Council of Ministers

Council of ministers is an important topic in polity for the IAS exam. The below article talks about the types of ministers in the government in India for the UPSC exam.

It is the Prime Minister who allocates portfolios to the other Ministers. The Prime Minister may call for the resignation of any Minister at any time. In case of refusal he may advice the President to dismiss the Minister. The Constitution does not lay down the member of Ministers that may constitute the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister is free to appoint, as many Ministers as may be deemed necessary. All the members of the Council of Ministers do not belong to the same rank. The Constitution does not classify ministers into different ranks but in practice 4 ranks have come to be recognized.

I. Cabinet Ministers—He has a right to be present and participate in every meeting of the Cabinet. For proclamation of an emergency under Art. 352 the advice must come from the Prime Minister and other Ministers of cabinet rank.

II. Minister of State with independent charge—He is a Minister of State who does not work under a Cabinet Minister. When any matter concerning his Department is on the agenda of the Cabinet, he is invited to attend the meeting.

III. Minister of State—He is a Minister who does not have independent charge of any Department and works under a Cabinet Minister. The work to such Minister is allotted by his Cabinet Minister.

IV. Deputy Minister—He is a Minister who works under a Cabinet Minister or a Minister of State with independent charge. The work to him is allotted by the Minister under whom he is working. The Prime Minister allocates portfolios to the Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State with independent charge. The other Ministers are allocated work by their respective Cabinet Ministers. Ministers may be chosen from the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. A Minister who is member of one House has the right to speak and to take part in the proceedings of the other House. A Minister is allowed to vote only in the House of which he is a member. A person who is not a member of either House may also be appointed as a Minister. He can continue as a Minister only for six months. Because that is the limit fixed by Art. 75(5). If he desires to continue as Minister he has to become a member of any one of the Houses of Parliament before the expiration of the period of 6 months. A person who is not qualified to become a member of a legislature cannot be appointed a minister under Art. 75(5). In this case minister would not include Prime Minister because non-election of Prime Minister would dissolve the Council of Ministers after expiration of the period of 6 months.

Kitchen Cabinet

The cabinet, a small body consisting of the prime minister as its head and some 15 to 20 most important ministers, 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 ma-king 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:

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

Demerits: It reduces the authority and status of the cabinet as the highest decision-making body. It circumvents the legal process by allowing outside persons to play an influential role in the government functioning.

Collective Responsibility of the Ministers

In England, the Cabinet system is based on conventions. The framers of our Constitution considered it fit to incorporate the system in the Constitution. The principle of collective responsibility finds place in Art. 75(3) where it is stated that the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. In other words, this provision means that a Ministry which loses confidence of the Lok Sabha is obliged to resign. The loss of confidence is expressed by rejecting a Money Bill or Finance Bill or any other important policy measure or by passing a motion of no-confidence or rejecting a motion expressing confidence in the Ministry. 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. The Ministers fall and stand together. In certain cases the Ministry may advice the President to dissolve Lok Sabha and call for fresh elections.

Minister’s Individual responsibility

The rule regarding individual responsibility is to be found in Art. 75(2) where it is stated that Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President. Collectively the Ministers survive so long as they have the required support in the Lok Sabha. An individual Minister may continue to be a member of the Council of Ministers as long as he has the confidence of the Prime Minister. As stated earlier the Prime Minister may whenever he is not satisfied with the work of a Minister or when there is a difference of opinion or where political expediency so requires, demand resignation from any Minister. Refusal to oblige the Prime Minister may lead to his dismissal by the President. The power of the President is in practice a potent weapon in the hands of the Prime Minister to discipline his colleagues and control dissent. Article 311 gives certain rights to the person appointed to a Civil Service or a Civil Post. But similar rights are not available to the Ministers.

Legal responsibility

According to the principles of English law the King cannot do any public act without the counter signature of a minister. If the act is in violation of any law the Minister would be held responsible. The King is not answerable in any Court of Law. It is a well-known principle of English Law that The King can do not wrong. This rule is called the legal responsibility of the minister. Our Constitution states that the President shall exercise the executive power directly or through officers subordinate to him. Article 77 provides that orders and other instruments shall be authenticated in such manner as may be specified in rules made by the President. The rules made by the President do not require the President to act only through Ministers. Article 74(2) provides that courts will not be entitled to enquire as to what advice was tendered by the Ministers. If an order or instruction 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.

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