The cabinet has become, a W. B. Munro said, the “single most important piece of mechanism in the constitutional structure” or as Ramsay Muir says, “the steering wheel of the ship of the state.” A great degree of difference has come to exist in theory and practice.
“In theory, it is dependent upon parliament in practice it is the matter of parliament”. The cabinet govt. works in accordance with certain well recognized principles. Like its prototype on England, the Indian cabinet works on the following principles.
(i) Nominal Executive Head of the State:
The first principle of cabinet Government is that the head of the state is nominal and does not really exercise the power vested in him by the constitution. All the powers of the Head of the state are everised by his minister who belong to the majority party in the legislature and the responsible to it.
In India, the President is a constitutional head and its supposed to act on the advice of his council of ministers. There are no “discretionary’ or ‘individual judgement’ power of the President and now it has been made a constitutional obligation for the President to act upon the advice given by the ministers.
(ii) Co-ordination between the Cabinet and Legislature:
A parliamentary Government implies a close collaboration between the cabinet and legislature. For this purpose the ministers are drawn from the majority party in the legislature.
As members of the legislature the ministers attend the meeting of the legislature, more and pilot bills, participate in debates and answer question and defend their policies. The membership of the legislature give to ministers an effective opportunity to come, into close relation with the legislature. There is no working of cross purpose.
(iii) Political Homogeneity:
The Cabinet Government means party Government. Normally all the ministers belong to the same political party, hold the same political views and subscribe to the same political principles.
This political homogeneity provides stability in Government under a unified command of disciplined leaders.
(iv) Collective Responsibility:
The principle of collective responsibility is the most important principle upon which the union cabinet functions. The constitution clearly recognises this principle by providing that “The council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of people. Collective responsibility means that all ministers are jointly and collectively responsible for the administration of the affairs of the country as a body.
The council must act as a team and put up a united front in the parliament. They sink and swim together. Though the work of Government is divided into different departments and each minister looks to the administration of his own department but the Parliament and to the people at large the ministers form an indivisible whole and are answerable as a body for the actions which may have been taken in individual departments. In the council there is no division and no difference of opinion.
Secrecy is an essential part of the cabinet system. It is necessary to effectively secure the principle of the collective responsibility. The practical utility of secrecy is “the necessity of securing free discussion by which a compromise can be reached, without the risk of publicity for every statement made and “every point given away.”
There must be responsible license discussion if mature, rational arid independent contribution to process of policy making is desired from men who are engaged a common cause.
Secrecy is absolutely necessary for producing, political unanimity and to make the council appear before the resident, the Parliament and the people as a team. Article 74(4) poses upon every minister a constitutional obligation to take oath of secrecy before he enters upon his office.
(vi) Leadership of the Prime Minister:
The last but not the least important principles of leadership of the Prime Minister. The constitution gives to this principle a constitutional reorganization in Article 74(1), which reads, “There shall be a council of ministers with the Prime Minister at the head.”
It further provides that: ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. Dr. Ambedkar had said in the constituent Assembly, “The Prime Minister is the keystone of the arch of the of cabinet and until we endow that office with the statutory authority to nominate and dismiss Ministers there can be no collective responsibility”.
The Prime Minister occupies the position of leadership and enjoy exceptional and peculiar authority.”These are the main principles on the basis of which the union cabinet functions.