- 1 Terminology
- 2 Need for Political Institutions
- 3 A Government Order
- 4 The Decision Makers
- 5 Need for Political Institutions
- 6 Parliament
- 7 Powers of the Parliament
- 8 Two Houses of Parliament
- 9 Comparison of Powers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
- 10 Political Executive
- 11 Political and Permanent Executive
- 12 Political Executive More Powerful than Permanent Executive
- 13 Prime Minister
- 14 Council of Ministers
- 15 Cabinet Ministers
- 16 Ministers of State with Independent Charge
- 17 Ministers of State
- 18 Powers of the Prime Minister
- 19 The President
- 20 Powers of the President
- 21 Legislative Powers of the President
- 22 Special Powers of the President
- 23 The Presidential System
- 24 The Judiciary
- 25 Powers of the Supreme Court
- 26 Independence of the Judiciary
- 27 Appointment of Judges
- 28 Removal of a Judge
- 29 Constitutional Powers of the Judiciary
- 30 Public Interest Litigation
|Lok Sabha : It is the Lower House of the Parliament. The Lok Sabha is directly elected by the people of India. The Lok Sabha can have a maximum of 552 members, including 20 members from the Union Territories and 2 from the Anglo Indian community.
Rajya Sabha : The Rajya Sabha is the Upper House of the Parliament of India. It consists of 250 members of which 12 are nominated by the President of India.
Parliament : The Parliament is a national assembly of elected representatives of the people.
Adjourn : To terminate the sitting of the House which meets again at the time appointed for the next sitting.
Cabinet : A body of senior ministers who controls important ministers.
Cabinet Secretariat : The Cabinet as a team is assisted by the Cabinet Secretariat. This includes many senior civil servants who try to coordinate the working of different ministries.
Collective responsibility : For any decision or action of the Cabinet, the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible. If any cabinet decisions is not approved by the Parliament, the entire Council of Ministers has to resign.
Council of ministers : A body of ministers who are collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.
Legislature : The legislature makes the laws. It consists of an assembly of the people’s representatives with the power to enact laws for a country.
Executive : An executive is a group of people with the authority to initiate major policies, make decisions and implement them on the basis of constitutional laws.
Political institutions : A set of procedures for regulating the conduct of government and political life in the country.
Office memorandum : A communication issued by an appropriate authority stating the policy or decision of the government.
Reservations: A policy that declares some positions in government employment and educational institutions ‘reserved’ for people and communities who have been discriminated against, are disadvantaged and backward.
Judiciary : The judiciary is an institution that administers justice and resolves legal disputes.
President : The President is the head of the State.
Supreme Court : The Supreme Court is the highest judicial court in our country. It resolves the disputes between the citizens and the government.
Speaker : He is the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha and is responsible for the efficient conduct of business in the Lok Sabha.
Question Hour : During a parliamentary session, a time is fixed for asking questions and answering them only.
Ordinance : Temporary law promulgated by the President of India on the recommendations of the Union Cabinet. It can only be issued when the Parliament is not in session. It has to be approved by the Parliament within six weeks of its first sitting otherwise the ordinance would be considered null and void.
Money Bills : Bills dealing with money matters like taxes, income, expenditure and grants.
Political executive : The political executive consists of political leaders who are elected by the people for a specific term.
Prorogue : To discontinue a meeting of Parliament for a time without dissolving it.
Public Interest Litigation : Anyone can approach the court if public interest and human rights are affected by the actions of the government. This is called a Public Interest Litigation.
Permanent executive : The permanent executive includes members who are appointed on a long-term basis. The permanent executive is also called the civil services.
Emergency : Extraordinary or abnormal situation in a country.
Judiciary : The judiciary is an institution that administers justice and resolves legal disputes.
Supreme Court : The Supreme Court controls the judicial administration in the country and resolves disputes between citizens, and the government, between two or more states, and between states and the union governments.
Impeachment : A special parliamentary procedure to prosecute or to remove the President and other judges for the violation of the constitution.
