Polity

Central Council of Ministers – Cabinet, Function etc.

Central Council of Ministers

  • The Indian Constitution provides Parliamentary form of Government headed by Prime Minister.
  • He is assisted by the Central Council of Ministers which is headed by him.
  • It consists of senior ministers, called ‘cabinet ministers’, ‘ministers of state’ and, rarely, deputy ministers.
  • The Central Council of Minister is the real executive authority in our politico-administrative system.

Central Council of Ministers, Constitutional Provision, Cabinet, Kitchen Cabinet, Category of minister, Cabinet Minister, Minister of State, Deputy Minister

Constitutional Provisions for Central Council of Ministers

Article 74 – Central Council of Ministers to aid and advise President

    1. There shall be a Central Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as the head to aid and advice the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice. Provided that the President may require the Council of Ministers to reconsider such advice, either generally or otherwise, and the President shall act in accordance with the advice tendered after such reconsideration.
    2. The advice tendered by Ministers to the President shall not be inquired into in any court.

Article 75—Other Provisions as to Ministers

    1. The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
    2. The total number of Ministers, including the Prime Minister, in the Central Council of Ministers shall not exceed 15 % of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha. (Added by 91st Amendment Act)
    3. A member of either house of Parliament belonging to any political party who is disqualified on the ground of defection shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a minister.
    4. The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.
    5. The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.
    6. The President shall administer the oaths of office and secrecy to the ministers before entering the office.
    7. A minister who is not a member of the Parliament (either house) for any period of six consecutive months shall cease to be a minister.
    8. The salaries and allowances of ministers shall be determined by the Parliament.

Article 77—Conduct of Business of the Government of India

    1. All executive action of the Government of India shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the President.
    2. Orders and other instruments made and executed in the name of the President shall be authenticated in such manner as may be specified in rules to be made by the President, and the validity of an order or instrument which is so authenticated shall not be called in question on the ground that it is not an order or instrument made or executed by the President.
    3. The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.

Article 78—Duties of Prime Minister

It shall be the duty of the Prime Minister—

      1. To communicate to the President all decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation.
      2. To furnish such information relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation as the President may call for.
      3. If the President so requires, to submit for the consideration of the Council of Ministers any matter on which a decision has been taken by a Minister but which has not been considered by the Council.

Article 88—Rights of Ministers as Respects the Houses

Every minister shall have the right to speak and take part in the proceedings of either House, any joint sitting of the Houses and any Committee of Parliament of which he may be named a member. But he shall not be entitled to vote.

Appointment of Ministers

  • The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, while other ministers are appointed by the President on the Advice of Prime minister.
  • Usually, members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are appointed as Ministers. But, if a person who is not the member of either house, is appointed as a Minister than he must become a Member of Parliament within 6 months.

Oath of Ministers

  • The President administer the oaths of office and secrecy to the minister before entering the office. He swears –
      1. To bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India.
      2. To uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India.
      3. To faithfully and conscientiously discharge the duties of his office.
      4. To do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
  • In his oath of secrecy, the Minister swears –

He will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person(s) any matter that is brought under his consideration or becomes known to him as a Union Minister except as may be required for the due discharge of his duties as such minister.

Salaries and Allowances of Ministers

  • Determined by Parliament from time to time.
  • A minister gets the salary and allowances that are payable to a Member of Parliament.
  • Additionally, he gets a sumptuary allowance (according to his rank), free accommodation, travelling allowance, medical facilities, etc.

Removal of Minister

  • The Minister can be removed by following –
    • Upon death
    • Upon self-resignation
    • Upon dismissal by the President for minister’s unconstitutional acts.
    • Upon direction from the Judiciary for committing violation of law.
    • Upon ceasing eligibility to be a Member of Parliament.

Responsibility of Central Council of Ministers

Collective Responsibility

    • It is the Fundamental Principle in the working of Parliamentary System of Government.
    • Article 75 states that the council of ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.
    • Central Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha for the policies & decisions of the government, even though a decision taken may concern to a single ministry.
    • If a minister does not agree with the decision of cabinet, he has no option but to resign from Council of Ministers. He cannot disapprove a decision of the cabinet & at the same time remain as a member of Council of Minister.
    • When a Ministry loses confidence of the Lok Sabha the whole of the Ministry has to resign including those Ministers who are from the Rajya Sabha.
    • In certain cases the Ministry may advice the President to dissolve Lok Sabha and call for fresh elections.
    • The President may not oblige the council of ministers that has lost the confidence of the Lok Sabha.
    • Prime Minister is head in cabinet which means if he resigns or dies, whole Council of Ministers goes out with him or does not exist without him.

Individual Responsibility

    • Article 75 also states that the ministers hold office during the pleasure of the president.
    • Hence, President can remove a minister even when the council enjoys the confidence in the Lok Sabha. But, the President can remove a minister only on the advice of the Prime Minister.
    • In case of differences in opinion or due to dissatisfaction of the performance of a minister, the Prime Minister can ask him to resign or advice the President to dismiss him.

