functions of prime minister
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In this article, Sofia Agrawal of KIIT School Of Law, Bhubaneshwar discusses the powers of Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

Introduction

Our Indian system comprises three organs of the Government:

  • Legislative: These are those bodies who have the power to make laws.
  • Executive: Those bodies who execute the laws and conduct of public and national affair.
  • Judiciary: Those bodies who are responsible for dealing with all legal cases.

The Executive system is the most powerful organ of the Government. It is that organ which implements the laws passed by the legislature and who head the Government Departments. The Prime Minister is the head of the Government and leads the executive organ of the Government. The Cabinet Ministers are the senior ministers of the Council Of Ministers and they exercise the executive authority in the Republic Of India. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and the Council Ministers and Cabinet Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

India follows a Parliamentary system of Government in which the Prime Minister is the leader of the executive system of Government Of India and also the head of the Council Of Ministers. Prime Minister is the real custodian of all the executive authority.

Tenure

The full term of the office of Prime Minister is  5 years but they can hold their office only if they enjoy the majority in the Parliament and the term can end sooner if loses the vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha. Once they lose their majority, the period of holding their office also comes to an end.

The Indian Parliamentary system does not follow the democratic system of US where if the President holds his office twice and has completed his office, he/she cannot again hold their position. In India this system is not followed, here the President, Prime Minister can hold their office many times till they attain their discharge period.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, The 13th Prime Minister of India. His first tenure as a Prime Minister was from 16th May 1996-1st June 1996, he held the office for 13 days but due to loss of support from the other parties to obtain the majority, he resigned. Then again he was chosen as a Prime Minister with a full majority from 19th March 1998- 22nd May 2004.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru held the office in a row as a Prime Minister for 4 times from 15th August 1947-27th May 1964.

Thus in India, the Ministers can hold their office for many times till they enjoy their vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha.

Salary

Particulars Amount (in rupees)
Basic Pay 50,000
Sumptuary Grant 3000
Daily Allowance 62000(@2000 per day)
Constituency Grant 45000
Gross Salary per month 160000

Qualifications

  1. Must be a citizen of India.
  2. Must be the member of either of the Houses of the Parliament i.e The Lok Sabha and The Rajya Sabha.
  3. Should complete 25 years of age if he is a member of the Lok Sabha and 30 years of age if he is a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Disqualifications

Following are the disqualifications of Prime Minister:

Office Of Profit

Article 102(1)(a) of The Indian Constitution which bars the Prime Minister to hold the office of profit. Office of profit is defined as the financial amount which is given to the occupant to gain a financial advantage in the form of salaries, perks and other benefits. The office of profit has not been defined in the Constitution of India or under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951.

In Jaya Bachchan v. Union Of India[1]

The Office Of Profit is defined as follows:

  • Office of Profit is an office which is capable of yielding a profit or pecuniary gain.
  • Holding an office under the Central or State Government to which the salaries, remuneration, allowances are paid amounts to hold the office of profit.

Unsound Mind

The Prime Minister and other members disqualify if he/she is of unsound mind and stands so declared by the competent Court.

Not a citizen of India

The Prime Minister disqualifies if he/she is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of the foreign state.

Other Disqualification

  1. If he is an undischarged insolvent.
  2. Disqualified under any law made by Parliament.
  3. Disqualified for being a member of either House of Parliament.

Cabinet Ministers

Cabinet Ministers are the Senior Ministers of the Union Council of Ministers. These Ministers are led by the Prime Minister. They play the role as a supreme decision- making the body in India. Since these Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers are the Member Of Parliament so their tenure of work, qualifications and disqualifications are same. The Cabinet Ministers have the powers to sit in the both Houses Of Parliament, The Rajya Sabha and The Lok Sabha. The current Cabinet is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Tenure

The full term of the office of the Cabinet Ministers is 5 years but these ministers can be changed upon the discretion of The Prime Minister.

Examples Illustrating Prime Minister’s Discretionary Power:

Minister of Human Resource Development

Earlier this Ministry was in the hand of Smriti Irani and now replaced by Prakash Javadekar on the discretion of the Prime Minister.

Minister of Minority Affairs

Earlier this Ministry was in the hand of Najma A. Heptulla and now replaced by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Qualifications

  1. Must be a citizen of India.
  2. Must be the member of either of the Houses of Parliament The Rajya Sabha and The Lok Sabha.
  3. Should complete 25 years of age if he is a member of the Lok Sabha and 30 years of age if he is a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Hierarchy of The Council Of Ministers

 

Disqualifications

  1. Should not hold the office of profit during the time of the election.
  2. If he is an undischarged insolvent.
  3. Disqualified under any law made by Parliament.
  4. Disqualified for being a member of either House of Parliament.
  5. Not a Citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of Foreign State.