Need for Political Institutions
In a democratic government, the decision making power is divided in three separate organs – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
The legislature makes the laws, the executive implements them, and the judiciary resolves disputes that arise out of major policy decisions. It consists of an assembly of the people’s representatives which has the power to enact laws for a country.
The executive is a group of persons with the authority to initiate major policies, make decisions and implement them on the basis of constitutional laws. The judiciary is an institution that administers justice and resolves legal disputes. All the courts in the country are collectively called the judiciary. Any major policy decision is conveyed through a government order. A government order is also called an office memorandum.
The Second Backward Classes Commission in India was established in 1979 by the Janata Party Government under the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai. It was popularly known as the Mandal Commission. As per the Mandal Commission recommendations, a government order announced that 27% of vacancies in civil posts and services under the Government of India would be reserved for Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC). The reservations issue was strongly protested by the people stating that this largely affected everyone’s job opportunities.
Some people felt that reservations were necessary to balance the inequality among people of different castes in India. Others felt that reservations were unfair and would deny equal opportunities to those who did not belong to backward communities. These cases were grouped together and called the Indira ‘Sawhney and others versus the Union of India’ case.
The Supreme Court ordered that the well-to-do persons from backward classes be excluded from receiving the benefits of reservation. Thus, the issue was resolved and a modified office memorandum was issued. A democracy works well when political institutions perform functions assigned to them.
The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are institutions that make all the important policy decisions. The civil servants are responsible for taking steps to implement the policy decisions effectively. The Supreme Court, as an institution, resolves the the disputes between the citizens and the government.
The Parliament is a national assembly of elected representatives of the people. The assembly of elected representatives of the people at the state level is called the Legislature or the Legislative Assembly. The Parliament has the authority of enacting laws. It can add new laws, and change or abolish existing laws. National policy and important public issues are discussed and debated in the Parliament.
The Parliament consists of the office of the President of India and two houses—the Rajya Sabha or the Council of States, and the Lok Sabha or the House of the People.
The Rajya Sabha is the Upper House of the Parliament of India. It consists of 250 members of which 12 are nominated by the President of India. The remainder of the Rajya Sabha is elected by state and territorial legislatures. The term of office is 6 years, and 1/3rd of the members retire every two years. The Vice President is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
The Lok Sabha is directly elected by the people of India. The Lok Sabha can have a maximum of 552 members, including 20 members from the Union Territories and 2 from the Anglo Indian community. The Speaker presides over the sessions.
Though the Rajya Sabha has some special powers, the Lok Sabha has supreme powers. The Lok Sabha can be dissolved by the President. Due to a large number of members, the view of the Lok Sabha matters a lot. Once the Lok Sabha passes the budget or a law related to money, the Rajya Sabha cannot reject it.
A Government Order
(a) On 13th August, 1990, the Government of India issued an order. It was called an ‘Office Memorandum’.
(b) This order announced a major policy decision. It said that 27% of the vacancies in civil posts and services under the Government of India are reserved for the Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC). SEBC is another name for all those who belong to
castes that considered backward by the are government.
(c) Only persons who belong to backward castes were eligible for this quota of 27% jobs. Others could not compete for these jobs.
The Decision Makers
(i) President : President is the Head of the State and is the highest formal authority in the country.
(ii) Prime Minister : Prime Minister is the head of the government, and actually exercises all government powers.He takes most of the decisions in the cabinet meetings.
(iii) Parliament: Parliament consists of two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The Prime Minister must have the support of a majority of Lok Sabha Members.
(iv) This office memorandum was the culmination of a long chain of events.
(v) The Government of India had appointed the Second Backward Classes Commission in 1979. It was headed by Mandal. Hence, it was popularly called the Mandal Commission.
The commission was to determine the criteria to identify the socially and educationally backward classes in India and recommend steps to be taken for their advancement.
The commission gave its report in 1980 and made many recommendations. One of the recommendations was that 27% of government jobs be reserved for the socially and
economically backward classes.
