The Prime Minister in the Constitution of India

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The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister plays an important role in the administration of the country. Article 74(1) says that there shall be a Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister shall be their Head. The Prime Minister shall aid and advice the President and the President shall act according to such advice.

Appointment of the Prime Minister

Article 75(1) says that the President shall appoint the Prime Minister and all other Ministers shall also be appointed by the President but on the advice of the Minister. According to Clause (1A) of Article75 the total number of Ministers including the Prime Minister shall not exceed 15% of the total number of members of the House of People[i].

The Constitution does not clearly say whether the Prime Minister should be a member of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. Article 75(5) says that a Minister who is not a member of either House of the Parliament for 6 months shall cease to be a Minister on expiration of such term. An outsider may be appointed a Minister but he must become a Member of Parliament within the period of 6 months[ii].

Categories of Ministers

The Council of Ministers includes 3 categories of Ministers. They are

  • The Ministers of Cabinet Rank – Such Ministers are the Heads of their Departments. However, all the Cabinet Ministers are not the members of the Cabinet. When they are invited by the Prime Minister to attend meetings regarding their Departments, they do so.
  • The Ministers of State – They are of Cabinet status and hold their Departments independently.
  • The Deputy Ministers – Such Ministers don’t have any separate charge of a Department. They assist the Ministers with whom their administrative duties are attached.

Qualifications

The following are the qualifications of the Parliament:

  • He should a citizen of India
  • He must be the member of either Houses of the Parliament.
  • If he is the member of the Lok Sabha he should have completed 25years of age. If he is the member of Rajya Sabha he should have completed 30years of age.

Disqualifications

  • If he holds any office of profit under the Central or State Government other than an office which does not disqualify its holder as declared by the Parliament.
  • If a competent Court has declared him as a person with unsound mind.
  • If he is an undischarged insolvent
  • If he is not a citizen of India or has acquired the citizenship of any foreign State.

Collective Responsibility

The Council of Ministers stand collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha[iii]. This means that the Council of Ministers work as a team. They are collectively responsible for every action they make. Once a decision has been made, all the Ministers are together responsible for it. If a Minister does not agree with a decision he has to resign.

The Prime Minister maintains discipline in the Cabinet. If a Minister disagrees with the Prime Minister or the Cabinet has to resign.

Individual Responsibility

The Ministers also have individual responsibility regarding the working of their Department in the Parliament. The Minister is answerable for every act of his Department. If a Minister has taken a decision by himself, the Cabinet doesn’t support him. In such a case he has to resign because he is solely responsible.

Functions of the Prime Minister

The functions of the Prime Minister[iv] are:

  • To communicate to the President the decisions of the Council of Ministers regarding the administration of affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation.
  • To provide information regarding the administration of the Union and proposals for legislation when asked by the President
  • To submit for the consideration of the Council of Ministers any matter on which a decision has been taken by a Minister but not considered by the Council, if the President requires.

The Prime Minister performs other important functions like:

Formation of the Ministry

The Ministry is formed by the Prime Minister. He is appointed by the President and then he selects his Ministers. A list of Ministers is provided to the President by him and accordingly the President appoints such Ministers. If the Prime Minister resigns, it means resignation of the whole ministry. He can remove the members of the Council of Ministers anytime by demanding their resignation or by getting them dismissed by the President.

Distribution of Portfolios

The Prime Minister distributes portfolios. He assigns various Departments to the Ministers. It is his responsibility to decide the size of the Cabinet and the Departments to be assigned.

Chairman of the Cabinet Committee

The Prime Minister acts as the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee. He presides over the meetings of the Cabinet and fixes the agenda of such meetings. The Ministers are individually responsible to him for the working of their Departments.

Chief Co-ordinator of Policies

The Prime Minister acts as the Chief Co-ordinator of the policies of several departments. When there is a conflict between the departments, he solves it. He keeps an eye on the working of each department.

Advisor of the President

The Prime Minister advises the President on various matters. He advises the President regarding the appointment of the Council of Ministers and the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. He communicates the President regarding the decisions and working of the Council of Ministers. Till the time, the Prime Minister enjoys the confidence of majority members of the Parliament; it is difficult for the President to dismiss him.

Leader of the Nation   

The Prime Minister can be considered as the Leader of the Nation. He acts as the chief spokesman of the Governmental policies in the Parliament. He announces all the important policies in the Parliament.

Cases

S.P. Anand vs. H.D. Deve Gowda[v]

The appointment of Mr.Deve Gowda as the Prime Minister was challenged by the Petitioner on the ground that he was not a member of either House of the Parliament during his appointment. It was held that a person can be appointed as a Minister for a period of 6 months even if he is not a member of either House of the Parliament.

Jaya Bachchan vs. Union of India[vi]

This case defines ‘Office of Profit’ as an office which is capable to yield a profit or a pecuniary gain.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between Council of Ministers and Cabinet?

  • Council of Ministers consists of Ministers of State, Deputy Ministers and Cabinet Ministers. Cabinet consists of important senior ministers who hold charge of separate Departments.
  • Council of Ministers is a larger body. Cabinet is a smaller body.
  • Council of Ministers does not meet as a body frequently to transact Government functions. The Cabinet meets frequently as a body to carry out Government functions.

2. Can a non-member of either House of the Parliament become a Minister?

A person who is not a member of either House of the Parliament can be a Minister for 6 months. Article 75(5) says that a Minister who is not a member of either House of the Parliament for 6 months shall cease to be a Minister on expiration of such term.

Edited by Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[i] 91st Amendment Act, 2003

[ii] Dr.J.N.Pandey, Constitutional Law of India, 489 (53rd edition, 2016), Central Law Agency, Allahabad

[iii] Article 75(3), The Constitution of India, 1950

[iv] Article 78, The Constitution of India, 1950

[v] S.P. Anand V H.D. Deve Gowda, AIR 1997 SC 272

[vi] Jaya Bachchan V Union of India, AIR 2006SC2119