Central Council of Ministers

The constitution of India which expressly lays down provisions for the Council of Ministers under article 74 and 75 providing with the status of the Council of Ministers, and their appointment, tenure, responsibility, qualification, oath and salaries and allowances respectively. Articles 74, and 75 of the Indian Constitution sketch out the structure of the Central Council of Ministers. Article 77, 78 are also certain provisions that are associated with the Council of Ministers. 

Article 74 of the Indian Constitution 

Article 74 of the Constitution of India deals with the function of the Council of Ministers which is to aid and advise the President of the nation. The provision reads as:

  • The Prime Minister along with the Council of Ministers will provide aid and advise the President will act in accordance with such advice in order to execute his/her functions. 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.
  • Any confusion concerning the first point will not be a subject-matter of the courts.

It is to be noted that although the Council of Ministers can assist the President in executing his functions, such advice or assistance is subject to reconsideration if asked by the President. 

Article 75 of the Indian Constitution

Article 75 of the Indian Constitution concerns other provisions associated with the Council of Ministers consisting of six clauses namely:

  • While the President appoints the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers is to be appointed by the President in alignment with the Prime Minister’s advice.
  • A minister is supposed to hold his office the way the President wants.
  • The Central Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the House of People, or the Lok Sabha.
  • The responsibility of administering oaths of office, and of secrecy of the ministers according to the procedure provided in the Third Schedule vests of the President. 
  • For a minister to be part of the Central Council of Ministers, has to be a member of either of the Houses of Parliament for a minimum period of six consecutive months. Absence of which will cease the individual to be a minister.
  • The salaries and allowances of Ministers shall be such as Parliament may from time to time by law determine and, until Parliament so determines, shall be as specified in the Second Schedule 
  • The 91st amendment brought in two additions to Article 75 namely:
  • The Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers, constituting the total number of ministers shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the Lower House of the Parliament.
  • Members of a political party who have been disqualified on grounds of defection will be disqualified to be designated as a minister, irrespective of whichever House of the Parliament the member belongs to. 

Article 77 of the Indian Constitution

The provision for the conduct of the business of the GOI has been incorporated under Article 77 of the Indian Constitution that provides primary focus on the President of India who has the power to have his name on every executive action taken by the Indian government. 

Clause 3 of Article 77 states that it is the President who will be responsible for preparing governing rules for business transactions and allocating such business transactions among the ministers as, and however the President feels. 

Article 78 of the Indian Constitution 

The duties of the Prime Minister have been envisaged in Article 78 of the Constitution of India. The duties of the Prime Minister have been listed hereunder:

  • It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to keep the President well informed about the decisions undertaken by the Council of Ministers in association with administrative matters with legislation proposals. 
  • The Prime Minister shall furnish certain administrative information concerning Union affairs to the President as and when he demands. 
  • 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 of the Constitution of India 

Article 88 of the Indian Constitution talks about the rights of the ministers with respect to the Houses of Parliament. Every Minister and Attorney General of India shall have the right to speak in, and otherwise participate in, the proceedings of either House, any joint sitting of the Houses, and any committee of Parliament to which he may be named a member but shall not be entitled to vote for Officers of Parliament by virtue of this article. 

Responsibility of Minister:

  • Individual Responsibility: It states that the ministers holds office in the pleasure of the president from which we can infer that the president has the power to remove the minister even if the council of ministers enjoys majority or confidence on the floor of the house but there is an important condition to it .As we all know that India has parliamentary form of government that we have taken from Britain .Since India follows the Westminster model wherein the president is not the real executive and is mere a rubber stamp it needs to exercise its power under the real head that is the council of ministers headed by the Prime minister. According to article 74 of the constitution the president exercises his power under the aid and advice of the council of ministers headed by the prime minister. Thus, we can conclude the president can remove the ministers only on the advice of the prime minister.
  • No legal responsibility: In Britain every order is countersigned by the minister and in case of violation the minister is held responsible while in India there is no such provision of legal responsibilty.it is not required that a presidential order is countersigned by the minister. Hence in India we have the system of no legal responsibility.
  • Collective Responsibility: According to this principle the council of ministers are collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. This further means that they have joint responsibility towards Lok Sabha for their being in confidence or commission or not being in confidence i.e. omission

Composition of Council of Minister

Cabinet Ministers: Their number is between 15- 20. They are important ministers hold key portfolios. They constitute the Cabinet i.e., the powerful policymaking and decision-making part of the Council of Ministers.

Ministers of State: They constitute the second category of ministers. They are not the members of the Cabinet. A minister of state either holds an independent charge of a small department or is attached to a cabinet minister. While some departments like Home, External Affairs, Defence, Finance, Agriculture have 2 or 3 Ministers of State, the departments like Civil Aviation, Information and Broadcasting, Labour Welfare, Surface Transport and Textiles; each is headed by a Minister of State.

Deputy Ministers: They are helping ministers attached to the Cabinet Ministers or the Ministers of State. No Deputy Minister holds an independent charge of any department. The present Union Council of Ministers has no Deputy Minister as its member.

Parliamentary Secretaries: They are neither minister nor are they assigned any administrative work. Their sole function is to help the ministers in the Parliament. They do not draw any salary.

Office of Deputy Prime Minister: The Constitution does not provide for the office of the Deputy Prime Minister. As such it is the sweet will of the Prime Minister to have or not to have a Deputy Prime Minister in his Council of Ministers

Role of the Council of Ministers:

The role Council of Ministers of can be enumerated as under:

  • Formulation, execution, evaluation and revision of public policy in various spheres which the party in power seeks to progress and practice.
  • Coordination among various ministries and other organs of the government which might indulge in conflicts, wastefulness, duplication of functions and empire building.
  • Preparation and monitoring of the legislative agenda which translated the policies of the government in action through statutory enactments.
  • Executive control over administration through appointments, rulemaking powers and handling of crises and disasters – natural as well as political.
  • Financial management through fiscal control and operation of funds like Consolidated Fund and Contingency Funds of India.
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