Collective responsibility under Indian Constitution

COLLETIVE RESPONSISBILTY UNDER INDIAN CONSTITUTION

INTRODUCTION:

The principle of collective responsibility is the basic principle of parliamentary form of government. The essence of parliamentary system of government is its responsibility to the legislature. The percept of collective obligation represents collective responsibility to the legislature. The principle of collective responsibility is present under article 75(3) of the Indian Constitution, which deals with the special provisions of this principle. Article 75(3) provides that the council of ministers shall be put together accountable to the Lok Sabha. The rule of collective responsibility explains that the council of ministers is as a body responsible to the Lok Sabha for the general conduct of affairs of the government. The council of ministers works as a team and all decisions taken by the cabinet are the joint decisions of all its members.

COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILTY OF THE MINISTERS:

The term “collective” says that everyone the ministers within the council of ministers should swim together or stand and fall together. Whatever is the personal difference of opinion within the cabinet, but once a decision has been taken by it, it is the duty of each and every minister to adhere by it and support it both in the legislature and outside. It is therefore important for all the cabinet members to have inline responses with the rest of the cabinet members. And this effort will result as the principle of collective responsibility.

So we can define collective responsibility as the constitutional convention as the members of parliament should publicly support the decisions made by the governmental decisions and agree it. The policies, programmes, or any other schemes of the cabinet have to be supported by the each minister till they are present in the cabinet. The principle of collective responsibility doesn’t means that all the ministers must take active participation in the formulation, or should be present at the time of decision, but now a day because of the size of the cabinet is very large. In the other words, it is said that the principle of collective responsibility for every decision taken by the council of ministers they are responsible to the legislature. Therefore, the principle of collective responsibility is necessary, and can be seen with the help of few case laws:

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In Common Cause v Union of India (AIR 1999 SC 2979) Supreme Court held and observed that the principle of collective responsibility has two meanings. Firstly, that all the members of a government are unanimous in support of policy. Secondly, the ministers are responsible for the success and failures of the policies.

In S.P. Anand v H.D. Deve Gowda, it was held that once a Prime minister is appointed, he is a minister and he is collectively responsible to the house of council of ministers, collective responsibility governs the process. Therefore, principle of collective responsibility means all the ministers are collectively responsible for every decision taken whether their assent is present or no. It means their decisions must have unanimity and confidentially. This is great weapon in the hands of Prime Minister through which he maintains unity and discipline in his cabinet. A Minister who does not agree with Prime Minister or the cabinet has the only alternative, i.e. to resign from the cabinet. The principle of collective responsibility secures the unity of cabinet and council of ministers. According to this rule, the Council of ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha, hence as soon as the ministry loses its confidence of the House, it must resign.

MINISTER’S INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY:

Besides, the principle of collective responsibility, the principle of individual responsibility to each minister to the Parliament also works. Every minister is responsible for every act of the officers of his department. It is the responsibility of the minister to answer the question regarding the affairs of his department in the Parliament. The minister is solely responsible and he cannot throw the responsibility on officials or other ministers. The decisions so taken are not under the principle of collective responsibility of the council of ministers but are under the individual responsibility of the ministers. The concept of individual responsibility has been explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Secretary, Jaipur Development Authority v Daulat Man Jain, it was held that each minister is personally and collectively responsible for the action, acts, and the policies. He is responsible and answerable to the people. Therefore along with the principle of collective responsibility, the principle of individual responsibility of ministers should also be there because it is more positive in character and every minister should be personally held accountable to the Legislature. Now, after discussing the principle of collective responsibility, one thing is quite visible that the council of minister owes a collective responsibility for every decision taken by the cabinet but should not suffer for any illegal act committed by any of the individual ministers. If any illegal act is committed the responsibility should be held responsible to the individual minister only.

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FEATURES OF CABINET COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY:

The cabinet collective responsibility has two main elements:

Cabinet Confidentiality: It means that all the decisions taken or the deliberations discussed in the cabinet meeting must not be revealed in the public and should remain with the council of ministers.
Cabinet Solidarity:

It means that the ministers in the council should show unanimity in their decision even if they might have expressed a different view in the meeting of the cabinet.

In India, the principle of collective responsibility applies to all the members of the government from the ministers of cabinet to the minister of states.

CONCLUSION:

The principle of collective responsibility is regarded as fundamental to the working of parliamentary government, as it is in the cabinet and the main strength lies in it. The principle of collective responsibility means that the council of ministers is accountable for the general conduct of affairs of the government. The government is carried as unity, and all the ministers of the cabinet should stand together. The process of no- confidence motion is also a nominal process which can be escaped. Also, the collective responsibility would mean that the ministers must not speak in the public. Therefore, the entire council of ministers is jointly responsible to the Lok Sabha.

Author: Saba banu,
Pendekanti law college, 3rd year BA LLB student

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