Parliamentary Form of Government in India

There are two forms of government: presidential and parliamentary. In presidential system, the three organs of government are independent of one another. There is absence of close relationship between the executive and the legislature. The United States of America has a presidential form of government. But, in a parliamentary form of government, there is a very close relationship between the executive and the legislature.

United Kingdom has a parliamentary form of government. In fact, the Constitution makers of India adopted the British model, as the system of government that operated in India before 1947 was to a great extent quite similar to the British parliamentary government. In India, there is parliamentary form of government both at the central and state level.

The Indian system reflects all the main features of a parliamentary government:

  1. Close relationship between the legislature and the executive
  2. Responsibility of the executive to the legislature
  3. The executive having a Head of the State as the nominal executive, and a Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister as the real executive

1. Close Relationship between Legislature and Executive

In India, there is a close relationship between the executive, i.e. the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head and the legislature, i.e. the Parliament. Only the leader of the majority party or coalition of parties can be appointed as the Prime Minister. All the members of the Council of Ministers must be the Members of Parliament.

It is only on the advice of the Council of Ministers that the President can summon and prorogue the sessions of both Houses of Parliament and even dissolve the Lok Sabha. All the elected Members of the Parliament participate in the election of the President and he or she can be removed from office only when an impeachment motion against him/her is passed by both the Houses of Parliament.

2. Responsibility of Executive to Legislature

The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. It means that the responsibility of every Minister is the responsibility of the entire Council of Ministers. It is responsible to Rajya Sabha also. In fact, both the Houses have powers to control the Council of Ministers. They do it by asking questions and supplementary questions on the policies, programmes and functioning of the government.

They debate on the proposals of the government and also subject its functioning to intensive criticism. They can move adjournment motion and calling attention notices. No bill tabled by the Council of Ministers can become law unless it is approved by the Parliament. The annual budget also is to be passed by the Parliament.

In real terms, the tenure of the Council of Ministers depends on the Lok Sabha. The Council of Ministers has to resign if it looses the confidence of Lok Sabha, which means the support of the majority in that House. The Council of Ministers can also be removed from office by the Lok Sabha through a vote of no-confidence.

3. Nominal and Real Executive

There are two parts of the executive in India, nominal executive and real executive. The President who is the Head of the State is the nominal and formal executive. Theoretically, all the executive powers are vested by the Constitution in the President of India. But, in practice these are not exercised by him or her. These are actually used by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.

The Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head is the real executive. The President can not act without the advice of the Council of Ministers.

4. Prime Minister as Real Executive

It is the Prime Minister who is the pivot of the parliamentary executive. All the members of the Council of Ministers are appointed by the President on the recommendations of the Prime Minister. The allocation of portfolios among the Ministers is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. He or She presides over the meetings of the Cabinet and is the only link between the Council of Ministers and the President. Any Minister can be removed from office if the Prime Minister decides. When the Prime Minister resigns, the entire Council of Ministers has to go.

The parliamentary system in India has been functioning quite satisfactorily. The parliamentary governments in States also are structured on the pattern of the Central government. The executive consists of the Governor and the Council of Ministers with Chief Minister at the head. Whereas, the Governor functions as the Head of the State, the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers act as the real executive.

State legislatures are bicameral (State Assembly and Legislative Council) in only a few States; in most of the States these are unicameral (Legislative Assembly).