The Cabinet is a smaller body with 15 to 20 ministers. It is the nucleus of the council of ministers and only includes cabinet ministers. It is the true seat of power in the government.
- The 44th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1978 inserted ‘Cabinet ‘into Article 352 of the Constitution. As a result, it was not included in the original text of the Constitution.
- Also, Article 352 only defines the cabinet as “the council consisting of the prime minister and other ministers of cabinet rank appointed under Article 75,” without describing its powers and functions.
- In other words, its role in our political and administrative system is based on the parliamentary government conventions developed in Britain.
Role of Cabinet
- It is our political and administrative system’s highest decision-making authority.
- It is the Central Government’s main policy-making body.
- It is the Central government’s supreme executive authority.
- It is the central administration’s chief coordinator.
- It serves as the president’s advisory body, and its recommendations are legally binding on him.
- As the chief crisis manager, he is in charge of all emergency situations.
- It addresses all major legislative and financial issues.
- It has authority over higher-level appointments such as constitutional authorities and senior secretariat administrators.
- It is in charge of all foreign policies and foreign affairs.
Under the Article 77 of the Constitution, President has power to make rules for convenient transaction of business of Union Government and for allocation of work among ministers. Under these the President has notified, two sets of rules:
- Allocation of Business Rules deals with distribution of subject among different ministries and departments
- Transaction of Business Rules deals with disposal of ministries, inter-departmental consultations, committees of cabinet, consultation with Prime Minister and President etc.
According to the Transaction of Business Rules, Prime Minister has power to constitute or discontinue Standing Committees of the Cabinet and the functions assigned to them.
- The cabinet committees are an extra constitutional body, which means they are not mentioned in the constitution.
- The Prime Minister sets up different cabinet committees with selected members of the Cabinet and assigns specific functions to these committees.
- The Prime Minister may even change the numbers of committees and modify the functions assigned to them.
- If the Prime Minister is a member of any such committee, he acts as the head of the committee.
- The membership varies from three to eight.
- Usually, only cabinet ministers are the member of these committees. But sometimes non-cabinet ministers may also be the member or may be special invitees to the committee.
- They solve issues and formulate proposals for the consideration of the cabinet and take decisions on matters assigned to them. However, the cabinet is empowered to review such decisions.
Rationale for Cabinet Committees:
- Help in taking decisions where multiple ministries are involved
- Help in horizontal consultation and coordination and dialogue between different ministries
The composition and functions of various cabinet committees are mentioned below:
Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs:
- It addresses problems related to Centre-state relations.
- It also examines economic and political issues that require a wider perspective but have no internal or external security implications.
Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs:
- It is supposed to review economic trends, problems and prospects for evolving a consistent and integrated economic policy, coordinate all activities requiring policy decisions at the highest level, deal with fixation of prices of agricultural produce and prices of essential commodities.
- It considers proposals for investment of more than Rs 1,000 crore, deals with industrial licensing policies and reviews rural development and the Public Distribution System.
Appointments Committee of the Cabinet:
- It makes appointments to posts of the three service chiefs, Director General of Military Operations, chiefs of all Air and Army Commands, Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency, etc.
- It decides on all important empanelment’s and shifts of officers serving on Central deputation.
Cabinet Committee on Security:
- It deals with issues relating to law and order, internal security and policy matters concerning foreign affairs with internal or external security implications and also goes into economic and political issues related to national security.
- It considers all cases involving capital defence expenditure more than Rs 1,000 crore and also issues related to the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Defence Research and Development, Services Capital Acquisition plans and schemes for procurement of security-related equipment.
Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs:
- It draws the schedule for Parliament sessions and monitors the progress of government business in Parliament.
- It scrutinises non-government business and decides which official Bills and resolutions are to be presented.
Cabinet Committee on Accommodation:
- It determines the guidelines or rules with regard to the allotment of government accommodation.
- It also takes a call on the allotment of government accommodation to non-eligible persons and organizations as also the rent to be charged from them.
- It can consider the allotment of accommodation from the General Pool to Members of Parliament.
- It can consider proposals for shifting existing Central Government Offices to locations outside the capital.
Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth:
- It will identify key projects required to be implemented on a time-bound basis, involving investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or any other critical projects, as may be specified by it, with regard to infrastructure and manufacturing.
- It will prescribe time limits for giving requisite approvals and clearances by the ministries concerned in identified sectors and will also monitor the progress of such projects.
Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development:
- It is supposed to provide direction to all policies, programs, schemes and initiatives for skill development aimed at increasing the employability of the workforce for effectively meeting the emerging requirements of the rapidly growing economy and mapping the benefits of demographic dividend.
- It is required to enhance workforce participation, foster employment growth and identification, and work towards the removal of gaps between requirements and availability of skills in various sectors.
- It will set targets for expeditious implementation of all skill development initiatives by the ministries and periodically review the progress in this regard.
- The Cabinet Committees except for Cabinet Committee on Accommodation and Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs is headed by Prime Minister.
- Of all the Cabinet Committees, the most powerful is the Political Affairs Committee, often described as a Super-Cabinet.
Criticism of Cabinet Committees:
- Some of the Cabinet Committees are not able to meet regularly.
- Some of the Committees are merely recommendatory in nature while others are empowered to take decisions.
- Lack of clear timelines for arrive at a decision.
- Several important subject though inter-ministerial in cabinet committees to nature are not dealt by any of these committees.
- Cabinet Committees can take up a matter only if it is referred to it by order of the Minister concerned of Cabinet