PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

To prepare for INDIAN POLITY for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about Parliamentary System. It gives an idea of all the important topics for IAS Exam and the polity syllabus (GS-II.). This is an essential portion of the polity.  As IAS aspirants, you should be thorough with the Parliamentary System. In this article, you can read all about the Parliamentary System for the polity and governance segments of the UPSC syllabus.

India has a parliamentary system of government. The Union Parliament is the supreme legislative body in the country. In a Parliamentary system, the executive is responsible for PARLIAMENT. In our India, this system is applicable at both Union and State level. The  PRIME MINISTER and his Council of Ministers are responsible to the Lok Sabha. While the CHIEF MINISTER and his Council of Ministers are responsible for the State Legislative Assembly.

 

MEANING AND BACKGROUND
  • Parliamentary system entails – Executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and legislations.
  • Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary form of government, both at the Centre and in the States.
  • Art 74 and 75 – Parliamentary system of government at the Union level
  • Art 163 and 164 – Parliamentary system of government at the States level.
  • The parliamentary system in India is borrowed from the GOI 1935.
  • Key features – Democracy, Discussion, Debate, and Accountability.
  • Parliamentary government is also known as Cabinet government, Responsible government, Westminster model.
  • T Shah, member of constituent assembly pressed for Presidential System in India
  • Art 75 (Art. 164 at state) is foundation stone and bedrock of parliamentary democracy – collective responsibility.

 

PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM- FEATURES, MERITS AND DEMERITS
  • India chose a parliamentary form of government primarily because the constitution-makers were greatly influenced by the system in England.
  • Another reason the founding fathers saw was that only the parliamentary model would work to accommodate the varied and diverse groups within our population.
  • Also, the strict separation of powers in the presidential system would cause conflicts between the two branches, the executive and the legislature, which our newly-independent country could ill-afford.
  • There are more parliamentary forms of government in the world than there are presidencies.
  • In this system, the parliament is generally supreme and the executive is responsible to the legislature. It is also known as the Cabinet form of government, and also ‘Responsible Government’.

 

Features Merits Demerits
Dual executive: There are two executives – the real executive and the titular executive. The nominal executive is the head of state (president or monarch) while the real executive is the Prime Minister, who is the head of government. Better coordination between the executive and the legislature: Since the executive is a part of the legislature, and generally the majority of the legislature support the government, it is easier to pass laws and implement them. Dictatorship of the Cabinet

Called as prime ministerial government’.

Majority Party Rule – Rule of party securing majority in Lok Sabha.

 

PM– Appt. by the President

 

Other ministers– Appt. by president on advice of PM.

Prevents authoritarianism –

Since the executive is responsible to the legislature, and can vote it out in a motion of no confidence, there is no authoritarianism. Also, unlike the presidential system, power is not concentrated in one hand.

Ministers may not domain experts.

 

Impacts efficiency

 

Limited choice of PM in the selection of ministers

Collective Responsibility (Art.75) to LS – corner stone of parliamentary system of govt.

 

Vote of no-confidence– only in LS (cannot introduce in RS)

Participative and inclusive decision making. Control by the bureaucracy:  Civil servants exercise a lot of power. They advise the ministers on various matters and are also not responsible to the legislature
Political Homogeneity– members belong to same party, common ideology. Responsible Government- ministers are responsible to the Parliament for their acts.

 

Instruments – question hour, discussions, adjournment motion, no confidence motion.

Parliamentary govt. is vulnerable to extra-constitutional influences.

 

e.g. Joint Parliamentary Committee, National Advisory committee.

Dual Membership – ministers are members of both legislature and executive.

 

Minister who is not a member of the Parliament for a period of six consecutive months ceases to be a minister.

Ready Alternative Government in case of losing majority support.

 

‘Leader of the opposition is the alternative PM’- Jennings

No Continuity of Policies

 

Change in the govt. is usually followed by changes in the policies of the government.

