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Indian Polity / Union Executive

Union Council of Ministers in India

Article 74 says that there shall be Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister to aid and give advice the President. President while exercising his powers, acts according to such advice. However, this position was altered in 1976 by 42nd Constitutional Amendment by inserting a word "shall". That is, President "shall" act.

After 42nd Constitutional Amendment, the advice that is given by the Council of Ministers is binding. However, once again Article 74 was amended in 1978 by 44th Amendment. One sentence was inserted that the President may send back for reconsideration of the decision of Council of Ministers.

The Council of Ministers may or may not reconsider changing its decision. If the proposal is sent back to the President once again with or without reconsideration, President of India is bound to give his assent. But the President can maintain silence without giving his assent when a Bill comes for the first time.

This type of veto is called "Pocket Veto". In India, there is no time stipulation on the part of the President to express his opinion on a bill or a proposal.

Council of Ministers at the Centre

  • Article 75 says that President appoints the Prime Minister. On the advice of the Prime Minister, other Council of Ministers are appointed.

    Ministers are individually accountable to President of India and who hold office during the pleasure of the President. Council of Ministers are collectively accountable to Lok Sabha.

  • If a party is having an absolute majority, President does not exercise discretionary power in the appointment of the Prime Minister.

    If no party enjoys absolute majority, President invites generally the leader of the single largest party or he may invite a leader of such party which he thinks can form a stable government.

  • Original Constitution is silent regarding the shape and size of the Council of Ministers. But the 91st Constitutional Amendment in 2003 fixed the size of Council of Ministers in the Central and State governments.

    The Council of Ministers shall not exceed 15% of total number of the Lower House. However, in the states it should not be less than 12 members.

  • Constitutionally all the Council of Ministers are equal in status and rank. However, for administrative point of view after the recommendations of Gopalswamy Iyyangar committee (1949), Council of Ministers have been classified into three categories namely Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State (with or without independent charge) and Deputy Ministers.

    There exists a 4th category called Parliamentary Secretaries but this was never used in India.

    • Cabinet Ministers are first class ministers. They are the heads of their Ministries. They take decisions independently regarding their Departments. Generally, the Cabinet has to meet at least once in a week.

    • Ministers of State will work under Cabinet Ministers. They may also have independent charge without working under any Cabinet Minister.

    • Deputy Ministers are simply assistants to Cabinet Ministers. Right now, the category of Deputy Ministers are not in use, but is not abolished.

  • Article 77 says that the President of India makes rules and regulations for the convenient transaction of business among different Ministries and Departments. It is nothing but establishing or achieving coordination among different ministers.

  • Article 78 says that it shall be the Constitutional duty of the Prime Minister to convey or to send messages, information relating government decisions and developments in India and abroad to the President or the President may seek such information, as he thinks necessary from the Prime Minister.

    Moreover, he may ask the Prime Minister to put a proposal for consideration of the Council of Ministers which was not considered earlier. Here, President ensures the collective responsibility.