Removal Of The Cabinet Ministers

  1. Upon self-resignation.
  2. Upon direction from the Judicial authorities for committing any violation of the law.
  3. Upon dismissal by the President for any minister’s unconstitutional acts.
  4. Upon ceasing eligibility to be a member of Parliament.

Is Prime Minister Part Of A Cabinet?

Prime Minister is the Chairman and part of the Cabinet.

Prime Minister has the following functions in the Cabinet:

  • The resignation of the Prime Minister implies the resignation of the Cabinet.
  • Prime Minister allocates posts to the Cabinet Ministers within the government.
  • Prime Minister has the power to select and dismiss the Cabinet Ministers.
  • He allocates portfolios or department to the Cabinet Ministers.

As quoted by, Dr B.R.Ambedkar,”The Prime Minister is the keystone of the arch of the of cabinet and until we endow that office with the statutory authority to nominate and dismiss Ministers there can be no collective responsibility“.

Powers Of The Prime Minister And The Cabinet

Prime Minister

Power to appoint the Authorities

  • Prime Minister has the right to give advice to the President in relation to the appointment of the Government Authorities.
  • Such authorities include The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Attorney General Of India, Solicitor General Of India, Election Commissioners, Chairman and Members Of The Finance Commission.
  • Prime Minister also has the right to give advice to the President on the appointment of The Council Of Ministers and The Cabinet Ministers.

Power as the Leader of the House Of Parliament

  • Prime Minister is the Leader of the Lower House Of Parliament i.e The Lok Sabha.
  • He advises President with regard to the summoning of the sessions of The Parliament.
  • The Prime Minister can recommend the President for the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
  • Prime Minister in consultation with the Speaker of the lower house decides the Agenda of the House.

Aid and Advice the President

  • Prime Minister is the Chief Advisor of The President.
  • The Prime Minister advises The President in all the matters of the state.
  • Prime Minister Informs The President regarding all the decisions taken in the Cabinet Meeting.
  • The Prime Minister advises and gives all the information to The President regarding the emergency situation or any changes in the foreign policy.
  • Prime Minister advises the President to take necessary steps in the economic, financial, political and developmental situations of the country.

Power as the Chairman of The Cabinet                                  

  • The Prime Minister is the Leader of The Cabinet.
  • The Prime Minister presides over the meetings and decides the agenda of the meetings.
  • All the decisions of the Cabinet meetings are decided by the approval and consent of The Prime Minister.
  • The reject or accept of the proposal of the Cabinet discussions is in the hand of The Prime Minister.
  • The Prime Minister guides, directs, controls and coordinates all the activities of the Minister.
  • The Prime Minister allocates various portfolios and ministries among the Ministers.
  • In case of any wrongdoing and difference in the opinion, the Prime Minister can ask a Minister to resign or advise The President to dismiss the Power of the Minister.
  • Is the Chairman of the NITI Aayog National Development Council, National Integration Council, Inter-State Council, National Water Resources Council.

Power to Remove The Minister

  • The Minister remains in the office according to the pleasure of The Prime Minister.
  • The Prime Minister can demand resignation from any Ministers at any time and the Minister is duty bound to accept it.
  • In April 2010 when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, Shashi Tharoor, the Minister of State for External Affairs had to resign from his office under the allegation of the corruption in the IPL case. (see here)

Emergency Powers

  • The President declares the emergency only under the advice of the Prime Minister.
  • Under Article 352 of The Indian Constitution, The President can declare an emergency on the basis of the written request by the Prime Minister.
  • In the year 1975-1977, the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed with the written request and consent from the Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed emergency. The reason behind this was threat to National Security and bad economic conditions.

Thus, the Prime Minister has the power to impose an emergency when the situation is as such.

Coordinating Power

  • The Prime Minister is the chief coordinator between the President and the Cabinet.
  • The Prime Minister communicates the President all the decisions of the Cabinet and puts before the Cabinet the decisions of the President, thus acting as the medium of the communication.
  • It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to coordinate the activities of all the department and to secure the cooperation among the ministers.  

Other Powers

  • Prime Minister is the Leader of the Nation. The general elections of the country are fought in his name.
  • Plays a key role in determining Indian Foreign Policy and relations with other countries.
  • Power to allocate and change the department of the Ministers.

Cabinet Ministers

Power to formulate the policies

  • The Cabinet Ministers formulates both external and domestic policies and are considered as the policy-making organ of the government.
  • The Cabinet takes decisions on the various matters such as defence, economic policy, industrial policy, formulation of new states and the President’s rule in the state.
  • The decisions made by the Cabinet are communicated to the Deputy Minister and Minister of the state which helps the cabinet ministers in managing the business of the government jointly.
  • The members of the Planning Commission are appointed by the Cabinet.

Power over the Executive

  • The Cabinet Ministers have the supreme control over the Executives.
  • The real functionaries in the executive authority are the Cabinet Ministers.
  • The Cabinet Ministers presides over the Ministries of the Government and carries out the policies and gets approved by the Parliament.

