Parliamentary System

Parliamentary System

  GS Paper - 2

In a parliamentary system, executive power is drawn from legislative majority support. India adheres to this model, mirroring the British Westminster system, commonly termed "Parliamentary government."

Recognized as the cabinet system, Responsible government, or Prime Minister Model, it underscores Parliament's pivotal role in governance. This system fosters a dynamic interplay between executive and legislative functions.

Parliamentary System Of Government - Concept

  • Parliamentary system is a type of democratic governance.
  • The political party with the most seats in the Parliament after a federal election forms the governing administration.
  • The system is influenced by the British model, where the executive is primarily responsible for government policies and their transformation into laws.
  • In the parliamentary system at the central level, Article 74 and 75 outline the executive's role in government formation and policy implementation.
  • At the state level, Article 163 and 164 provide the framework for the parliamentary system.
  • Executives in this system are part of the legislature, unlike the Presidential system.
  • Executives can exercise power and stay in office as long as they have the support of the lower house of the legislature.

Indian Parliamentary System - Main Features

  • Nominal And Real Executives
    • President: Nominal executive officer
    • Prime Minister: Actual executive officer (de facto executive officer)
    • President: Head of state
    • Prime Minister: Head of government
    • Article 74: Establishes Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister
    • Purpose: Assist the President in performing duties and providing advice
    • Binding authority: Proposals made by the Council of Ministers under Article 74 are binding on the President.
  • The close relationship between legislative power and executive power
    • In this setup, the executive body consists of the prime minister and the Council of Ministers, while the legislative body is the parliament.
    • Both the prime minister and ministers are chosen from among the parliament members, indicating that the authority of the executive originates from the legislature.
  • Collective Responsibility
    • This represents the fundamental concept of parliamentary governance.
    • The ministers share collective responsibility with the entire parliament, particularly the People's Chamber, as stated in Article 75.
    • They work as a unified team, facing successes or failures together.
  • Political Homogeneity
    • Typically, Council of Ministers members are affiliated with the same political party, sharing a common political ideology.
    • In a coalition government scenario, ministers are obligated to follow a mutually agreed-upon consensus.
  • Dual Membership
    • Ministers hold positions in both the legislative and executive branches.
    • This implies that someone cannot be a minister without being a member of Parliament.
    • The constitution specifies that ministers must cease their roles if they don't serve as Parliament members for six consecutive months.
  • The Prime Minister's Leadership
    • In this system of government, the Prime Minister holds a central position, serving as the head of the Council of Ministers, the parliament, and the ruling party.
    • Among these responsibilities, the role of the Prime Minister is crucial and plays a vital part in the functioning of the government.
  • Dissolution Of The Lok Sabha
    • The President has the authority to dissolve the House of Commons (Lok Sabha) based on the Prime Minister's suggestion.
    • In simpler terms, the Prime Minister can propose to the President that the People's Chamber be dissolved, leading to a new election before the term completion.
    • This indicates that, in a parliamentary system, the executive branch holds the right to dissolve the legislature. 
  • Secrecy
    • Ministers adhere to the principle of maintaining confidentiality regarding procedures, policies, and decisions.
    • Before assuming office, they take an oath of secrecy, administered by the president, pledging not to disclose information about their work.

Indian Parliamentary System - Advantages

  • Enhanced coordination between administration and legislation: 
    • As the administration is part of the legislature, passing and implementing laws becomes more straightforward due to general legislative support for the government.
  • Accountability and prevention of authoritarianism: 
    • The executive branch is accountable to the legislature and can face votes of no confidence, preventing concentration of power. Unlike in a presidential system, power is not centralized.
  • Responsible government ministers answer to Parliament through tools like time for questions, debates, motions for adjournment, and motions of no confidence.

  • Preparedness for government replacement: 
    • Losing majority support means being ready to replace the government, as the party in opposition may form the government by proving majority.
  • Representation of diverse groups: 
    • The parliamentary system ensures representation for various groups within the country, especially crucial for countries like India.
  • Flexibility in leadership: 
    • The system allows for easy changes in the Prime Minister position as needed, adding a layer of flexibility.

Indian Parliamentary System - Disadvantages

  • Cabinet dominance: 
    • The parliamentary government, also known as the Prime Minister's Government, operates with the entire cabinet under the Prime Minister's direction, potentially leading to a problem known as cabinet dictatorship.
  • Lack of expertise: 
    • Ministers may not be experts in their fields, affecting efficiency, and the Prime Minister's choices for ministers are limited.
  • Bureaucratic influence: 
    • Public officials hold significant power, advising ministers without being accountable to the legislature.
  • External influences: 
    • Parliamentary governments can be vulnerable to external influences like joint parliamentary committees and national advisory committees.
  • Policy stability: 
    • There is often a lack of continuous change in government policies, leading to a certain level of policy inertia.
  • Absence of decentralization: 
    • The legislature may struggle to hold the executive branch accountable, especially if the government has a majority in the House of Representatives.
  • Instability: 
    • Government stability relies on maintaining a majority in the House of Representatives; without a clear majority after elections, instability may ensue.
  • Unqualified legislators: 
    • Legislators may primarily aim to enter the executive branch, potentially leading to individuals lacking qualifications for legislative work.
  • Decision-making delays: 
    • The Council of Ministers may be hesitant to make bold and long-term decisions due to the absence of a fixed mandate.

What led the framers of our Constitution to choose the parliamentary system for India?

The framers of the constitution made a prudent decision in selecting the parliamentary model, driven by India's historical colonial political background and the socio-political structure of the country.

  • During the constitution-making period, India had prior exposure to the parliamentary system through the Government of India Acts of 1919 and 1935, providing familiarity to the people.
  • This experience demonstrated that representatives of the people could effectively control the executives.
  • The framers aimed to establish a government accountable to the people's demands.
  • They were hesitant about opting for the presidential system due to concerns about excessive powers granted to an independent president and the potential for a personality cult.
  • The presidential system is susceptible to the dominance of the president's personality.
  • The constitution-makers sought a robust executive branch but with stringent safeguards to prevent the development of a personality cult.
  • The parliamentary system, with its mechanisms ensuring executive accountability to and control by people's representatives, was chosen for India as a result.


As the representative body that checks the government's activities, Parliament plays a crucial role in our democracy. It is critical for Parliament to function properly in order to fulfill its constitutional purpose. Furthermore, a thorough examination of bills is a necessary component of good legislation. Bypassing legislative committees while passing legislation, the democratic spirit is undermined.


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