For several years, many Parliamentarians and parties kept demanding the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.
(vi) In the Lok Sabha elections of 1989, the Janata Dal in its election manifesto, promised that if voted to power, it would implement the Mandal Commission report.
The Janata Dal did form the government after this election. Its leader VP Singh became the Prime Minister.
(vii) The President of India in his address to the Parliament announced the intention of the government to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.
On 6th August, 1990, the Union Cabinet took a formal decision to implement the recommendations.
Next day, Prime Minister VP Singh informed the Parliament about this decision through a statement in both the Houses of Parliament.
The decision of the cabinet was sent to the Department of Personnel and Training for issuing the necessary orders.
The senior officers, of the department drafted an order in line with the cabinet’s decision and took the minister’s approval. An officer signed the order on behalf of the Union Government. This was how O.M. No. 36012/31/90 was born on 13th August, 1990.
(viii) Newspapers and magazines were full of different views and opinions on the issue.
It led to widespread protests and counter protests, some which were violent.
People reacted strongly because this decision affected thousands of job opportunities.
Some felt that existence of inequalities among people of different castes in India necessitated job reservations.
They felt that this would give a fair opportunity to those communities who had so far not been adequately represented in government employment.
Others felt that this was unfair as it would deny equality of opportunity to those who did not belong to backward communities. They would be denied jobs even though they would be more qualified. Some felt it would perpetuate caste feelings among people and hamper national unity. Some persons and associations opposed to this order filed a number of cases in the courts. They appealed to the courts to declare the order invalid and stop its implementation.
(ix) The Supreme Court of India bunched all the cases together.This case was known as the ‘Indira Sawhney and others Vs Union of India Case’.
Eleven judges of the Supreme Court heard the arguments of both sides. By a majority, the Supreme Court declared that this order of the Government of India was valid. At the same time, the Supreme Court asked the government to modify its original order. It said that well to do persons among the backward classes should be excluded from getting the benefit of reservation.
(x) Accordingly, the Department of Personnel and Training issued another Office Memorandum on 8th September, 1993. The dispute thus came to an end and this policy has been followed since then.
Need for Political Institutions
(i) The government is responsible for ensuring security to the citizens and providing facilities for education and health to all citizens, collect taxes, etc.
(ii) It formulates and implements welfare schemes.
(iii) Some persons have to take decisions on how to go about these activities.
(iv) Others have to implement these decisions.
(v) If disputes arise on these decisions or their implementation, there should be someone to determine what is right and what is wrong.
(vi) To attend to these, tasks several arrangements have been made in all modern democracies.
(vii) Such arrangements are called institutions. A democracy works well when these institutions perform functions assigned to them.
(viii) The Constitution of any country lays down basic rules on the powers and functions of each institution.
(ix) The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are institutions that take all important policy decisions.
(x) The civil servants, working together, are responsible for taking steps to implement the minister’s decisions.
(xi) Supreme Court is an institution where disputes between citizens and the government are finally settled.
(xii) Working with institutions is not easy. Institutions involve rules and regulations. This can bind the hands of leaders.
(xii) Institutions involve meetings, committees and routines; this often leads to delays and complications.
(xiv) Institutions make it difficult to have a good decision taken very quickly. But they also make it equally difficult to rush through a bad decision. That is why democratic governments insist on institutions.
(i) In all democracies, an assembly of elected representatives exercises supreme political authority on behalf of the people.
(ii) In India, such a national assembly of elected representatives is called Parliament.
(iii) At the state level this called Legislature or Legislative Assembly.
Powers of the Parliament
(i) Parliament is the final authority for making laws in any country. Parliaments all over the world can make new laws, change existing laws or abolish existing laws and make news ones in their place.
(a) All over the world exercises some control over those who run the government.
(b) In some countries like India, this control is direct and full. Those who run the government can take decisions only so long as they enjoy support of the Parliament.
(c) Parliament controls all the money that the government has. In most countries the public money can be spent only when the Parliament sanctions it.
