion, the leader of majority party in the Lok Sabha is appointed as Prime Minister.

However, if no party has majority in the Lok Sabha and a coalition Government is to be formed in which more than 1% claim for the post of Prime Minister then President may exercise his discretion in selecting the Prime Minister. He may follow the following connection one after another:

  • He may appoint the leader of largest coalition formed before election as Prime Minister.
  • He may appoint the leader of single largest party in the Lok Sabha.
  • He may appoint the leader of largest coalition formed after election.

If Prime Minister resigns after no-confidence motion is passed in the Lok Sabha, the President should invite leader of the opposition to become Prime Minister.

Even a member of Rajya Sabha can become Prime Minister (for example Indira Gandhi (first term), I.K. Gujral, Manmohan Singh)

Even a non-member of Parliament can become Prime Minster or minister for a maximum period of 6 months. However, in order to continue, he has to get the membership of the either house of the Parliament (elected or nominated) within this period, otherwise after expiry of the said 6 months he ceases to be the Prime Minister or Minister.

Functions of Prime Minister

The functions of the Prime Minister as per the Constitution of India are:

  • He selects his ministers, distribute portfolios among them and even to get any of them dismissed by the president.
  • He summons, decides venue, agenda, date and time of the Cabinet meeting and presides over this meeting.
  • He is a connecting link between the President and the Council of Ministers.
  • He can call for any file from any ministry.
  • He can intervene in parliamentary debate in both the houses anytime.
  • It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to announce even policy decisions of the Government from anywhere (inside the Parliament or even outside the Parliament).

The Union Council of Minister

As soon as the Prime Minster swears in, the Council of Ministers is formed.

In the original Constitution, the strength of Council of Minsters was not mentioned, however, by 91st Amendment Act, 2003, the maximum strength of Council of Ministers was fixed as not to exceed 15% of the total strength of Lok Sabha.

According to Article 75, the Council of Minister is collectively responsible to the Parliament specially Lok Sabha, therefore if no confidence motion is passed in the Lok Sabha, the Council of Minister resigns.

An individual minister is responsible to the President and therefore he can be dismissed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Category of Ministers

It is not mentioned in the Constitution. However, while following British Cabinet System, there are 3 categories of Ministers-

  • Cabinet Ministers 
    • They are senior most ministers to head a ministry/department. They can participate in the Cabinet Meetings.
  • Ministers of State 
    • They are junior to cabinet ministers and normally assist the former, they do not participate in cabinet meeting normally. However, they may be invited to attend it.
    • Some of the ministers of the state may be given independent charge. It means their rank is equivalent to the Minister of State but since no Cabinet Minister is there above him in that ministry or department and he heads that ministry, therefore, independent charge is given.
  • Deputy Minister
    • They are the junior most ministers and essentially assist both the cabinet ministers and the minister of state. They never attend Cabinet Meeting.

Constitutional Duties of the Prime Minister

According to Article 78, it shall be the duty of the Prime Minister –

  • to communicate to the President regarding the administration of the union and proposed legislation.
  • to furnish such information related to administration of the Union and proposed legislation to the President, if the President asks for such information.
  • if the President wants collective responsibility of the Council of Minister on any of the decision taken by the Individual minister, it shall be the duty of the Prime Minister to ensure such collective responsibilities.