No fixed tenure: The term of the government depends on its majority support in the lower house. If the government does not win a vote of no confidence, the council of ministers has to resign. Elections will be held and a new government is formed. Representing diverse groups: In this system, the parliament offers representation to diverse groups of the country. This is especially important for a country like India. No separation of powers: Since there is no genuine separation of powers, the legislature cannot always hold the executive responsible. This is especially true if the government has a good majority in the house. Also, because of anti-defection rules, legislators cannot exercise their free will and vote as per their understanding and opinions. They have to follow the party whip.
Secrecy of procedure: A prerequisite of this form of government is that cabinet proceedings are secret, and not meant to be divulged to the public. Flexibility: There is flexibility in the system as the PM can be changed easily if needed. During the Second World War, the British PM Neville Chamberlain was replaced by Winston Churchill. This is unlike the presidential system where he/she can be replaced only after the entire term or in case of impeachment. Instability:  Since the governments sustain only as long as they can prove a majority in the house, there is instability if there is no single-largest party after the elections. Coalition governments are generally quite unstable and short-lived. Because of this, the executive has to focus on how to stay in power rather than worry about the state of affairs/welfare of the people.
Leadership of the Prime Minister: The leader of this form of government is the Prime Minister. Generally, the leader of the party that wins a majority in the lower house is appointed as the PM. Unqualified legislators: The system creates legislators whose intention is to enter the executive only. They are largely unqualified to legislate.
Close relationship between the legislature and the executive: Here, the Prime Minister along with the Council of Ministers form the executive and the Parliament is the legislature. The PM and the ministers are elected from the members of parliament, implying that the executive emerges out of the legislature. Failure to take a prompt decision: Because there is no fixed tenure enjoyed by the Council of Ministers, it often hesitates from taking bold and long-term policy decisions.

 

 

 

PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM- FEATURES, MERITS AND DEMERITS
Features Merits Demerits
Single executive– President is both the head of the State and the head of government Stability of the Government: Presidential form of government ensures stability of the government. The executive can carry on with its policy till the end of its full term. It helps in bringing stability to administration. Dangers of Dictatorship: A diverse country like India cannot function without consensus-building. This “winner takes it all” approach, which is a necessary consequence of the presidential system, is likely to lead to a situation where the views of an individual can ride roughshod over the interests of different segments.
President is elected by an electoral college for a fixed tenure of four years. Only impeachment can remove. Unhindered Decision making: The presidential executive is free from obstacles such as political pressure and coalition dharma. He makes his own decisions and gets them implemented through his own ministers. Non-responsible government– Reduces scope of accountability.

 

Non-responsibility – Non-elected secretaries- Appointed by President, responsible only to president and removed by president. Checks and Balances: In the Presidential system, the executive, legislature and judiciary are independent of each other. This separation of power contributes to checks and balances in the system making it more democratic since there is no absolute concentration of powers in the same body and the presence of other organs ensure proper working of the system. Reforming States: To be able to bring Presidential System at the center, we will have to move simultaneously to a “gubernatorial” form in the States. A switch at the Centre will also require a change in the States.

 

Characterised by more stability but less accountability. Expert government: Since the executive need not be legislators, the President can choose experts in various fields to head relevant departments or ministries. This will make sure that people who are capable and knowledgeable form part of the government. Representative base is narrow compared to parliamentary system.
No dissolution of Lower House-President has no such authority to dissolve the lower house of the Congress (Parliament of USA). No influence of Political Party: The executive is free from the evils of party influence in his daily administration as compared with parliamentary form of government.
Doctrine of separation of powers is fundamental basis. More Suitable for Multi-party systems- The multi-party system invokes political concerns everywhere in the system making it prone to political instability and inefficiency. To check this, a strong executive as in the Presidential system is required, for the sake of people’s interest and stability. Chance of a Deadlock: On the other hand, if the legislature is dominated by a party opposed to the President’s party and decides to checkmate him, it could lead to a stalemate in governance because both the President and the legislature would have democratic legitimacy.
The president is elected directly by the people or by an electoral college.

