India achieved its independence in the year 1947. The Constitution of India came into effect in 1950 and India became “Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic” in the true sense. There is separation of powers between Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. The Union of India is formed of union of 28 states and 7 union territories. The head of the executive heads the Government of India or Central Government. The seat of authority of Central Government is in New Delhi which is the capital of India.
As mentioned earlier, the Indian Constitution provides three separate entity for carrying out the functioning of the government which are:
- The Executive
- The Legislative
- The Judiciary
The titular head of the executive branch of the government is the President, who is the Head of State and exercises his authority through his Cabinet which consists of group of ministers headed by Prime Minister, who is the real head of the government for all practical purposes.
The Legislature is entrusted with the duty of making policies for the country. The Parliament which represents the elected representatives of the people is the seat for making such policies. Parliament of India consists of two houses, the Lok Sabha ("House of the People")or the lower house, and the Rajya Sabha ("Council of States") which is the upper house. Members to the Lok Sabha are directly elected and has 552-members. The Rajya Sabha consists of 250-members who are indirectly elected and nominated.
The Parliament enjoys parliamentary supremacy. All the members of the Council of Ministers as well as the Prime Minister are members of Parliament. If they are not, they must be elected within a period of six months from the time they assume their respective office. The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers are responsible to the Lok Sabha collectively.
Judiciary in India is unified and divided into three tiers with the Supreme Court at its apex followed by 21 High Courts in the States, and Lower courts at the district level which are first level for seeking justice in civil or criminal cases.
The Constitution of India is the highest legal document from which all other laws are derived or interpreted. Aiding that, there are different Codes for guiding Civil and Criminal Procedures in the country. These are Civil Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code, and the Criminal Procedure Code. India is also signatory of and so accepts the rules and regulations of International Court of Justice.
All the state have their own set up of legislature, executive and judiciary. By the Constitutional 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts, a third level of local self government or the Panchayati Raj has been set up.
The executive headed by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers have a collective responsibility towards the Legislature. In the event of the policy decision or its failure, an individual ministry cannot be held responsible alone. Instead it is considered the policy failure of the entire government. Similarly, a vote of no confidence passed by the legislature brings down the whole government even if the lapse of policy is discovered in any one individual ministry. In short, collective responsibility means that the members of the executive sail or drown collectively.
The laws for conducting the affairs of the government are formed in the Legislature. The executive has the responsibility of executing these laws and taking care of the day to day administration. These are executed through a number of departments catering to the different business of the government such as Police Department, Income Tax Department, Post and Telegraph Department and so on. Every department has a political head in the form of Minister who guides his ministry and a bureaucratic head or Secretary, who is the custodian of the continuity of the functioning of the department.
Article 53 (1) of the Constitution of India entrust the President with all executive powers. The President exercises his power either directly or through his officers who are subordinate to him. The President carries on his functioning in accordance with the aid and advise of the Prime Minister who is the Head of Government. Prime Minister is aided by a Council of Ministers which is mentioned in Article 74 of Indian Constitution.
The Constitution authorizes the President to appoint a number of officials for proper functioning of the government. They are :
- Governors of States
- The Chief Justice, other judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts of India
- The Attorney General
- The Comptroller and Auditor General
- The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners
- The Chairman and other Members of the Union Public Service Commission
- The President's Officer
- The Cabinet Secretary, who holds an equal position as compared to the Ministers holding various departments in the Central Government. He has a multiplicity of roles to play. Firstly, it is his duty to facilitate smooth functioning of the different ministries and departments under the Central Government. He heads an office called the Cabinet Secretariat which acts as a mediator in between the various ministries and departments, thereby assisting in decision-making of the government. He ensures a smooth coordination exists in between the ministries. Whenever there is clash or confusion in regards to the authority or policy, the Cabinet Secretariat headed by the Cabinet Secretary irons out the differences between them and tries to evolve consensus on the policy decision.
- Ambassadors and High Commissioners to other countries
The President also receives the credentials of Ambassadors and High Commissioners from other countries.
The President is also head and the Commander- in- Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. The President of India is the final authority in granting pardon and can give respite, reprieve or reduce the sentence of a person convicted by Indian court of law especially in those cases which involves death punishment.
The Vice-President of India acts as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The Indian Constitution entrusts the Vice-President of India to act on behalf of the President of India in the event of his death or absence and so in that capacity is the second highest official in the executive branch of the Indian Government.
Cabinet, Executive Departments and Agencies
The Indian Constitution mentions “council of ministers” to aid and advice the President in carrying out his executive powers. Cabinet is however term given to the small group of ministers who hold all the important portfolios and ministries. All the important decisions are virtually taken by the Cabinet. The Constitution empowers only those people to hold the ministry who are members of Parliament, either Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. The Cabinet has an office called Cabinet Secretariat to help in carrying out the functioning. Cabinet Secretariat also acts as the repository of all decisions taken by the Ministers. Cabinet Secretariat is headed by the Cabinet Secretary, who is the senior most officer of Indian Administrative Service.
