Council of Ministers in India

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“There shall be a Council of Ministers with Prime Minister as its head to aid and advice President, who shall in exercise of his functions act in accordance with such advice” (Article 74(1) as it reads after 42nd Amendment 1976).

Prime Minister is appointed by President, the other Ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister [Article 75(1)]. The Ministers (not MPs) shall hold office during the Pleasure of President [Article 75(2)].

In selecting the Prime Minister, President restricts his choice to the leader of the Party in majority in Lok Sabha, or a Person who is in a position to win the confidence of the majority in that House

There is no constitutional bar for a nominated member to be appointed as a Union minister. There is no bar on the appointment of a person from outside the Legislature as Minister, but he cannot continue as Minister for more than 6 months unless he secures a seat in either House of Parliament (by election or nomination) in the meantime [Article 75(5)]. PM can also include a representative of UT, and even of an opposition party in CoM.

A Minister who is a member of one House has a right to speak in and to take part in the proceedings of the other House though he has no right to vote in that House. The salaries and allowances of members are determined from time to time by the Parliament by Law. Allocation of the portfolios among the ministers is done by the Prime Minister. President shall administer oaths of office and secrecy to a minister.

The 91st Amendment Act (2003) has limited the total number of ministers, including the PM, in the Council of Ministers shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha. The present strength of CoM is 79 including PM. Further a member of either house of Parliament belonging to any political party who is disqualified on the ground of defection shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a minister.

COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY:

Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the House of People [Article 75(3)]. Ministry resigns as soon as it loses confidence of Lok Sabha.

Vote of no confidence passed against any minister automatically leads to the resignation of the entire Council.

The collective responsibility of Ministers is to the Lok Sabha even though some of the ministers may belong to the Rajya Sabha.

INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY

The principle embodied in Article 75(2) is that of individual responsibility. It says that the minister shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.

Therefore a minister can be dismissed even when the ministry has confidence of Legislature.

CATEGORIES OF COUNCIL OF MINISTERS:

There are 3 categories of them:

  1. Cabinet Ministers
  2. Minister of State
  3. Deputy Ministers

The difference between them lies in their respective ranks, emoluments, and political importance.

Cabinet Ministers head important ministries in central government. They are the members of the cabinet, attend its meetings and play an important role in deciding policies.

Ministers of State can be given either an independent charge or can be attached to cabinet ministers. They are not the members of cabinet nor do they attend its meetings unless invited when something related to their department is to be discussed in cabinet.

Deputy Ministers have no separate charge of any department. They assist the ministers with whom they are attached in order to facilitate the administrative duties.

Besides these, there is one more category of ministers called Parliamentary Secretaries. They have no department under their control but assist the senior ministers in discharge of their Parliamentary duties. Since 1967, no Parliamentary secretaries have been appointed.

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