 

  Bulldozing Legislature: If the legislature is dominated by the same party to which the President belongs, a “strong President” may prevent any contrary move from the legislature.

 

    Spoils system: The system gives the president sweeping powers of patronage. Here, he can choose executives as per his will. This gives rise to the spoils system where people close to the president (relatives, business associates, etc.) get roles in the government.

 

 

COMPARISON OF PRESIDENTIAL AND PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEMS
Basis Parliamentary Presidential
Executive Dual Single
Accountability Executive accountable to legislature Executive not accountable to legislature
Ministers Only from among MPs People outside the legislature can be appointed
Dissolution of lower house PM can dissolve before the expiry of the term President cannot dissolve
Tenure Not fixed Fixed

 

 

REASONS FOR ADOPTION OF PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
  • More democratic and representative – to sections, regions, interests.
  • As we were incipient democracy, we chose accountability over stability.
  • Historical legacy and constitutional tradition– GoI act 1919, GoI act 1935 etc.
  • Preference for avoidance of Legislative–Executive Conflicts
  • Nehru report and Tej Bahadur Sapru committee recommendations.

 

CHALLENGES TO INDIAN PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

India’s parliamentary system is indiscipline and full of inefficiencies. Shashi Tharoor says, only the British could have devised.

  • Unqualified Legislators:It has created a system where a legislator is largely unqualified to legislate and becomes a legislator only to be able to become executive one day.
  • No genuine separation of powers:the legislature cannot truly hold the executive accountable since the government wields the majority in the House and there are anti-defection laws so an MP of a party doesn’t vote against his party high command’s wish.
  • Political defections and horse trading have defeated purpose of elections and betrays the popular mandate.
  • Coalition Dharma:Our system has also produced unstable coalition governments which have to focus more on politics than on policy or performance. It has forced governments to concentrate more on staying in office instead of governance, and has made them to cater to the lowest common denominator of their coalitions, since withdrawal of support can bring governments down.
  • Distortion of Voter Preferences: Voters, who want to see, say, Narendra Modi as Prime Minister or Mamata Banerjee as Chief Minister, have to vote for an MP or MLA they may not care for, merely because he/she belongs to Mr. Modi’s or Ms Banerjee’s party.
  • Criminalization of Politics:It is argued that the politicians today are mostly incompetent, dishonest and have criminal background. They hardly think about the progress of our nation and its people. They take their parliamentary tenure as a period to gain as much as they want.

 

SCOPE FOR STRENGTHENING PARLIAMENTARY SETUP IN INDIA
  • Decriminalisation of politics
  • Amendments to relevant sections of Representation Of Peoples act 1951.
  • Resecting separation of power with respect to other organs – judiciary and legislature.
  • Appointment and governor should be made on clear and objective criteria.
  • Implementing recommendation of Sarkaria commission and second ARC w.r.t to centre – state relation.
  • Executive should focus more on policy or performance than on politics.
  • Amendment should be made to Anti defection law, 1985 to align it with contemporary realities – Karnataka issue.
  • Strengthening intra-party democracy and improving representation to women in parliament.
  • British convention of independent (non-party) speaker should be implemented to ensure transparency and objectivity in decision of speaker.

 

COALITION GOVERNMENT
  • The process of fragmentation of the national party system and emergence of coalition governments started in India from 1967.
  • 1960s marked the emergence of coalitions system and rise of new regional parties and mergers. This began the era of Multi party rule in India.
  • The adoption of multiparty system and regionalism changed the CENTRE- STATE RELATIONS to a certain extent in legislative, administrative matters.
  • Coalition government indicates the significant shift from centralized governance structure towards shared rule, federal governance and cooperative federalism.

