In this article we will discuss about functions of the cabinet in the parliament.
In India, both cabinet and Council of Minister are required to perform very many functions and these are increasing day-by-day; particularly in the case of cabinet, the work load has much increased and it is being lightened by the device of committees of the cabinet. Every cabinet in a parliamentary form of government is required to perform executive, legislative, financial, judicial, etc., functions.
Each Cabinet Minister is head of a department. It is his duty and responsibility to see that decisions taken by the Parliament are immediately implemented and these too in right spirit. In fact, executive infuses blood and skeleton in the decisions of the legislature. As executive head a Minister is to ensure that there is proper co-ordination and co-operation at different levels in the official hierarchy of his department.
He is to see that the work of the Ministry does not receive any set back for want to proper guidance. Not only this, but since the whole government functions as a co-ordinated whole, therefore, it is also his responsibility to see that work of different departments is properly co-ordinated.
Then as executive head of his department he is to advice the President through, of course, his Prime Minister, about all important appointments to be made in his department. He is to ensure that all available positions are timely and properly filled and persons of high standing and sound knowledge and integrity man the jobs.
Thus, he should rise above narrow considerations of nepotism and favouritism, while making recommendations about personnel for various available jobs in his Department.
Cabinet as a body makes all high appointments, including those of the Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Chairman and Members of the Union Public Service Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, etc. In addition, from time to time the government appoints certain Commissions/ Committees, etc.
The cabinet also approves and appoints the chairmen and members of these Commissions and Committees. Under the constitution it is the responsibility of the President to appoint Governors of the states. The cabinet takes decisions about the names of the persons to be appointed, though formally their names are announced by the President.
Similarly the Chiefs, of the Army, Navy and Air Force, are appointed by the cabinet and so is the case with the appointment of Chief Justice of India and Judges of the Supreme Court.
Like the responsibilities in the field of executive, the cabinet has a lot of work to do in the legislative field and its responsibilities in this regard are quite vast. The members of the cabinet and Council of Ministers are the members of either House of Parliament.
It is their responsibility to see that Parliament meets at the most suitable time and the work of both the Houses is so conducted that it remains busy throughout the session.
The cabinet initiates all important legislative measures in the House. It ensures that all outdated Acts are annulled and those which need to be modified in the light of experience gained are modified. Similarly each Minister brings forward and pilots bills which his department needs.
He is to ensure that all Bills initiated by him are passed and if during the course of debate there is criticism on the working of his department that is fully replied and the critics are kept well satisfied In case some ordinances have been promulgated during inter-session period, he is also to get these approved so that these become the law of the land.
During the course of debate opposition members make some criticism and also give some suggestions. Similarly some members of the House who are not members of Council of Ministers also bring forward certain bills.
The cabinet decides how far the suggestions made can be accepted and bills initiated by private members are to get the approval of the government and also its support. In fact without government approval or its support, no bill can be passed.
These days world has become very short and each nation is becoming more and more dependent on the other. Every nation is quite keen that it should have cordial relations with the others. Not only this but each nation wants to develop commercial ties with as many nations as possible.
Similarly in every state there are citizens of other states, whose interests are to be fully well protected. For this relationship is to be established with other states. For the purpose the cabinet appoints ambassadors and High Commissioners in other states.
When other states appoint their representatives in India before these actually arrive in India, the cabinet decides whether such a person is a persona non-gratia or not and whether his appointment is to be or not to be accepted.
Similarly the cabinet decides whether activities of a member of diplomatic mission of any country are prejudicial to the interests of India and if so what will be the results of expulsion of any diplomat on mutual relations of the two countries. Similarly the cabinet decides how far India will improve or strengthen her relations with a particular nation or region of the world.
If any basic changes are to be introduced in foreign policy of the country, these are also to be decided by the cabinet, before making these public. How important are foreign affairs, these days is evident from the fact that Pt. Nehru himself used to be the External Affairs of the country and this portfolio is since then being held by a very senior Cabinet Minister and member of the party.
In the financial field again the cabinet has many functions to perform. Of course, the budget is prepared by the Finance Minister and in the initial stages it is discussed with the Prime Minister and with the inner cabinet, whose approval is treated as the approval of the whole cabinet. But the cabinet is not taken by surprise. The proposals are discussed in the cabinet at some stage in one form or the other.
Then it decides how far should the revenues of the state be collected and what tax relief should be given to the people. Similarly, it/is the responsibility of each Minister to see that budget proposals of his Ministry are approved by the House.
It is, of course, very trying time for the Minister when his budget proposals come forward and a wide ranging criticism is made on the working of the Ministry and the Minister is expected to defend the performance of his Ministry. In fact no budget proposal in the House can come unless that is initiated by a Minister.
Planning Commission in India plays a very big role in channelising economic resources of the country. Prime Minister, who is the head of the Council of Ministers, is also the chief of the Planning Commission. All plan proposals are approved by the cabinet and that also decides plan policies and gives guide-lines.
Without its approval, the plan is not finally approved. The members of the Planning Commission are also appointed by the cabinet. Several Cabinet Ministers are also members of Planning Commission.
Council of Minister in India, also decides about the imposition of President’s rule in the state and also duration of that rule. It is important because during such a period, real power and authority for the governance of state is vested in the hands of the central government which in effect means the Council of Ministers.
It is Council of Ministers, more particularly cabinet, which takes all financial, legislative and administrative decisions during this period.
Similarly the Council of Ministers decides about the time and duration of emergency, both internal and external. Needless to say that during this period Fundamental Rights of the people are suspended and for all practical purposes federal structure of the country turns out to be unitary. Many functions which it is not normally required to be performed, are now discharged by it.
Because of reasons of secrecy the decisions taken in the cabinet meetings are not recorded. The decisions taken are almost always unanimous. The cabinet meets usually once a week unless there is great urgency to meet early.