Power as the Coordinator

  • The Cabinet Ministers act as the coordinator of the various department of the government.
  • Various Ministries of the government are coordinated by the cabinet ministers.

Financial Powers

  • It is the responsibility of the Cabinet Ministers to look after the expenditure of the Government.
  • The Finance Minister of the Cabinet prepares the annual budget which contains the estimated incomes for the ensuing year and also has the power to introduce the money bill with the consent of the President.
  • It is the responsibility of each cabinet ministers to see that the proposals of his ministry are approved in the house.
  • The Cabinet and the administrative departments take the initiative of preparing, defending and presenting the bill in the Parliament.

Power of Making Appointments

  • The President appoints the high power authorities on the recommendation of the Cabinet Ministers.
  • Such important authorities include Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Attorney General of India, Governors of the States, Supreme Court and High Court Judges and the members of the Union Public Service Commission.

Other Powers

  • Cabinet Ministers provide information to the public by answering questions put to them by the members of the Lok Sabha.
  • The special address of the President to the Parliament is prepared by the Cabinet.
  • The Cabinet Ministers is responsible for planning and implementing of Amendments to the Constitution.

Constituent Assembly Debates on Powers Of Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers

Certain Constituent Assembly Debates on the Powers of Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers are-

Pros

  • This is a logical consequence of the general principle of this Draft Constitution, namely, that the Government is to be upon the collective responsibility of the entire Cabinet to the Legislature. [2]
  • At the same time, in the Cabinet, the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister or by whatever title he is described would be the Principal Adviser and I would like to fix the responsibility definitely by the Constitution on the Chief Minister, the individual Ministers not being in the same position.[3]
  • Whatever may be the procedure or convention within the Cabinet itself, however, the decisions of the Cabinet may be taken, so far as the Governor is concerned, I take it that the responsibility would be of the Chief Minister who will advise also about the appointment of his colleagues or their removal if it should be necessary.[4]
  • It is but in the fitness of things that he should be made directly responsible for any advice tendered to the Constitutional head of the State, namely, the Governor.[5]

  Cons

  • So far as the consideration of this Article 144 is concerned, I would make the following suggestion, if that will be acceptable to those who are responsible for this draft: “The Governor’s ministers shall be appointed by him and shall hold office during his pleasure.”[6] 
  • This is pleased by Article 143 and in that Article, a provision has been made that “there shall be a Council of Ministers”.[7]
  • Naturally, therefore, we must mention as to who is to appoint this Council of Ministers. [8]
  • I think the better form would have been merely to mention that “the Council of Ministers shall be appointed by the Governor.”[9]
  • At the same time to make a further provision that “they shall hold office during his pleasure” is undesirable.[10]
  • My opinion is it is not necessary and is derogatory to the position which we are going to give to the Prime Minister of the State and the Council of Ministers. [11]
  • Probably this provision is a remnant of the old idea that the Ministers hold office during the king’s pleasure. [12]
  • Things have changed since then and it is not necessary that we should incorporate the same language, namely, “they shall hold office during his pleasure”.[13]
  • I admit that if the Governor is the appointing authority, naturally he should have the power in certain circumstances for which provision may be made, in this section that the Council of Ministers may be dissolved or some new ministers shall be appointed, we need not say that “they shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor.[14]
  • “That “Governor” we have decided will be nominated by the President and I do not think it will be proper to say that the minister shall hold office during his pleasure, but so far as Article 144 reads now, I do not think it is proper that we should lay down that in the case of a Governor of the type which we have already decided upon the Council of Ministers shall be appointed by him and they shall hold office during his pleasure. [15]
  • The wording of the Article is not happy and proper and, therefore, I would appeal that this part of Article 144 is taken out of the Constitution. [16]

Conclusion

India follows the Quasi Federal democracy where the Prime Ministers are elected for the people, of the people and by the people. It is the duty of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister to work for the welfare of the people and work for the Nation. So, the responsibility of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister is that they should carry out their powers and responsibilities very sincerely and honestly.

Endnotes

[1] AIR 2006 SC 2119, Para 6
[2]CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY DEBATES, Book No. 8, session 96, Page No. 28 speech by K.T.SHAH, available at https://cadindia.clpr.org.in/constitution_assembly_debates/volume/8/1949-06-01 (Last visited on July 16, 2018)
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6] CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY DEBATES, Book No. 8, session 96, Page No. 167 speech by H.V PATASKAR, available at        https://cadindia.clpr.org.in/constitution_assembly_debates/volume/8/1949-06-01(Last visited on 16th July)

[7] Ibid
[8] Ibid
[9] Ibid
[10] Ibid
[11] Ibid
[12] Ibid
[13] Ibid
[14] Ibid
[15] Ibid
[16] Ibid

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