In this article we will discuss about the president and the council of ministers.
Before the passing of the Forty-Second Constitution Amendment Act it was not clear whether it was binding for the President to accept the advice of the Council of Ministers or not. The Amendment Act made it obligatory for the President to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers, though there was wide criticism about this amendment.
The critics were of the view that this should have been left to conventions and not specifically provided in the constitution. Forty-Fourth Constitution Amendment Act changed the situation a bit.
The President can now suggest the Council of Ministers to reconsider the advice tendered to him about a proposed Bill and if the former again advises the latter on the earlier lines then the President will have to accept the advice.
Any Minister of the Council of Ministers can inform him about the decision of his Ministry on any particular measure, but the President has every right to suggest that the matter should be placed before the Council of Ministers whose approval should be sought.
Under the Constitution the Council of Ministers, including the Prime Minister, holds office during the pleasure of the President. In other words, the President can appoint or dismiss or remove any Minister at his discretion.
But in actual practice the President is bound to invite only the leader of the majority party in the Lok Sabha to form the government. He is only to appoint those persons as Ministers whose name are recommended by the Prime Minister.
The Ministers hold office, not during the pleasure of the President but that of the House. As long as the party enjoys the confidence of the House and the Prime Minister is willing to keep a person in the Council of Ministers, the President has no other alternative but not to disturb the existing arrangement.
Of course, President’s discretion to some extent arises when there is no single political party in the Lok Sabha with a clear cut majority.
The President can then use his discretion and invite a person who, in his opinion, shall be in a position to form government. After political instability that came in the country in 1979, after the fall of Janata governments there were some speculations that at the centre also an era of coalition government will usher and that will give the President an opportunity to use his discretionary powers.
After the fall of Morarji Government in 1979 when Congress (I) the then largest single party in the Lok Sabha declined to form the Government, the President ignored the claim of Shri Jagjiwan Ram and instead invited Choudhry Charan Singh to form the government. But after 1980 elections the electorates returned Congress (I) with massive majority in the Lok Sabha and this fear got eliminated.
In 1989 when elections were held in the country for the Lok Sabha, ruling Congress (I) was defeated. It could win about 200 Lok Sabha seats but emerged as the single largest party. Newly formed National Front- emerged as the second largest party.
Some political jurists opined that the President should use his discretion and not invite Congress (I) to form the government though it was single the largest party, because the people had disowned it at the polls. That situation, however, did not arise because the Congress (I) did not stake its claim to form government.
The President then used his discretion and invited leader of the National Front V.P. Singh to form the government and show his majority within 30 days in the Lok Sabha. It is, however, the duty of the Council of Ministers to keep the President informed of its decisions.
Since in India there is the system of joint and collective responsibility, therefore, what the President is supposed to know is the decision of the Council of Ministers as a whole. He is not bound to accept the advice of any single Minister. The decisions of the Council of Ministers are, of course, communicated to him through the Prime Minister.
It was this right to information which created a rift between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Giani Zail Singh. The latter had a grudge that the former was not keeping him fully informed about affairs of the state. The differences were so wide that the President once threatened to dismiss the Government, though the Prime Minister enjoyed the confidence of the Lok Sabha.
In India a very difficult situation about his right to dismiss a member of the Council of Ministers was created by President Zail Singh. During last months of his office, the President felt irritated about some of the criticisms made by Prof. K.K. Tiwari, a Minister in the Council of Ministers headed by Rajiv Gandhi. He had thus earned President’s displeasure.
The annoyance was so deep that the President suggested the Prime Minister to drop him from the Council of Ministers or otherwise he will dismiss him on his own.
Sensing the gravity of the situation, the Prime Minister dropped Prof. Tiwari from his Council of Ministers and thus the crisis were averted. Had the Prime Minister not dropped Prof. Tiwari, the crisis have perhaps taken a different turn and a new precedent would have been set in the parliamentary history of India.