- A parliamentary system is a type of government in which the executive holds power with the support of the legislature. India is governed by a parliamentary system modeled after the British Westminster system. The term “Parliamentary government” refers to the Parliament’s total authority. The Parliamentary system is also referred to as the cabinet system, responsible government, or the Prime Minister Model.
Parliamentary System of Government
- A parliamentary system of government is a type of democratic state governance.
- The political party with the most seats in the House or Parliament during the federal election becomes the governing administration in this system.
- According to the Supreme Court, the Constitution is modeled after the British Parliamentary system, in which the executive is deemed to have primary responsibility for the formation of government policy and its transmission into law by retaining the Lok Sabha’s confidence.
- The parliamentary system for the center is provided in Articles 74 and 75.
- Articles 163 and 164 establish the states’ parliamentary system.
- Unlike in the Presidential system, the executives in this system sit in the legislature because they are members of the legislature.
- Executives can exercise power and stay in office as long as they have the support of the lower house of the legislature.
Features of the Indian Parliamentary System
Nominal And Real Executives
- The nominal executive officer is the president, while the actual executive officer is the prime minister (de facto executive officer).
- As a result, the president serves as the head of state, while the prime minister serves as the head of government.
- Article 74 establishes a Council of Ministers led by the Prime Minister to assist and advise the President in carrying out his duties. The President is bound by the proposal made in this manner.
The close connection between legislative and executive power
- The prime minister and the Council of Ministers serve as the executive body, while the parliament serves as the legislative body.
- The prime minister and ministers are elected from among members of parliament, implying that the legislature wields executive power.
- This is the fundamental tenet of parliamentary government.
- Ministers are collectively accountable to the entire parliament, particularly the People’s Chamber (Article 75). They sink and swim together as a group.
- Members of the Council of Ministers generally belong to the same political party and thus share the same political ideology.
- The ministers in a coalition government are bound by consensus.
- Ministers are members of both the legislative and executive branches of government.
- This means that if a person is not a member of Parliament, he cannot be a minister.
- The constitution states that ministers will lose their positions if they do not serve as members of Parliament for six months in a row.
The Prime Minister’s Leadership
- The Prime Minister is the most powerful person in this government system. He is the leader of the Council of Ministers, the parliament, and the ruling party.
- Among these capabilities, it plays an important and critical role in the government’s operation.
Dissolution Of The Lok Sabha
- On the Prime Minister’s recommendation, the President may dissolve the House of Commons (Lok Sabha).
- In other words, the Prime Minister can recommend to the President that the People’s Chamber be dissolved and a new election be held before the end of his term.
- This means that the executive branch has the authority to dissolve the legislature and convert the country to a parliamentary system.
- Ministers are bound by the principle of procedure confidentiality and are not permitted to reveal information about their procedures, policies, or decisions.
- Before entering your office, they swore an oath of secrecy. The president administers the ministers’ oath of secrecy.
Difference between the Parliamentary and Presidential forms of the Government
|Parliamentary form of government:||Presidential form of government:|
It refers to a system of governance in which the citizens elect representatives to the legislative Parliament.
As a result of the elections, the party with the greatest representation forms the government.
Its leader becomes the Prime Minister and performs various executive functions along with the members of Parliament appointed by the Prime Minister to the cabinet.
Dissolution of lower house:
The Prime Minister can dissolve the lower house.
A Parliamentary form of democracy is also known as the Cabinet form of government or the ‘Responsible Government’.
This Parliament is responsible to make the decisions and laws for the state. It is also directly answerable to the people.
In this, is the one in which the executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts.
The parliamentary government is prevalent in Britain, Japan, Canada, India among others.
Merits & Demerits:
Harmony between legislature and executive.
No continuity of policies.
Against separation of powers
Government by amateurs.
In this, the President is directly elected by the people or the electoral college.
President does not have nominal powers.
He is both the head of the executive and the head of the state.
As the head of the executive, he has a ceremonial position.
As the head of the government, he acts as the chief real executive.
Single executive: Thus, the Presidential system is characterized by a single executive concept.
Dissolution of lower house:
The President cannot dissolve the lower house.
It 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 presidential government is prevalent in USA, Brazil, Russia, Sri Lanka among others.
Merits & Demerits:
Conflict between legislature and executive.
May lead to autocracy.
Definiteness in policies.
Based on separation of powers.
Government by experts
Reasons for adopting the Parliamentary form of government
- A plea was made in favour of the US presidential system of government in the Constituent Assembly. However, the founding fathers preferred the British parliamentary system for the following reasons:
- Familiarity with the System:
- The Constitution-makers were somewhat familiar with the parliamentary system as it had been in operation in India during British rule.
- Preference to More Responsibility:
- Dr B R Ambedkar pointed out in the Constituent Assembly that ‘a democratic executive must satisfy two conditions: stability and responsibility.
- Need to Avoid Legislative—Executive Conflicts:
- The framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid the conflicts between the legislature and the executive which are bound to occur in the presidential system prevalent in the USA.
- They wanted a form of government that would be conducive to the manifold development of the country.
- Nature of Indian Society:
- India is one of the most heterogeneous States and most complex plural societies in the world.
- Hence, the Constitution-makers adopted the parliamentary system as it offers greater scope for giving representation to various sections, interests and regions in the government.
- This promotes a national spirit among the people and builds a united India.