(iv) Parliament is the highest forum of discussion and debate on public issues and national policy in any country. Parliament can seek information about any matter.
Two Houses of Parliament
(i) In most modern democracies the large countries divide the role and powers of the Parliament into two parts. They are called chambers or houses.
(ii) One House is usually directly elected by the people and exercises the real power on behalf of the people.
(iii) The Second House is usually elected indirectly and performs some special functions.
(iv) The most common work for the Second House is to look after the interests of various states, regions or federal units.
(v) In our country, the Parliament consists of two houses. The two houses are known as the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha).
(vi) The President of India is a part of Parliament although he is not a member of either house.
(vii) That is why the laws made in the Houses come into force only after they receive the assent of the President.
The Lok Sabha
(i) The Lok Sabha is directly elected by the people.
(ii) The members are elected for a term of 5 years.
(iii) The council of ministers is responsible to the Lok Sabha.
(iv) It is more powerful than the Rajya Sabha.
(v) It is also called the ‘Lower Chamber.’
The Rajya Sabha
(i) It is indirectly elected by the members of the State Legislative Assemblies.
(ii) Its members have a term of 6 years.
(iii) It is a permanent body and is not dissolved.
(iv) One third of its members retire every two years.
(v) Twelve members to the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the President from those persons who have excelled in sports, arts, science, literature and social service.
(vi) It has 250 members.
(vii) The Vice-President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
Comparison of Powers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
Our Constitution gives the Rajya Sabha some special powers over the states. But on most matters the Lok Sabha exercises supreme power and is more powerful than the Rajya Sabha e.g.,
(i) Any ordinary law needs to be passed by both the Houses. But if there is a difference between the two Houses, the final decision is taken in a joint session’ in which members
of both the Houses sit together and vote. Because of the larger number of members, the view of Lok Sabha is likely to prevail in such a meeting.
(ii) Lok Sabha exercises more powers in money matters.
(a) Once the Lok Sabha passes the budget of the government or any other money related law, the Rajya Sabha cannot reject it.
(b) The Rajya Sabha can only delay it by 14 days or suggest changes in it.
(c) The Lok Sabha may or may not accept these changes.
(iii) Most importantly, the Lok Sabha controls the Council of Ministers.
(a) Only a person who enjoys the support of the majority of the members in the Lok Sabha is appointed the Prime Minister.
(b) If the majority of the Lok Sabha members say they have ‘no confidence’ in the council of ministers, all ministers including the Prime Minister have to quit.
(c) The Rajya Sabha does not have this power.
(i) At different levels of the government we find functionaries who take day-to-day decisions but do not exercise supreme power on behalf of the people.
(ii) All these functionaries are collectively known as the Executive.
(iii) They are called Executive because they are in charge of the ‘execution’ of the policies of the government. Thus, when we talk about the government we usually mean the Executive.
Political and Permanent Executive
In a democracy, two categories make up the Executive.
(i) It is elected by the people for a specific period and is called the Political Executive.
(ii) Political leaders who take the big decisions fall in this category.
(i) The people in this category are appointed on a long term basis. This is called the Permanent Executive or Civil Services.
(ii) Persons working in the Civil Services. are called civil servants.
(iii) They remain in office even when the ruling party changes.
(iv) These officers work under the Political Executive and assist them in carrying out the day-to-day administration.
Political Executive More Powerful than Permanent Executive
(i) The civil servant is usually more educated and has more expert knowledge of the subject than the ministers.
(ii) The advisors working in the Finance Ministry know more about economics than the finance minister, but the minister has the final say on most matters because in a democracy the will of the people is supreme. The minister is elected by the people and thus empowered to exercise the will of the people on their behalf.
(iii) The ministers are finally answerable to the people for all the consequences of their decisions. That is why the ministers take all the decisions.
(i) The Prime Minister is the most important political institution in the country.
(ii) The President appoints the Prime Minister. But the President cannot appoint anyone he likes.
(iii) The President appoints the leader of the majority party or a coalition of parties that commands a majority in the Lok Sabha as Prime Minister.
