Parliamentary System Of Government

The Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary form of government, both at the Centre and in the states.

Articles 74 and 75 deal with the parliamentary system at the Centre and Articles 163 and 164 in the states.

Modem democratic governments are classified into parliamentary and presidential on the basis of the nature of relations between the executive and the legislative organs of the government.

The parliamentary system of government is one in which the executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts. The presidential system of government, on the other hand, is one in which the executive is not responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts, and is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect of its term of office.

The parliamentary government is also known as cabinet government or responsible government or Westminster model of government and is prevalent in Britain, Japan, Canada, and India among others.

The presidential government, on the other hand, is also known as the non-responsible or non-parliamentary, or fixed executive system of government and is prevalent in the USA, Brazil, Russia, and Sri Lanka among others.

Ivor Jennings called the parliamentary system as ‘cabinet system’ because the cabinet is the nucleus of power in a parliamentary system. The parliamentary government is also known as ‘responsible government’ as the cabinet (the real executive) is accountable to the Parliament and stays in office so long as it enjoys the latter’s confidence. It is described as the ‘Westminster model of government’ after the location of the British Parliament, where the parliamentary system originated.

In the past, British constitutional and political experts described the Prime Minister as ‘primus inter pares’ (first among equals) in relation to the cabinet.

In the recent period, the Prime Minister’s power, in- fluence, and position have increased significantly vis-a-vis the cabinet.

He has come to play a ‘dominant’ role in the British politico-administrative system.

Hence, later political analysts, like Cross-man, Mackintosh, and others have described the British system of government as a ‘prime ministerial govern- ment’.

The same description holds good in the Indian context too.

Features Of Parliamentary Government

The features or principles of parliamentary government in India are:

(1) Nominal and Real Executives:

The President is the nominal executive (de jure executive or titular executive) while the Prime Minister is the real executive (de facto executive). Thus, the President is head of the State, while the Prime Minister is head of the government.

Article 74 provides for a council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister to aid and advise the President in the exercise of his functions.

The advice so tendered is binding on the President. (The 42nd and 44th amendment acts 1976 and 1978 respectively have made the ministerial advice binding on the president.)

(2) Majority Party Rule:

The political party which secures majority seats in the Lok Sabha forms the government.

The leader of that party is appointed as the Prime Minister by the President; other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the prime minister.

However, when no single party gets the majority, a coalition of parties may be invited by the President to form the government.

(3) Collective Responsibility

This is the bedrock principle of parliamentary government. The ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament in general and to the Lok Sabha in particular (Article 75).

They act as a team and swim and sink together.

The principle of collective responsibility implies that the Lok Sabha can remove the ministry (i.e., the council of ministers headed by the prime minister) from office by passing a vote of no confidence.

(4) Political Homogeneity

Usually, members of the Council of Ministers belong to the same political party, and hence they share the same political ideology. In the case of a coalition government, the ministers are bound by consensus.

(5) Double Membership

The ministers are members of both the legislature and the executive. This means that a person cannot be a minister without being a member of the Parliament.

The Constitution stipulates that a minister who is not a member of the Parliament for a period of six consecutive months ceases to be a minister.

(6) The leadership of the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister plays a leadership role in this system of government.

He is the leader of the Council of Ministers, the leader of the Parliament, and the leader of the party in power. In these capacities, he plays a significant and highly crucial role in the functioning of the government.

(7) Dissolution of the Lower House

The lower house of the Parliament (Lok Sabha) can be dis- solved by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

In other words, the prime minister can advise the President to dissolve the Lok Sabha before the expiry of its term and hold fresh elections.

This means that the executive enjoys the right to get the legislature dissolved in a parliamentary system.

(8) Secrecy

The ministers operate on the principle of secrecy of procedure and cannot divulge information about their proceedings, policies, and decisions.

They take the oath of secrecy before entering their office. The oath of secrecy to the ministers is administered by the president.

Compare with features of the Presidential System

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