Notes on the powers of the prime minister of India

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The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of India for five years. However the details of the manner of appointment has not been discussed in the constitution except that the President shall appoint the Prime Minister and the other ministers on his advice. However as a convention of the Parliamentary system the President appoints the leader of the majority party or a leader supported by majority of members in the Lok Sabha as Prime Minister. The President may sometimes use his discretion to appoint a Prime Minister when no single party enjoys majority in the Lok Sabha. In such a situation the President has to decide keeping the interest of the nation in mind.

Strangely the constitution does not throw much light on the powers of the Prime Minister. Art 78 makes him a channel of communication between the Council of Ministers and the President. As per this article the Prime Ministers has to communicate all decision of the Council of the Ministers to the President; provide information relating to administer as and when the President desires and on the request of the President place a matter in the agenda of the cabinet, on which a minister has taken a decision without consulting the cabinet. This is all that the Prime Minister is expected to do as per the constitution.

But in reality the Prime Minister exercises much more powers that this which naturally follows from his authority as the head of the council of ministers. The Prime Minister is responsible to constitute the Council of the Ministers although it is formal function of the president, who works according to the suggestion of the Prime Minister. He cannot work otherwise. Harold J. Laski says that the Prime Minister is central to formation, central to growth and central to the death of the Council of Ministers. All decisions regarding the formation of Council of Minister, like the number of persons to be included in the council, the portfolios to be distributed among them, the persons to assist him as minister and their rank in the council, are solely decided by him If the Prime Minister resigns or dies in office his council of ministers automatically resigns.

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He decides the dates and agenda of the meetings of the cabinet. He presides over the meetings of the cabinet and seeks the views of his cabinet colleagues to take all decisions. Efficient working of the cabinet, the highest policy making body, largely depends on the ability, skill and leadership of the Prime Minister. Any minister who disagrees with the views of the Prime Minister on the cabinet has to resign to respect the principle of collective responsibility. All ministers must agree to the policies of administration has decided in the cabinet.

The Cabinet largely functions through its committees. Which study and make in-depth report to the cabinet on policy matters. The Prime Minister as the chairman of most of these committees initiates the policy issues in the committees. Thus he plays the role of architect of all policies in administration.

The Prime Minister is a connecting link between the cabinet and the president. It is his responsibility to inform the President of the decisions taken in the cabinet. There by the President is kept informed of all the developments in the administration. On the other hand when the President seeks same information on matters of administration, on his own, the Prime Minister provides him with such information on behalf of the government.

He is also the leader of the House of People. As leader he presents the views of government on all important matters in the House. He meets all queries made by members on important aspects of administration and makes important policy announcement in the House. The speaker while deciding upon the rules of business of the House consults the Prime Minister.

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The Prime Minister is treated as the leader of the nation too as he represents the nation in all important international conventions where his views are taken as the views of the state. His personality, capability, charisma and above all his leadership, determine the relationship with other countries of the world. The charismatic personality and leadership, of late Prime Minister Pundit Nehru earned for him the respect of the international community in abundant measures.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar the father of the constitution, opines that the Prime Minister is the real architect of the policies of the government. He is also described as the ‘key stone of the Cabinet Arch’. The views of Ramsay Muin in assessing the position of the Prime Minister as ‘Primus inters paves’. First among equals is not tenable in the present circumstances. In view of his formidable powers with regard to the formation of Council of Minister and distribution of portfolios among his colleagues and presiding over the cabinet meetings and exercising control over administration it is misleading to make him only the first among equals. Rightly Pundit Nehru described him in the Constituent Assembly as the Linch-Pin of the government.

Laski observed that the Prime Minister is the pivot round whom the entire machinery of the government moves. He is described variously as “a moon among lesser stars, a sun round which other planets revolve”. The Prime Minister enjoys a great position of dignity and authority. The real position of the Prime Minister depends on his character, personality, integrity and competence. The office of the Prime Minister is what the holder necessarily chooses to make it.

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