(iv) The Prime Minister does not have a fixed tenure. He continues in power so long as he remains the leader of the majority party or coalition. After the appointment of the Prime Minister, the President appoints other ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister.
(v) The Prime Minister is usually from the party or the coalition that has majority in the Lok Sabha.
(vi) The Prime Minister is free to choose ministers as long as they are members of Parliament.
(vii) Sometimes, a person who is not a member of Parliament can also become a minister. But such a person has to get elected to one of the Houses of the Parliament within 6 months of appointment as minister.
Council of Ministers
Council of Ministers is the official name for the body that includes all the ministers. It usually has 60 to 80 ministers of different ranks.
Cabinet Ministers are usually top-level leaders of the ruling party or parties who are in charge of the major ministries. Cabinet is thus the inner ring of the council of ministers. It comprises about 20 ministers.
Ministers of State with Independent Charge
These ministers are usually in-charge of smaller ministries.They participate in the cabinet meeting only when specially invited.
Ministers of State
(i) They are attached to and required to assist cabinet ministers.
(ii) Since it is not practical for all ministers to meet regularly and discuss everything, the decisions are taken in cabinet meetings.
(iii) That is why Parliamentary democracy in most countries is often known as the cabinet form of government. The cabinet works as a team.
(iv) The ministers may have different views and opinions but everyone has to own up to every decision of the cabinet.
(v) No minister can openly criticise any decision of the government, even if it is about another ministry or department.
(vi) Every ministry has secretaries, who are civil servants. The secretaries provide the necessary background information to the ministers to take decisions.
(vii) The cabinet as a team is assisted by the Cabinet Secretariat. This includes many senior civil servants who try to co-ordinate the working of different ministries.
Powers of the Prime Minister
(i) As head of the government, the Prime Minister has wide ranging powers.
(a) He co-ordinates the work of different departments.
(b) His decisions are final in case disagreements arise between departments.
(c) He exercises general supervision of different ministers.
(d) All ministers work under his leadership.
(e) The Prime Minister distributes work to the ministers.
(f) All the ministers are appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister.
(g) He also has the power to dismiss ministers.
(h) When the Prime Minister quits, the entire ministry quits.
(ii) If the cabinet is the most powerful institution in India, within the cabinet it is the Prime Minister who is the most powerful.
(iii) The powers of the Prime Minister have increased so much that Parliamentary democracies are sometimes seen as Prime Ministerial forms of government.
(iv) The Prime Minister controls the cabinet and Parliament through the party.
(v) The extent of power wielded by a Prime Minister also depends on the personality of the person holding that position.
(vi) However, in recent years the rise of coalition governments have imposed certain constraints on the power of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister of a coalition government cannot take decisions as he likes. He has to accommodate different groups and factions in his party as well as among alliance partners.
(i) The President is the Head of State. In our political system, the Head of the State exercises only nominal powers.
(ii) The President of India is like the Queen of Britain, whose functions are to a large extent ceremonial.
(iii) The President supervises the overall functioning of all the political institutions in the country so that they operate in harmony to achieve the objectives of the state.
(iv) The President is not elected directly by the people.
(v) All the Members of the Parliament (MPs) and Members of State Legislative Assemblies (MLAS) elect the President.
(vi) A candidate standing for the President’s post has to get a majority of votes to win the election.
(vii) This ensures that the President can be seen to represent the entire nation.
Powers of the President
(i) All the government activities take place in the name of the President.
(ii) All laws and major policy decisions of the government are issued in the President’s name.
(iii) All major appointments are made in the name of the President.
(iv) He appoints the Chief Justice of India, the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts of the states.
(v) He appoints the Governors of the states, the Election Commissioners and the Ambassadors to other countries, etc.
(vi) All international treaties and agreements are made in the name of the President.
(vii) The President is the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces of India.
(viii) The President exercises all these powers only on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
Legislative Powers of the President
(i) The President can ask the Council of Ministers to reconsider its advice.