Difference between Indian and British Parliamentary model
- In India, the system of democracy that exists is Parliamentary Democracy. This model has been borrowed from the UK, but there are certain differences:
- Republican vs monarchical system:
- Head of the State in India (that is, President) is elected, while the Head of the State in Britain (that is, King or Queen) enjoys a hereditary position.
- Prime Minister:
- While in the UK, the Prime Minister can only be from the lower house, in India, the Prime Minister can be from both Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.
- Legal responsibility:
- Britain has a system of legal responsibility of the minister while India has no such system.
Debate surrounding moving towards a Presidential Form of Government
- India’s democratic system is based on the Parliamentary form of government, in which the Head of State is distinct from the Head of Government.
- However, many experts have suggested that India should adopt the Presidential form of government rather than the Parliamentary style of democracy inherited from the British.
- These recommendations are made in light of India’s frequent elections and the associated administrative and financial burdens. In this context, it is appropriate to assess the Presidential system of government’s suitability for India.
Issues Related to The Parliamentary System
- Lack of Specialists in the Cabinet: The parliamentary system restricts executive positions to those elected rather than those who are talented.
- The prime minister cannot appoint a cabinet of his choosing, and he must sometimes accommodate the wishes of coalition party leaders.
- Prevalence of Defections and Horse-trading: The Anti-defection Act of 1985 was ineffective in combating the threat of defections.
- In modern times, the politics of defection has shifted to persuade enough MLAs to resign in order to destabilize a government, while promising them positions if they win subsequent by-elections.
- As a result, the parliamentary form of government has shifted from being a democracy of the people to a democracy of numbers.
- Suppression of Representative Democracy: Most laws are drafted by the executive, with little parliamentary input, and passage is quick, with many bills passing after only a few minutes of debate.
- Furthermore, in order to ensure unhindered passage of a bill, the ruling party must issue a whip to its members, and because defiance of a whip results in disqualification, MPs vote as their party directs.
- This undermines the very foundations of parliamentary democracy.
- Politics of Disruption: Many opposition members in India’s Parliament believe that disrupting law-making is a better way to express their feelings than debating the law.
- In modern times, Parliament or Assembly serves not as a solemn deliberative body, as opposition parties use legislature as a stage for demonstrating their power to disrupt.
- Focusing on Politics Rather Than Policy: For the past 25 years, our system has also produced coalition governments that have been forced to focus on politics rather than policy or performance.
- The parliamentary form of government sometimes promotes a democratic system in which leaders prioritize power over governance.
Case: In Favour of the Presidential System for India
- Applying the Separation of Powers Doctrine: The Indian parliamentary system is currently run in a presidential style due to the rubber-stamp majority in the Lok Sabha.
- This undermines checks and balances because the legislature cannot truly hold the executive accountable because the government controls the House.
- This allows for an unrestricted executive with an automatic parliamentary majority. As a result, by establishing an independent legislature, the presidential system will provide a check and balance.
- Swift Decision Making: India’s current economic and political challenges necessitate a political arrangement that allows for decisive action.
- The presidential system of government can provide this.
- Furthermore, because the directly elected President will have no coalition partners to blame for inaction, a presidential term must be justified in terms of results, and accountability will be direct and personal.
- Cabinet Dictatorship: Emergency Rule in 1975 demonstrated that even a parliamentary system can be distorted to allow autocratic rule.
- Thus, the fear of dictatorship associated with the presidential form of government is unfounded, because dictatorship is not the result of a specific type of governmental system.
- Leveraging the Multi-party System: Instead of facing a monolithic opposition, the presidential system in India would have the opportunity to build issue-based coalitions on various issues, mobilizing different temporary alliances of different smaller parties from one policy to the next.
- This is the polar opposite of the dictatorial steamroller that some fear a presidential system will bring.
Case: Against Presidential Form of Government In India
- Dictatorship Risk: A presidential system concentrates power in one person, as opposed to a parliamentary system in which the Prime Minister is first among equals.
- Surrender to one individual’s authority, as in the presidential system, is dangerous to democracy.
- As a result, many constitutional experts have raised the serious concern that the presidential system carries the risk of dictatorship.
- Against the Constitution’s Basic Structure: A transition to the presidential system is not possible under our current constitutional scheme because the parliamentary form of government is part of the Supreme Court’s ‘basic structure’ doctrine.
- Affecting Pluralism: A diverse country like India cannot function without the formation of consensus.
- The “winner takes it all” approach, which is a necessary result of the presidential system, is likely to result in a situation in which an individual’s views can run roughshod over the interests of various segments.
- Governance Issue: If the legislature is dominated by the same party as the President, a charismatic or “strong President” may allow any move from the legislature.
- However, if the legislature is dominated by a party opposed to the President’s party and decides to checkmate him, it may result in a stalemate in governance because both the President and the legislature would have democratic legitimacy.
- Outside Talent Argument: The argument against the parliamentary form of government that it excludes outside talent is flawed.
- As there are many cases of specialists being brought into the parliamentary system, such as C.D. Deshmukh and Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- Bringing in ‘outside’ talent in a presidential system without democratically elected people, on the other hand, would discourage people from giving independent advice to the chief executive because they owe their appointment to him/her.
- The current parliamentary system has been tried and tested for nearly 70 years. Rather than changing the system, it is necessary to thoroughly reform and cleanse the electoral processes in order to strengthen Indian democracy.
- In this context, reforms ranging from limiting political party spending and establishing a spending ceiling to holding simultaneous elections are steps in the right direction.
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