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Constitutional Framework GS Paper II

Indian Parliamentary & presidential System- COI

Parliamentary & Precidential Systems

A question has been publicly debated often that should India opt for a Presidential form of Government. In India, Prime Ministerial candidates should be fixed like the American Presidential system and they should be allowed express their views and agendas as potential heads of Government to help the public take a well-thought decision and also to insulate the candidate from inter-party politics. The German system of indirectly elected seats in the Parliament stands as a solution to the criminalisation of politics in India as the elected parties project their best candidates in the indirect elections so as to secure more seats in the Parliament. The Indian parliamentary form of government is losing its democratic character and the control on the representatives is slipping from the hands of the republic to party politics and whimsical allied powers. Thus, a change is need of the hour. However, theoretically, adapting to a presidential system is not possible because Parliamentary form is a basic feature of the Constitution, as held by the Supreme Court, legal problems might arise in the switch over to any other form. Then, the merits of a Parliamentary system are what make it suitable for India. In our country, the Parliament is in a position to keep the Prime Minister and his Ministers under constant vigil through its oversight mechanisms and many other tools such as  – Question Hour, Adjournment Motions, Calling Attention Notices, debates, Confidence and No-Confidence Motions, Scrutiny of budget and its implementation, public accounts audit etc. These are some of the unique features of Indian parliamentary system which must be preserved and protected.

India has a parliamentary form of Government. The parliamentary system means that the ministers get their legitimacy from Parliament. Part V of the Constitution trifurcates the State into three equal constituents’ viz. Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The legislature is made of President, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Lok Sabha seats are divided into territorial constituencies and each elected member becomes the representative of all the people residing in his constituency and registered in the electoral roll of that constituency. Each Member of Parliament then acts in the House on behalf of all his constituents and that is why India is a representative democracy. Rajya Sabha members are indirectly elected.

This is in contrast with the United States of America, which is a presidential form of democracy. The presidential system operates under a stricter separation of powers whereby the executive does not form part of, nor is appointed by, the parliamentary or legislative body. In such a system, congresses do not select or dismiss heads of governments, and governments cannot request an early dissolution as may be the case for parliaments. In India, the government power is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers who collectively enjoy the confidence of the House and who advise the President on how the executive powers of the Union will be exercised. The moment the House loses confidence in government the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers must resign and the government would fall.

However, in the presidential form of democracy the President is directly elected by the people and neither he nor his cabinet is responsible to the House of Representatives, the lower house in the American Congress or Parliament. In fact in the United States a cabinet member cannot be a member of either House of Congress. In US, the balance of power is established by the Legislature through its functions of legislation and approving the budget, but by itself Congress can neither dismiss the cabinet nor remove the President except through the process of impeachment. In India, which follows the Westminster model, legislation itself is initiated by government and because the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to Parliament, the Executive and the Legislature are intertwined in the matter of legislative business. Because government enjoys a majority in the House the Prime Minister can and does influence what goes on in Parliament, whether in the mater of the budget, legislation or debate. To that extent the Executive embodied by the Prime Minister can override the checks and balances between the Legislature and Executive, which are a feature of the American Constitution.

Thus it is clear that the council of ministers is responsible to the lower of Parliament ( Lok Sabha here in India). This means that if the government loses confidence in Lok Sabha it has to go. Confidence of the House is reflected in existence/continuance of majority support – whether it be of a single party or of a coalition of parties. If it’s a coalition, some times this may become a cause for political instability.

Presidential and Parliamentary System

Parliamentary SystemPresidential System
1.    Dual Executive
2.    Majority Party Rule
3.    Collective Responsibility
4.    Political homogeneity
5.    Double membership
6.    Leadership of Prime Minister
7.    Dissolution of the lower house
8.    Fusion of Powers
1.    Harmony between the legislature and executive
2.    Responsible government
3.    Prevents despotism
4.    Wide representation

1.    Single executive
2.    President and legislators are elected separately
3.    Non-responsibility
4.    Political homogeneity may or may not be there
5.    Single membership
6.    Domination of President
7.    No dissolution of lower house
8.    Separation of powers
1.    Conflict between legislature and executive
2.    Non-responsible Government
3.    May lead to autocracy
4.    Narrow representation

American Presidential system encompasses an independent executive and a bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. All the three components are elected by the public and especially the President is elected by direct election. It means that the people poll for a particular candidate and not for a particular party as opposed to the election of the Prime Minister in India where the party chief decides the Prime Ministerial candidate who later has to win the approval of the parliament. What stands as the most attractive part of the Presidential system is the stability of the tenure of the President which allows him/her to take steadfast and quick decisions. The Indian experiment of direct elections has been implemented at the Panchayat level where the village Sarpanch (headman) is elected directly by the people and not indirectly by the elected branches (elected councillors). So far, this system has worked as an effectively in village republics.

System in Germany

Another alternative to the Westminster model can be the German federal parliamentary republic system. Here, a vote of no confidence can be passed only when an alternative successor government can form a majority. If the condition is satisfied, the incumbent government can continue as a minority government in the parliament. If a successor government is not ready, the President then dissolves the entire Parliament and fresh elections take place. The advantage of such a system is that

  • firstly, it checks the power of the President with respect to dissolving the house in the event of a no confidence motion.
  • Secondly, the systems ensures stability and continuity in the legislative process as an alternative government can take over in a short period of time without stalling legislation by avoiding the cumbersome process of re-election.

The minority government continue to work along with the successor government and thus continue to have an effect over legislation.

System in Sri Lanka

An advantage of the German system is the electoral system where half of the seats are directly elected and the other half are indirectly elected. To be eligible to get indirect votes, the party must have garnered at-least 5% of the total votes polled and this prevents smaller parties from becoming a part of the parliament and eliminates the question of multi-party alliances. Such a system has also adopted by Sri Lanka who switched from the Westminster system to the French-style semi-presidential system. Instead of the system of first-past-the-post in India, Sri Lanka has adopted the system of proportional representation and made it mandatory for political parties to secure a minimum of 5% votes of the total to ensure stability in the parliament by allowing only major parties into the parliament. Both the President as well as the Prime Minister in the Sri Lankan government are elected and equally strong institutions and hence in case of political stagnations in the parliament, the President can continue to carry on the governance.

System in South Korea

The South Korean system has enabled a check on the possibility of autocratic tendencies in the President by limiting the term of the President to 5 years after which a new candidate is elected by the people.

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