Powers and Functions of the Prime Minister

The most important political person in the country is undoubtedly the Prime Minister. It is important know how he is elected, his powers and functions, how he can be removed, etc. for the polity section of the UPSC syllabus

The powers and functions of Prime Minister of India can be studied under the following heads:

In Relation to Council of Ministers

Since the prime minister stands at the head of the council of ministers, the other ministers cannot function when the prime minister resigns or dies. In other words, the resignation or death of an incumbent prime minister automatically dissolves the council of ministers and thereby generates a vacuum. The resignation or death of any other minister, on the other hand, merely creates a vacancy. The prime minister enjoys the following powers as head of the Union council of ministers: 1. He recommends persons who can be appointed as ministers by the president. The president can appoint only those persons as ministers who are recommended by the prime minister. 2. He presides over the meeting of council of ministers and influences its decisions. 3. He can ask a minister to resign or advise the president to dismiss him in case of difference of opinion. 4. He allocates and reshuffles various portfolios among the ministers. 5. He guides, directs, controls, and coordinates the activities of all the ministers. 6. He can bring about the collapse of the council of ministers by resigning from office.

In Relation to the President

The prime minister enjoys the following powers in relation to the president:

 
  1. He is the principal channel of communication between the president and the council of ministers.
  2. He advises the president with regard to the appointment of important officials like attorney general of India, comptroller and auditor general of India, chairman and members of the UPSC, election commissioners, chairman and members of the finance commission and so on.

In Relation to Parliament

The prime minister is the leader of the Lower House. In this capacity, he enjoys the following powers:

  1. He advises the president with regard to summoning and proroguing of the sessions of the Parliament.
  2. He can recommend dissolution of the Lok Sabha to president at any time.
  3. He announces government policies on floor of the House.

Other Powers & Functions

In addition to the above-mentioned three major roles, the prime minister has various other roles. These are:

  1. He is the chairman of the Planning Com-mission, National Development Council, National Integration Council and Inter-State Council.
  2. He plays a significant role in shaping the foreign policy of the country.
  3. He is the chief spokesman of the Union government.
  4. As a leader of the nation, he meets various sections of people in different states and receives memoranda from them regarding their problems, and so on.
  5. He is the crisis manager-in-chief at the political level during emergencies. He is leader of the party in power and the political head of the services.

Distinction between Council of Ministers and Cabinet

Council of ministers

  1. It is a wider body consisting of 60 to 70 ministers.
  2. It includes all the three categories of ministers, that is, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, and deputy ministers.
  3. It does not meet, as a body, to transact government business. It has no collective functions.
  4. It is vested with all powers but in theory.
  5. Its functions are determined by the cabinet.
  6. It is a constitutional body, dealt in detail by the Articles 74 and 75 of the Constitution. Its size is determined by the prime minister according to the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situation.
  7. It is collectively responsible to the Lower House of the Parliament.

Cabinet

  1. It is a smaller body consisting of 15 to 20 ministers.
  2. It includes the cabinet ministers only. Thus, it is a part of the council of ministers.
  3. It meets, as a body, frequently and usually once in a week to deliberate and take decisions regarding the transaction of government business. Thus, it has collective functions.
  4. It exercises, in practice, the powers of the council of ministers and thus, acts for the latter.
  5. It directs the council of ministers by taking policy decisions which are binding- on all ministers.
  6. It was inserted in Article 352 of the Constitution in 1978 by the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act. Thus, it did not find a place in the original text of the Constitution.
  7. It enforces the collective responsibility of the council of ministers to the Lower House of Parliament.

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