(ii) A bill passed by the Parliament becomes a law only after the President gives assent to it.
(iii) The President can send the bill back to the Parliament for reconsideration. But if the Parliament passes the bill again, he has to sign it.
Special Powers of the President
(i) When a party or coalition of parties secures a clear majority in the elections, the President has to appoint the leader of the majority party or the coalition that enjoys majority support in the Lok Sabha as the Prime Minister.
(ii) When no party or coalition gets a majority in the Lok Sabha, the President exercises his discretion. The President appoints a leader who in his opinion can muster majority support in the Lok Sabha.
(iii) In such a case, the President can ask the newly appointed Prime Minister to prove majority support in the Lok Sabha within a specified time.
The Presidential System
(i) Presidents all over the world are not nominal executives like the President of India.
(ii) In many countries of the world, the President is both the Head of the State and the Head of the Government.
(iii) The President of the United States of America is the most well known example of this kind of President.
(iv) The US President is directly elected by the people.
(v) He personally chooses and appoints all ministers.
(vi) The law making is still done by the legislature, (called the Congress in the US) but the President can veto any law.
(vii) Most importantly, the President does not need the support of the majority of members in the Congress and neither is he answerable to them.
(viii) He has a fixed tenure of 4 years and completes it even if his party does not have a majority in the Congress.
(ix) This model is followed in most of the countries of Latin America and many of the ex Soviet Union countries.
(x) Given the centrality of the President, this system of government is called the ‘Presidential form of government’.
(xi) In countries like ours that follow the British model, the Parliament is supreme. Therefore, our system is called the Parliamentary system of government.
(i) All the courts at different levels in a country put together are called the judiciary.
(ii) The Indian judiciary consists of a Supreme Court for the entire nation, High Courts in the states, District Courts for each district and courts at the local level.
(iii) India has an integrated judiciary. This means the Supreme Court controls the judicial administration in the country.
(iv) Its decisions are binding on all other courts of the country.
Powers of the Supreme Court
(i) It can take up disputes.
(a) Between citizens of the country.
(b) Between citizens and government.
(c) Between two or more State Governments.
(d) Between governments at the union and state level.
(ii) It is the highest court of appeal in civil and criminal cases. It can hear appeals against the decisions of the High Courts.
(iii) It controls the judicial administration in the country. Its decisions are binding on all other courts of the country.
Independence of the Judiciary
(i) Independence of the judiciary means that it is not under the control of the executive.
(ii) The judges do not act on the directions of the government or according to the wishes of the party in power. That’s why all modern democracies have courts that are independent
of the legislature and the executive. India has achieved this.
Appointment of Judges
(i) The senior judges of the Supreme Court select the new judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts. So there is very little scope for interference by the political executive.
(ii) Once a person is appointed as judge of the Supreme Court or a the High Court, it is nearly impossible to remove him or her from that position.
Removal of a Judge
A judge can be removed only by an impeachment motion passed separately by two thirds (2/3rd) members of the two Houses of Parliament. All the above points reflect the Independence of the Indian Judiciary.
Constitutional Powers of the Judiciary
(i) The Supreme Court and the High Courts have the power to interpret the Constitution of the country.
(ii) They can declare invalid any law of the legislature or the actions of the executive, whether at the union level or at the state level, if they find such a law or action is against the Constitution.
(iii) They can determine the constitutional validity of any legislation or action of the executive in the country, when it is challenged before them. This is known as judicial review.
(iv) The Supreme Court has also ruled that the core or basic principles of the Constitution cannot be changed by Parliament.
(v) The judiciary acts as the guardian of the Fundamental Rights. The citizens can approach the courts to seek remedy in case of violation of their rights.
Public Interest Litigation
Anyone can approach the courts if public interest is hurt by the actions of the government. This is called Public Interest Litigation. (PIL)
(i) The courts intervene to prevent misuse of the government’s power to make decisions.
(ii) They check malpractices on the part of public officials. That is why the judiciary enjoys a high level of confidence among the people.