Council of Ministers is categorized as Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State, and Junior Ministers of State. The Cabinet Ministers are the senior leaders, experienced statesman and very close to the Prime Minister. Almost all the important decisions in the government is taken in a consensus with the Cabinet Ministers. Ministers of State are junior to Cabinet Ministers and hold a little less important charge. They in fact learn the nuances of government working under the leadership of senior ministers and report directly to the Cabinet Ministers. There could be few Junior Ministers of State who generally hold independent charges and have the responsibility to look after some functional area of the ministry.
Judicial system in India is based on the British legacy and their laws of jurisprudence. In fact, a number of laws made during the colonial period and procedure established at that time are prevalent till day. Civil Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code, and the Criminal Procedure Code were written during the British time and the legal system today is guided by these codes. However, there have been a number of new laws made and old laws modified to suit the modern day demand of the society. Indian judiciary is a unified system under which The Supreme Court of India is at the apex and the High Courts in the states come second in the hierarchy with a number of district courts. The judgment of the lower courts could be over-ruled by the High Courts and the order of the High Courts could be surpassed by the Supreme Court. Supreme Court and High Courts, both have original as well as appellate jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court of India is the final judicial authority in India. While a number of cases on which High Court has pronounced its judgment could be appealed in the Supreme Court, there are number of occasions on which the apex court could be reached for its original jurisdiction. The matters like resolving dispute between the Central Government and one or more states, or in situation of conflict over a matter between the Centre and one or more states on one side and one or more states on the other, or a dispute between two or more states, could be directly taken to the Supreme Court. The apex court also looks into those matters directly which has to do with the question of interpretation of the Constitution and constitutional rights of the citizens.
Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
In the recent times, Public Interest Litigation or PIL has become one of the greatest tools in the hands of the citizens to raise their voice against any action of the government, public authority or big corporate if they contradict with the general public good. PIL could be filed by any person but the fact, objective and the consequence should be directed to the general public interest. The Supreme Court has in recent times pronounced a number of landmarks judgment on the issues of Public Interest. The fundamental rights mentioned under the constitution have been interpreted in recent times to expand the purview and periphery of the rights of the citizens. The Supreme Court could be directly involved in the interpretation of these rights. Filing a PIL is also very simple. It could be done by any individual or group of persons either by filing a Writ Petition at the Filing Counter of the Court, or by addressing a letter to the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India highlighting the question of public importance for invoking this jurisdiction.
The Civil Services of India is the steel structure on which the administration of India depends. Civil Services, a British legacy in India, is the machinery which implements the executive decisions of the government which in turn are shaped by the laws formed by the legislature. However, it must be noted that Civil servants are employees of the Indian government and not Indian Parliament. Civil Services is also a repository of the information and past decisions and a permanent, continuing administrative machinery.
The Cabinet Secretary of India is the senior-most civil servant head of civil services in India. By that capacity he is the ex-officio Chairman of the Civil Services Board. The whole civil services look at him with utmost respect and derive motivation and morale from him. In a way he is the prime coordinator between the administration and political heads at the highest level. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Cabinet Secretary is the most powerful bureaucrat and most trusted lieutenant of the Prime Minister of India.
Elections and Voting
India is a democratic country with Parliamentary form of government. The de jure and de facto head of the State is the President and the Prime Minister respectively. The Indian citizens elect their representatives directly by universal adult suffrage and send to the Parliament. The party which has secured the majority of seats forms the government for five years. The elected members of the party forming the government choose their leader and he becomes the Prime Minister of India. Similar political set up is found in the respective States also, forming the Union of India.
State and Local Governments
Being a federal country, India has government both at the Centre and at State levels. There is division of powers between them. Constitution provides subjects on which Centre and States have exclusive rights to form laws. In addition to that, there is concurrent list on which both the Centre and the States could form the laws but in the event of conflict, the laws made by the Centre would prevail.
The state governments also have similar political set up as it is in the Centre. However, not all the state have bicameral legislature, i.e. Lower House or Vidhan Sabha and Upper House or Vidhan Parishad. Barring 6 states in which there is bicameral legislature, all other state are unicameral. Lower house is elected for a term of 5 years, and Upper house for a term of 6 years out of which 1/3rd members retire and election to the vacant seats takes place every two years.
The Constitutional 73rd and 74th Amendment Act provided for a third tier of government at the local level – Panchayats in the villages and Municipalities in cities. The members of the local government are directly elected by the people.
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