 

Merits Demerits
•   Strengthening and deepening federalism •   Divergence of interests- instability
•   Coalition govt. are more representative •   Incrementalism and procrastination in decision making
•   Parties often dilutes their rigid and extreme stand and ideologies. •   Strengthens positions of president and governors.
•   Greater continuity in policies and programmes •   Undermines positions of PM and CM
•   More weightage to consensus rather than unilateral decisions – balanced policy initiatives. •   Looming instability persist all the time.

 

 

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN INDIAN AND WESTMINSTER MODEL

Indian model Westminster (British) model
•   Constitution envisage Republican system -Elected Head of the State i.e., President •   Monarchical system – Head of the State by a hereditary position. (Not elected)
•   Written Constitution, judicial review, constitutional rights limits sovereignty of Parliament. •   British system characterized by Sovereignty of parliament.
•   PM may be a member of any of the two houses (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) •   PM should be compulsorily member of House of Commons (Lower house)
•   No system of legal responsibility of the minister in India. •   System of legal responsibility of the minister- Ministers needs to countersign the official acts of the Head of the State i.e. monarch
•   Institution of “Shadow cabinet” does not exist in India. •   Institution of “Shadow cabinet” by members of opposition party of the British cabinet system.
•   Person who is not a member of Parliament can also be appointed as minister for a maximum period of six months. •   Usually, Members of Parliament alone are appointed as ministers.

 

SEMI-PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

Context– Political crisis in Sri Lanka

  • A semi-presidential system is republican system of governance that combines elements of presidential democracy with parliamentary democracy.
  • Typically, the head of state is the president, directly elected by the people, whereas the head of government is the PM nominated by the president but who can be dismissed by the legislature.
  • France, a well-known example of semi presidential democracy, the president
  • leads foreign policy and the prime minister leads domestic policy.
  • Semi-presidential systems in which the president and the PM are from differing political parties called “cohabitation”.
  • E.g. of semi-presidential system – Sri-Lanka, France, Egypt.

 

MERITS AND DEMERITS OF SEMI-PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

Merits Demerits
Protects the president from criticism and unpopular policies can be blamed on the PM. Confusion about accountability between President and PM
Parliament is able to remove an unpopular PM and maintain stability from the president’s fixed term. Semi-presidential systems add another layer of complexity for voters to ensure accountability.
Additional checks and balances mechanism. Confusion and inefficiency in legislative process and executive actions.

 

WHY NEED OF PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM FELT IN INDIA?
  • Need for presidential system has been a point of discussion and debate in India since the 1970s. (Post-emergency era)
  • Emergency and subsequent amendments (Esp. 42nd CAA 1976) showed the inefficiencies and drawbacks of parliamentary system.
  • “Super cabinet” and powerful role of PM and cabinet in parliamentary system.
  • Inefficiencies and drawbacks of coalition governments.
  • Less stability in govt. leads to mid-term elections, poor decision making and lack of continuity in policy and programmes.
FEASIBILITY OF PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM FOR INDIA
  • Supreme Court has formulated a Basic Structure doctrine in the Kesavananda Bharati judgement and the doctrine includes the Parliamentary form of Government as one if its tenets.
  • Unless the Supreme Court changes its mind, any such amendment would violate the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution as was decided since 1973. There is no way to get around this unless the Supreme Court now takes a wholly different view.

Presidential system may not be suitable for India because of –

  • Consensus-building is an important component in a diverse country like India.
  • Bringing domain experts in a presidential system without people being democratically elected would deter people from giving independent advice.
  • Parliamentary system is part of ‘basic structure’ doctrine (SC-1973)
CONCLUSION
  • This matter was considered in detail by the Swaran
  • The committee recommended that the parliamentary system has been doing well and hence, there is no need to replace it with the presidential system.
WAY FORWARD

A system of government is not simply a matter of citizen’s prosperity or liberty, it is also a matter of their morality. For a nation to prosper, its political system must foster a national vision, ensure fairness, encourage participation and ensure inclusive growth.

 

 

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