No Legal Responsibility

    • Constitution states that the President shall exercise the executive power directly or through officers subordinate to him.
    • According to Article 74, the courts are barred from enquiring into the nature of advice given by the ministers to the president.
    • If an order is in the name of the President and has been made in accordance with the rules and has been authenticated by the designated officer of the Government of India, there is no scope for holding a Minister legally responsible.

Composition of the Central Council of Ministers

  • The Central Council of Ministers consists of three categories of ministers –
      • Cabinet Ministers
      • Ministers of State
      • Deputy Minister
  • The difference between them lies in the ranks, emoluments and Political Importance.
  • The Prime Minister is the head of all the ministers.

Cabinet Ministers

    • The cabinet ministers are the part of the Cabinet. They head the important ministries of the government like Defence, Home, and Finance etc.
    • They attend the meeting as and when summoned by the Prime Minister and plays an important role in deciding policies.
    • Cabinet is the real policy making body of Central Council of Ministers.
    • A cabinet minister always heads a ministry & is given independent charge of it, unless he is appointed as a minister without portfolio.
    • Generally assisted by minister of state (but not bound constitutionally) or a deputy minister or both
    • A cabinet minister attends meetings of cabinet on his own right.

Ministers of State

    • A minister of state is given an independent charge of ministries/departments or can be attached to the Cabinet Ministers.
    • In case of attachment, they may either be given the charge of departments of the ministries headed by the cabinet ministers
    • In case of independent charge, they perform the same functions and exercise the same powers in relation to their ministries/departments as cabinet ministers do.
    • A minister of state cannot attend meeting of cabinet on his own right but can attend if invited. He is normally invited when given independent charge of a ministry.

Deputy Ministers

    • A deputy minister is a junior member of the Central Council of Ministers.
    • They are not given independent charge of ministries/departments.
    • They are attached to a cabinet minister or minister of state and assist them in working.
    • They do not attend a cabinet meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister

    • Appointed mostly for political reasons.

Ranking of Ministers

  • There are five categories of the council of ministers as given below, in descending order of rank:
    1. Prime Minister
    2. Deputy prime minister (if any) – presides as prime minister in his absence or as the senior most cabinet minister.
    3. Cabinet minister – member of cabinet; leads a ministry.
    4. Minister of state (independent charge) – junior minister not reporting to a cabinet minister.
    5. Minister of state or deputy minister – reporting to a cabinet minister, usually tasked with a specific responsibility in that ministry.

Central Council of Ministers Vs Cabinet

Council of ministers

Cabinet

Wider body consisting of 60 to 70
ministers.

Smaller body consisting of 15 to 20
ministers.

Includes all the three categories of ministers, i.e., cabinet ministers, ministers of state, and deputy ministers.

Includes the cabinet ministers only. Thus, it is a part of the council of ministers.

It does not meet, as a body, to transact government business. It has no collective functions.

It meets, as a body, frequently and usually once in a week to take decisions regarding the transaction of government business. Thus, it has collective functions.

It is vested with all powers but in theory.

It exercises, in practice, the powers of the council of ministers and thus, acts for the latter.

Implements the decisions taken by the
cabinet.

Supervises the implementation of its decisions by the council of ministers.

Its functions are determined by the
cabinet.

It directs the council of ministers by taking policy decisions which are binding on all ministers.

It is collectively responsible to the Lower House of the Parliament.

It enforces the collective responsibility of the council of ministers to the Lower House of Parliament.

 

Role of Cabinet

  • Highest decision-making authority in our politico-administrative system.
  • Chief policy formulating body of the Central government.
  • Supreme executive authority of the Central government.
  • Chief coordinator of Central administration.
  • Advisory body to the president and its advice is binding on him.
  • Chief crisis manager and thus deals with all emergency situations.
  • Deals with all major legislative and financial matters.
  • Exercises control over higher appointments like constitutional authorities and senior secretariat administrators.
  • Deals with all foreign policies and foreign affairs.

Kitchen Cabinet

  • The cabinet is the highest decision-making body in the formal sense.
  • However, a still smaller body called the inner Cabinet or Kitchen Cabinet has become real centre of power.
  • It advises the prime minister on important political and administrative issues and assists him in making crucial decisions.
  • This informal body consists of the prime minister and two to four influential colleagues in whom he has faith and with whom he can discuss every problem. It is composed of not only cabinet ministers but also outsiders like friends and family members of the prime minister.

Advantages –

    1. Being a small unit, is much more efficient decision-making body than Cabinet.
    2. It can meet more often and deal with business much more efficiently than cabinet.
    3. It helps the prime minister in maintaining secrecy in making decisions on important political issues.

Disadvantages –

    1. Reduces the authority and status of the cabinet as the highest decision-making body.
    2. Circumvents the legal process by allowing outside persons to play an influential role in the government functioning.

 

So, with this the Central Council of Ministers and Cabinet have been completed.

In the Next Post (Click Here), we will learn about the Parliament and its two Houses.

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