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The Union Council of Ministers

The Union Council of Ministers: Relevance For UPSC


GS 2: Federalism, Separation of Powers


The Union Council of Ministers: What is a Council of Ministers?


The Council of Ministers consists of three categories of ministers, namely, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, and deputy ministers. At the top of all these ministers stands the Prime Minister.

Cabinet Ministers

  • These head the important ministries of the Central government like home, defence, finance, external affairs and so forth.
  • Cabinet is the chief policy formulating body of the Central government.

Ministers of State

These can either be given independent charge of ministries/ departments or can be attached to cabinet ministers.

Deputy Ministers

  • They are attached to the cabinet ministers or ministers of state and assist them in their administrative, political, and parliamentary duties.
  • At times, the COM may also include a deputy prime minister. The deputy prime ministers are appointed mostly for political reasons.

(Note: Article 74 of the Indian Constitution deals with the status of the council of ministers while Article 75 deals with the appointment, tenure, responsibility, qualification, oath and salaries and allowances of the ministers.)


The Union Council of Ministers: What Article 74 says about the Union Council of Ministers?


Article 74 (Council of Ministers to aid and advise President)

  • The advice tendered by Ministers to the President shall not be inquired into in any court.
  • The President may require the COM to reconsider such advice and the President shall act in accordance with the advice tendered after such reconsideration.


The Union Council of Ministers: What Article 75 says about the Union Council of Ministers?


Article 75 (Other Provisions as to Ministers)

  • The PM shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the PM.
  • The total number of ministers, including the Prime Minister, in the COM shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.
    (Note: This provision was added by the 91st Amendment Act of 2003.)
  • A minister who is not a member of the Parliament (either house) for any period of six consecutive months shall cease to be a minister.


The Union Council of Ministers: Other important articles about the Union Council of Ministers


Article 77 (Conduct of Business of the Government of India)

The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.


Article 78 (Duties of Prime Minister)

To communicate to the President all decisions of the COM relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation.

Article 88 (Rights of Ministers as Respects the Houses)

Every minister shall have the right to speak and take part in the proceedings of either House, any joint sitting of the Houses and any Committee of Parliament of which he may be named a member. But he shall not be entitled to vote.


The Union Council of Ministers: What are the principles on which the cabinet system of government functions?


The cabinet is the smaller inner body of the Council of ministers. It is the core executive body in Parliamentary system of government.

Principle of Collective Responsibility

  • It is the fundamental principle underlying the working of Parliamentary system of government. According to article 75(3), all the ministers own joint responsibility to the Lok Sabha for all their acts of omission and commission. They work as a team and swim and sink together.
  • Thus, the council of ministers has to resign if Lok Sabha passes vote of no confidence. Alternatively, the council of ministers can advise the President to dissolve the Lok Sabha on the grounds that it doesn’t represent the views of the electorate.
  • The principle of collective responsibility also means that the Cabinet decisions bind all the ministers even if they differed in the cabinet meeting. In case of disagreement the minister has to resign. E.g. Harsimrat Kaur resigned in 2020 over three farm laws. Dr BR Ambedkar resigned because of difference over the Hindu code Bill in 1953.

Principle of Individual responsibility

  • Article 75(2) states that the President can remove a minister on the advice of the Prime Minister in case of difference of opinion or dissatisfaction with the performance of minister.
  • By exercising this power, the Prime Minister insures the realization of the principle of collective responsibility.
  • Unlike in Britain, in India, it is not required that an order of the President should be countersigned by a Minister. Moreover, the courts are barred from enquiring into the nature of advice rendered by the minister to the President.


The Union Council of Ministers: What is a Motion of No-confidence?


  • The Government must always enjoy majority support in the popular House to remain in power. If need be, it has to demonstrate its strength on the floor of the House by moving a Motion of Confidence and winning the confidence of the House.
  • In view of the express Constitutional provision regarding collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers to the Lok Sabha, a motion expressing want of confidence in an individual Minister is out of order; under the Rules, only a motion expressing want of confidence in the Council of Ministers as a body is admissible.
  • Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha lays down the procedure for moving a Motion of No-Confidence in the Council of Ministers.
  • The usual format of such a motion is that “this House expresses its want of confidence in the Council of Ministers”.
  • A Motion of No-confidence need not set out any grounds on which it is based. Even when grounds are mentioned in the notice and read out in the House, they do not form part of the No-confidence Motion.


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