Powers and Functions of the Prime Minister of India

Powers of Prime Minister Of India

The Indian Prime Minister occupies the most powerful position to function as the head of the Council of ministers.  Article 74 of the Indian constitution create the office of the Prime Minister. This article provides that there will be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to “aid and advice” the President in the exercise of his functions.

This article of the Indian constitution thus specifies that the Prime Minister is

  1. the head of the Council of Ministers and
  2. that his function is to aid and advice the President.

The Prime Minister’s leadership with the Council of Minister is further consolidated by Article 75 of the constitution of India. All the ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister Portfolios are distributed among the ministers by the President according to the wishes of the Prime Minister. Inconvenient ministers are dismissed and ministerial portfolios are redistributed, as the Prime Minister desires. Thus though constitutionally, the ordinary ministers serve during the pleasure of the President, in reality they serve during the pleasure of the Prime Minister.

Again the constitution does not spell out the size of the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister decides how many ministers should be there. The ministers also are classified in 3 categories:

  1. The cabinet ministers
  2. Ministers of cabinet rank called the ministers of state and
  3. The deputy ministers.

The Council of Ministers is thus constituted and directed by the Prime Minister. He is in reality the “key-stone of the cabinet arch.”

Secondly, though the constitution formally makes the President, the head of the state, he is not given the powers of governing the country. The Indian President is emphatically not like the U. S. President but, rather is constituted into a constitutional figure head like the British Queen. Art. 74 require the President to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Constitutional amendment, the 42nd, in 1976 has made it explicit that the President is to act only on advice by the Council of Ministers of which the Prime Minister is the key-stone.

Thirdly, though the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers are formally appointed by the President and they serve during his pleasure, actually neither their appointment nor their tenure in office depends on the President’s sweet will. The constitution makes them collectively responsible to the House of People. The President is politically obliged to find a Prime Minister who enjoys the majority support in the House of People. This means that the leader of the majority party in the House of People must be appointed Prime Minister. Any other person cannot carry the Parliamentary majority with him. Thus in a very real sense, the Prime Minister is not a nominee of the President but is self chosen, He serves during the President’s pleasure. But the pleasure is political rather than personal. So long the Prime Minister enjoys the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha. The President cannot withdraw his pleasure from the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is the leader of the Parliament. He derives this position from his position as the leader of the majority party in the House of People. Since in India’s Parliamentary system, the President acts only on advice and since the Prime Minister is the Principal adviser to the President, all the powers of the President over the Parliament are in reality the Prime Minister’s powers. With his assured majority support in the House of People, the Prime Minister can make the Parliament pass whatever laws he wishes the Parliament to pass. The sovereignty of the Parliament is in reality the authority of the Prime Minister.

The constitution itself makes the position of the Prime Minister all powerful. Over and above that, India has been blessed from the very dawn of independence, with some very exceptional Prime Ministers who made the office of the Prime Minister tower over any other constitutional office. Both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mrs. Indira Gandhi contributed significantly in making the position of the Prime Minister very strong.

But however strong, the Indian Prime Minister is never a dictator. In the ultimate analysis, the strength of the Prime Minister lies in popular support.

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