System of Government - Parliamentary System
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System of Government - Parliamentary System

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Polity

System of Government - Parliamentary System

A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance of a state (or subordinate entity) where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the legislature.

System of Government - Parliamentary System

  • The two popular forms of government are Parliamentary and Presidential which are classified on the basis of the nature of relations between the Executive and the legislative organs of the government.
  • In the Parliamentary system of government, the executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies. In a Presidential system of government, the executive is not responsible to the legislature for its policies and is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect of its term of office.
  • Parliamentary form of government is prevalent in Britain, Japan, Canada, India, etc. The presidential form of government is prevalent in the USA, Brazil, Russia, Sri Lanka, etc.
  • Parliamentary government is also known as cabinet government or responsible government or Westminster form of government. The presidential is also known as the non-responsible or non-parliamentary or fixed executive system of government.
  • Art. 74 and 75 deal with the Parliamentary system at the center and Art. 163 and 164 in the states.
  • Ivor Jennings called the parliamentary system a ‘cabinet system’ because the cabinet is the nucleus (center) of power in a parliamentary system.
  • Parliamentary government is known as responsible government because the cabinet is accountable to the Parliament and enjoys office till it has the support of Parliament. 
  • Parliamentary government is also described as the ‘Westminster model of government’ after the location of the British Parliament, where the Parliamentary system originated.

FEATURES

Dual Executive
Majority party rule
Collective responsibility
Political homogeneity
Double membership
The leadership of Prime Minister
Dissolution of Lower House
Fusion of powers
Single Executive
President and legislators elected separately for a fixed term
Non-responsibility
Political homogeneity may not exist
Single membership
Dominance of President
No dissolution of Lower House
Separation of powers

Nominal and Real Executives-

    • The President (head of the state) is the nominal executive while the Prime Minister (head of the government) is the real executive.

Majority Party Rule-

  • The political party securing majority seats in the Lok Sabha forms the government and its leader is appointed as Prime Minister by the President.
  • A coalition government can be formed if no single party has a majority.

Collective Responsibility-

    • The ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament in general, and to the Lok Sabha in particular.
    • It means Lok Sabha can remove the council of ministers by passing a vote of no-confidence.

Political Homogeneity-

    • Members of the same political party share the same political ideology.
    • In a coalition government, ministers are bound by consensus.

Double Membership-

    • The ministers are members of both the Legislature and the Executive.

The leadership of the Prime Minister-

    • The Prime Minister is the leader of the council of ministers, the leader of the Parliament, and the leader of the party in power.

Dissolution of the Lower House-

    • The Lok Sabha can be dissolved by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. 
    • Thus, the Executive enjoys the right to get the Legislature dissolved in a parliamentary system.

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Secrecy-

  • The ministers take the oath of secrecy before entering the office which is administered by the President.

Harmony between Legislature and Executive-

    • The Executive is a part of the legislature and both are interdependent at work.

Responsible Government-

    • The ministers are responsible to the Parliament for all their acts of omission and commission.
    • The Parliament exercises control over the ministers through various devices like question hour, discussions, etc.

Prevents Despotism-

    • The executive authority is vested in a group of individuals (council of ministers) and not in a single person.

Ready Alternative Government-

    • If a ruling party loses its majority, the President can invite the opposition party to form the government.

Wide Representation-

    • While selecting executives, representation can be provided to all sections and regions.

Other Possible Merits-

    • Opposition political party has scope to offer constructive criticism of government policies.
    • It is responsible for public opinion.
    • It is flexible and elastic. Whenever there is a crisis, a smooth change of government is possible. 

Unstable Government-

    • The ministers depend on the mercy of the majority legislators for their continuity and survival in office.
    • A no-confidence motion or political defection or evils of the multiparty coalition can make the government unstable.
    • Ex. The government headed by Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V P Singh, etc.

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No Continuity of Policies-

      • A change in the ruling party is usually followed by changes in the policies of the government.
      • Ex. Janata government headed by Morarji Desai in 1977 reversed a large number of policies of the previous Congress Government. 

The dictatorship of the Cabinet-

    • When the ruling party enjoys the absolute majority of the Parliament, the cabinet becomes autocratic as seen during Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi governments.

No Separation of Powers-

    • The Legislature and the Executive are together and inseparable.
    • The cabinet acts as the leader of the legislature as well as the executive. Bagehot pointed out, ‘the cabinet is a hyphen that joins the buckle that binds the executive and legislative departments together’. So, there is a fusion of powers.

Government by Amateurs-

    • The ministers are not experts in their fields.
    • The ministers devote most of their time to parliamentary work, cabinet meetings, and party activities.

The American Constitution provides for the Presidential form of government.

  • The President is both the head of the State and the head of government. As head of State, he occupies a ceremonial position. As head of the government, he leads the executive organ of government.
  • The President is elected by an electoral college for a fixed tenure of 4 years. He cannot be removed by Congress except by impeachment for a grave constitutional act. 
  • The President governs with the help of ‘Kitchen Cabinet’.
  • The President and his secretaries are not responsible to Congress for their acts. They neither possess membership in the Congress nor attend its sessions.
  • The President cannot dissolve the House of Representatives the lower house of Congress.
  • The doctrine of separation of powers is the basis of the American Presidential System.

MERITS OF PRESIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT-

  • The independence of the three organs of government from each other increases efficiency in administration.
  • The Presidential government is stable.
  • The President can choose people with specialized knowledge as Ministers/ Secretaries.
  • The decisions are quick as the ultimate power to make decisions rests with the President.
  • There is less influence on the party system. The parties do not waste time trying to dislodge the government. Political defections do not affect the stability of the government. 

DEMERITS OF PRESIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT-

  • The President is not responsible to the Legislature. It can make him authoritarian.
  • Since the President, as well as Legislature both, are directly elected by the people, both assert their authority. This causes a deadlock between the Legislature and the President.
  • The presidential government lacks flexibility. Election schedules are rigidly observed.
  • The President has wide powers of patronage at his disposal, giving way to the ‘Spoils system’. He may offer government posts to his friends, relatives, etc.

REASONS FOR ADOPTING PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

Familiarity with the System-

    • The Constitution makers were familiar with the Parliamentary system as it had been in operation in India during British rule.

Preference to more responsibility-

    • India has chosen a Parliamentary system that gives more responsibility rather than a Presidential system that gives more stability.

Need to avoid Legislative-Executive conflicts-

    • The framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid conflicts between these two organs of government as the new democracy could not afford to take these risks.

Nature of Indian Society-

    • The Parliamentary system offers greater scope for giving representation to various sections, interests, and regions in the government. This promotes unity among people.

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The Parliamentary system of government in India is largely based on the British parliamentary system.

It differs from the British system in the following respects:

  • India has a republican system (Head of the State is elected)in place of the British monarchical system (Head of the State enjoys a hereditary position).
  • The British system is based on the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament while the Indian Parliament enjoys limited and restricted powers due to the written Constitution, the federal system, judicial review, and fundamental rights.
  • In Britain, the Prime Minister must be a member of the Lower House (House of Commons) of the Parliament. But in India, the Prime Minister may be a member of any of the two Houses of Parliament.
  • Usually, the members of Parliament alone are appointed as ministers in Britain. In India, a person who is not a member of Parliament can also be appointed as a minister, but for a maximum period of 6 months.
  • Britain has the system of legal responsibility of the minister while India has no such system.
  • ‘Shadow cabinet’ is a unique feature of the British cabinet system. It is formed by the opposition party to balance the ruling cabinet and to prepare its members for future ministerial office.
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