PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM IN INDIA
Updated: Mar 14, 2021
There are a lot of democracies in the world and there are different countries which adopt different institutions to govern themselves. The nature of relationship between the executive and the legislative organs of the government leads us to two main democratic governance systems, that is, the Parliamentary and Presidential System. Parliamentary system is a common form of governance system that is followed by today’s sophisticated world. Likewise, our country being the largest democracy in the world, has in its constitution provides for a parliamentary form of governance system. Some other countries like Britain, Japan and Canada also follow this model of governance.
ORIGIN OF THE TERM ‘PARLIAMENT’
The word “Parliament” can be found in the 11th Century document “Chanson de Roland” where it is used simply to refer to a conversation between two persons. The word “parliament” in its literal terms, is derived from the French word “Parlement”, or Latin word “Parliamentum”, which means 'discussion’. But it is also not wrong to describe the parliament as a “talking station” where important discussions take place. English kings had always discussed the affairs of the realm with their subjects, but under the Norman and Angevin kings these meetings had been described by contemporaries as 'councils'.
THE WESTMINSTER MODEL
The British Parliament is often referred to as the “Mother of Parliaments” because the British Parliament has been the model for most other parliamentary systems. In the United Kingdom, whose Westminster system has been adopted in many countries, as stated earlier the executive branch is not entirely separate from the legislative branch. British Constitution was an unwritten one and the practices and the precedents were the source of most of the procedures of the Westminster model. But most of the countries that follow this system have a written constitution. Likewise, Indian Parliamentary System has been influenced and inspired by the Westminster model of governance and hence, it has adopted a modified version of the Westminster model.
The Westminster model was evolved in Britain and its name can be traced back to the Westminster Palace where the Britain’s bicameral Parliament meets. The key features of the Westminster system include:
This model provides for a head of the state who holds a nominal position and acts as the ceremonial figurehead. Example. British Sovereign
The members of the legislature make up the executive branch and then senior members form the cabinet.
The presence of the opposition party also plays an important role in this governance system.
There are two houses of the parliament, one of the two houses is elected and the other house is appointed.
This model also provides for a system where the lower house of the parliament can dismiss a government by passing the no-confidence motion.
The parliament can also be dissolved and new elections can be called for any time.
This system also provides that there shall be merit-based appointment of the civil services. These civil servants can then aid and advice the ministers.
There are many other countries that have based their model of governance on the Westminster model. These countries include Canada and New Zealand. This model is also found in various parts of Asia and Africa.
PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM IN INDIA:
The parliamentary form of government is provided by the Constitution of India both at the centre and in the states. Article 74 and 75 states about the parliamentary system at the centre and article 163 and 164 states about this system at the states. The main features of parliamentary system in India are:
NOMINAL AND REAL EXECUTIVE: The Parliamentary form of government provides for
two heads, that is, nominal and real. The President being the nominal executive is the head of the state and the Prime Minister being the real executive is the head of the government.
CLOSE TIES BETWEEN LEGISLATURE AND EXECUTIVE: The leader of the majority party in the Lok Sabha gets appointed as the Prime Minister. All the members of the Council of Ministers are members of the Legislature. The President is appointed by all the elected members of the parliament and he/she can only be removed by an impeachment motion passed by both the Houses of Parliament.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE EXECUTIVE: The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Parliament in whole but specifically to the Lok Sabha. This is because if the Council of Ministers loses its confidence in the popular house, that is, if it loses the support of the majority in Lok Sabha, the whole of the Council of Ministers can then be removed. This is called the vote of no-confidence. But it is also responsible to the parliament in general as both the houses have the power to control the council by way of asking questions on the programs and policies of the government. and also by moving adjournment motion etc. Moreover, no bill can become a law without the approval of the parliament and also the annual budget is passed by the parliament.
PRIME MINISTER-REAL EXECUTIVE: The Prime Minister gets the command in the Parliamentary system of governance. The Prime Minister is responsible for the formation of its ministry and has a say in its appointment. Also if the Prime Minister resigns the entire council of ministers have to resign with him. Hence, as the leader of the Council of Ministers and the majority party the Prime Minister plays a crucial role in the functioning of the government. He/she also acts as a link between the President and the Council of Ministers.
SECRECY: It is mandatory for all the cabinet ministers to maintain the secrecy of the cabinet proceeding and the monsters cannot disclose any information in the public or elsewhere. Violation of this pre-requisite is a serious offence and this could result in the minister losing his/her seat.
The Parliamentary System has a lot of other names attached to it because of its features, history and structure. The parliamentary government. is also called as the Cabinet government due to concentration of executive powers in the cabinet.  This system of governance is also called ‘responsible government’ as the cabinet, that is, the real executive is responsible to the Legislature for the activities undertaken by them. Another name given to this model is the ‘Westminster model of governance’. It is named so because of the place where the system originally originated.
WHY DID INDIA ADOPT PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM?
After a lot of discussion the framers of the Indian constitution had finally made a decision about the adoption of the parliamentary system in our country. DR. B.R. Ambedkar, the first law minister of independent India and principal architect of the Indian constitution of India was of the opinion that it was the American and not the British pattern which would suit the Indian situation. There are many reasons as to why India adopted the parliamentary system of governance and not the Presidential system.
KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE SYSTEM: India has been in British rule since 200 years and these years had made the Indian leaders aware about the Parliamentary system. They had seen the implementation and working of this system and hence, found themselves in harmony with this system.
RESPONSIBILITY OVER STABILITY: The framers of the Indian constitution wanted a system that could satisfy two important parameters, that is, responsibility and stability. While the Parliamentary system could satisfy the former, the Presidential system could satisfy the latter. The framers of the constitution had considered responsibility more than stability and hence, the Parliamentary system was adopted.
CLASH BETWEEN THE TWO ORGANS OF THE GOVERNMENT: India had just come out of the British rule and was not mature enough as a democratic country. Hence, they wanted a system with minimal chances of conflict between the executive and the legislature. Hence, it adopted the parliamentary system as it could help in the development of the country.
WIDE REPRESENTATION: India is a state with diverse culture and with varied interest. Adoption of Parliamentary systems of governance helps in greater representation of various people. This system also helps to strengthen the national spirit among the citizens of the country.
1. Countries Ruled By A Parliamentary System, Ranker (June 8, 2017), https://www.ranker.com/list/countries-
2. Parliamentary Government: Westminster Model – India Experience Before Independence – Choice Of
Parliamentary Government, Notes for Legal Studies (June 10, 2018),
3. Dr Gwilym Dodd, The Birth of Parliament, BBC (Feb. 17, 2011),
4.The British Parliament – “Mother of Parliaments”, Guernsey Donkey (Oct. 5, 2018),
5.Westminster system of government in the ACT, ACT Legislative Assembly (Mar. 20, 2017),
6.Hemant Singh, Feature and Advantages of parliamentary System in India, Jagran Josh (Mar. 30, 2019, 1:25
7. Madhulika Jain, Presidential v/s Parliamentary system for India, IOSR Journal of Humanities And Social Science (Sept. 23, 2017), http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosrjhss/papers/Vol.%2022%20Issue9/Version-12/B2209121923.pdf
Author - Anukriti Poddar
Student of KIIT SCHOOL OF LAW