Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers

The executive powers of the President are exercised by the Council of Ministers. The Constitution provides that “there shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President in the excercise of his functions”. Here the word “shall” indicates that the President cannot function without the Council of Ministers. The President is the constitutional head of State, but the real Head of the government is the Prime Minister.

The Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary system of government and, therefore, divides the executive into two parts: the nominal and real executive. The President of India is the nominal executive and the Council of Ministers is the real executive which works under the leadership of Prime Minister. Article 74, 75, and 78 of the constitution provide for provisions relating to the council of Ministers and the Prime Minister.

The  Prime  Minister  shall  be  appointed  by  the  President  and  other  Ministers  shall  be appointed by the President upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The Ministers hold office during the  pleasure  of  the  President.  The  council  of  Ministers  shall  be  collectively  responsible  to  the  Lok  Sabha.   A minister  who  for  any  period  of  six  consecutive  months  is  not  a  member  of  the Parliament shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister.

The Prime Minister being the head of the Council of Ministers, selects the Ministers to be sworn in by the President. The Ministers in fact are chosen by the Prime Minister and remain Ministers as long as they enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister distributes portfolios among Ministers. The President can change the portfolios as and when he desires. The Prime Minister can drop a Minister or ask for his/her resignation. The Prime Minister presides over the meetings of the Cabinet and conducts its proceedings. As head of the Cabinet, he/she largely influences the decisions of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister co-ordinates the working of various ministers.

The Prime Minister, as the leader of the Lok Sabha, is also the leader of the Parliament. In the  capacity  as  the  leader  of  the  majority  party  it  is  he  who  decides,  in  consultation  with  the Speaker, the complete agenda of the house. The summoning and proroguing of the house is decided upon by him. He can address each house of the Parliament but can vote only in the house to which he  belongs.  The  Prime  Minister  has  the  most  effective  power  to  ask  for  dissolution  of  the  Lok Sabha.

The Prime Minister is the Ex-officio Chairman of the Planning Commission (Now NITI Ayog) as well as of the National Development Council. He/She represents the nation at the international conferences as the head of the government.

Constitution of India states that “There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice: Provided that the President may require the Council of Ministers to reconsider such advice, either generally or otherwise, and the President shall act in accordance with the advice tendered after such reconsideration.”

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