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Chapter: 11th Political Science : Chapter 6 : Forms of Government

Features, Merits and Demerits of parliamentary form of government

The political party which secures majority seats in the LokSabha forms the government.

Features of parliamentary form of government


Nominal and Real Executives: The President is the nominal executive (de jure executive or titular executive) while the Prime Minister is the real executive (de facto executive). Thus, the President is head of the State, while the Prime Minister is head of the government.


Majority Party Rule: The political party which secures majority seats in the LokSabha forms the government. The leader of that party is appointed as the Prime Minister by the President; other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the prime minister. However, when no single party gets the majority, a coalition of parties may be invited by the President to form the government.


Collective Responsibility: This is the bedrock principle of parliamentary government. The ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament.


Double Membership: The ministers are members of both the legislature and the executive.


Leadership of the Prime Minister: The Prime Minister plays the leadership role in this system of government. He is the leader of council of ministers, leader of the Parliament and leader of the party in power. In these capacities, he plays a significant and highly crucial role in the functioning of the government. 


Merits of the parliamentary form of government


Harmony  between  Legislature and Executive: The greatest advantage of the parliamentary system is that it ensures harmonious relationship and cooperation between the egislative and executive organs of the government. The executive is a part of the legislature and both are inter dependent at work. As a result, there is less scope for disputes and conflicts between the two organs.


Responsible Government: In the parliamentary system establishes a responsible government. The ministers are responsible to the Parliament for all their acts of omission and commission. The Parliament exercises control over the ministers through various devices like question hour, discussions, adjournment motion, no confidence motion, etc.


Prevents Despotism: under this system, the executive authority is vested in a group of individuals (council of ministers) and not in a single person. This dispersal of authority checks the dictatorial tendencies of the executive. Moreover, the executive is responsible to the Parliament and can be removed by a no-confidence motion.


Wide Representation: In a parliamentary system, it is possible to provide representation to all sections and regions in the government. The prime minister while selecting his minister scan take this factor into consideration.


Demerits of the parliamentary form of government


Unstable Government: The parliamentary system does not provide a stable government. There is no guarantee that a government can survive its tenure. The ministers depend on the majority legislators for their continuity and survival in office.

ii.       no-confidence motion or political defection or evils of multiparty coalition can make the government unstable.


No Continuity of Policies: The parliamentary system is not conductive for the formulation and implementation of long-term policies. This is due to the uncertainty of the tenure of the government. A change in the ruling party is usually followed by changes in the policies of the government.


Dictatorship of the Cabinet: When the ruling party enjoys absolute majority in the Parliament, the cabinet becomes autocratic and exercises nearly unlimited powers.


Harold J Laski says that the parliamentary system gives the executive an opportunity for tyranny.


Ramsay Muir, the former British Prime Minister, also complained of the ‘dictatorship of the cabinet’.


Against Separation of Powers: In the parliamentary system, the legislature and the executive are together and inseparable. The cabinet acts as the leader of legislature as well as the executive. Hence, the whole system of government goes against the letter and spirit of the theory of separation of powers.


Raju Ramachandran , senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India

This debate is academic. A switchover to the presidential system is not possible under our present constitutional scheme because of the ‘basic structure’ doctrine propounded by the Supreme Court in 1973 which has been accepted by the political class without reservation, except for an abortive attempt during the Emergency by Indira Gandhi’s government to have it overturned. The Constituent Assembly had made an informed choice after considering both the British model and the American model and after Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had drawn up a balance sheet of their merits and demerits. To alter the informed choice made by the Constituent Assembly would violate the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. I must clarify that I have been a critic of the ‘basic structure’ doctrine.


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11th Political Science : Chapter 6 : Forms of Government : Features, Merits and Demerits of parliamentary form of government |

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