Representative Parliamentary Democracy

We have adopted a system of representative parliamentary democracy. The three words—representative, parliamentary and democracy—are the cardinal features of our political system.

Democracy implies the right of the people to self-de­termination and faith in the rationality and ingenuity of the human mind. The basic premise of true democracy is that every individual irrespective of his caste, creed, colour or sex and irrespective of the level of the educational, economic or professional backgrounds, is capable of governing him ­self and of managing his affairs, the way he deems fit. In a democracy the people are their own masters.

The Constitution of India, in the words of its Preamble, speaks of "we the people of India having solemnly give to ourselves this Constitution", thereby clarifying beyond all shadow of doubt that sovereignty under the Indian political system vests in the people. But, except in a primordial or revolution situation, sovereignty of the people is merely an abstraction. Also, it may imply a state of anarchy. Sovereignty in the hands of the people may be likened to power in the waters of a wild mountainous river. In order to be useful, it has to be tamed and harnessed- The people need an institution, an instrumentality for

expressing and exercising their sovereign powers. Under the scheme of our Constitution and its provision of universal adult franchise, the people exercise their sovereign power while casting their votes to elect representatives to the Union Parliament. And, the Parliament becomes the people's institution par excellence through which the sovereign will of the people finds expression.

Initially, in the ancient Greek City-States and also during the Vedic period in India, the people themselves assembled together to decide the issues of governance. People, thus, exercised their power directly in deciding matters of the State and this kind of polity could be called direct popular democracy. But the with gradual increase in the size and population of the political units and ultimately with the advent of modern Nation-States, it became impossible  to arrange for the people to assemble at a place to discuss matters of the State and arrive at decisions smoothly. All forms of direct democracy, therefore, soon became practically extinct all over the world except in a few Swiss Cantons where issues could still be decided by the people- at-large through vote. Modern democracy has of necessity, to be a representative democracy where people exercise their sovereign power through their elected representatives.

The term 'parliamentary' refers specifically to a kind of democratic polity wherein the supreme power vests in the body of people's representatives called Parliament. The parliamentary system is one in which the Parliament en­joys primacy of place in the governance of the State. Under the Constitution of India the Union Legislature is called 'Parliament'. It is the pivot on which the political system of the country revolves.

Composition of Parliament

The Parliament of India consists of the President and the two Houses—the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People).1

 The President: The President of the Republic is directly elected by an electoral college consisting of the elected member of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies (popular Houses) of the States.2 Though the President of India is a constituent part of Parliament, he does not sit or participate in the discussions in either of the two Houses. There are certain constitutional functions which he has to perform with respect to the Parliament. The President summons the two Houses of Parliament to meet from time to time. He can prorogue the two Houses of Parliament and dissolve the Lok Sabha. His assent is essential for a Bill passed by both Houses to become a law. Not only that, when both the Houses of Parliament are not in session and he is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, the President can promulgate Ordinances having the same force and effect as a law passed by the Parliament.3

At the commencement of the first session after each general election to Lok Sabha and at the commencement of the first session of each year, the President addresses both Houses of Parliament assembled together and informs the Parliament of the causes of its summons. Besides, he may address either House of Parliament or both Houses assembled  together and for that purpose require the attendance of members. He is also empowered to send mes­sages to either House whether with respect to a Bill then pending in Parliament or otherwise, and a House to which any message is so sent has to, with all convenient dispatch, consider any matter required to be considered by the message4 Bills belonging to certain categories can be introduced and proceeded with only after the recommendation of the President is obtained.5

There are certain other functions which the President is required to perform under the Constitution in relation to the Parliament. He appoints the Speaker protem of Lok Shabha and an acting Chairman of Rajya Sabha, as and when the need arises.6 He summons the joint sitting of both Houses in case of disagreement between them on a Bill.7 The President causes to be laid, every year, before the Parliament , the Budget of the government, referred to in the Constitution as the "Annual Financial Statement"8, and cer­tain other reports of constitutional functionaries like the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, Finance Com­mission, Union Public Service Commission, Special Officer for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes Commission.9 He may nominate not more than two members of the Anglo-Indian community to the Lok Sabha, if he is of the opinion that the community is not adequately represented10 in the House. The President also nominates 12 members to the Rajya Sabha from amongst persons hav­ing special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.” Besides, he is empowered to decide, after obtaining the opinion of the Election Commission, whether any member duly elected, attracts the disqualifications laid down in Ar­ticle 108 of the Constitution. His decision, in this matter is final.12

Rajya Sabha: The Rajya Sabha is, as its name indicates, the Council of States. It represents the people in an indirect way inasmuch as they are grouped into several components of the Union—the States and the Union Territories—and members of Rajya Sabha are elected by the elected mem­bers of the State Legislative Assemblies in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.13 The different States of the Union have not been given equal representation in the Rajya Sabha. The number of representatives from each State in India depends largely on its population. Thus, while Uttar Pradesh has 31 members in the Rajya Sabha, smaller states like Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura, etc. have only one member each. The populations in some of the Union Territories such Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Lakshadweep are too small to have any representative in the Rajya Sabha. Under the Constitution, the Rajya Sabha consists of not more than 250 members. It includes 12 members nominated by the President and 238 members elected by the States and the Union Territories.14 The Rajya Sabha at present consists of 245 members (See Annexure 2.1 and Diagram 4).

Unlike the Lok Sabha, which has a fixed term but can be dissolved by the President at any time, the Rajya Sabha is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. While the term of an individual member of the Rajya Sabha is six years, as nearly as possible, one-third of its members retire at the expiration of every second year in accordance with the provision made in that behalf by Parliament by law.15 The term of office of the members begins from the date on which names of the members are notified by the Govern­ment of India in the Gazettee.16 The Vice-President, who is elected by the members of both Houses of Parliament, is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, whereas the Deputy Chairman is elected by the members of the Rajya Sabha from amongst themselves.17

Lok Sabha: The other House—the Lok Sabha—is the House of the People. It is directly elected by the people. Every citizen of India who is not less than 18 years of age is entitled to vote in the elections to the Lok Sabha unless he is otherwise disqualified under law (Art. 326). The Consti­tution provides that the Lok Sabha shall consist of not more than 530 members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the States, and not more than 20 members to represent the Union Territories, chosen in such manner as Parliament by law provides.18 In addition, the President may nominate not more than two members to represent the Anglo-Indian community. The maximum strength of the House envisaged in the Constitution is thus 552. The total elective memberships distributed among the States in such a manner that the ratio between the number of seats allot­ted to each State and the population of the State is, as far as possible, the same for all States.19 Population for this pur­pose means the population as ascertained at the 1971 census. There shall be no change in the number of seats in the Lok Sabha until the year 2026 [Art. 81(3)]. Seats in the Lok Sabha are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Statewise on the basis of population ratios. Originally it was only for ten years but is being extended every time for the next ten years. Under the latest amendment it is now for 60 years i.e. until the year 2010 (Art. 330 and 334). At present, the Lok Sabha consists of 545 members (See Annexure 2.2 and Diagram 5).

Lok Sabha has been provided with a fixed term as in the case of the popularly elected House of Representatives in the United States of America and the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. The raison d'etre of representative democracy is that the government should obtain the mandate of the people periodically in order to continue in office legitimately. The term of the House in India is five years from the date appointed for its first meeting. The expiration  of the period of five years operates as its dissolution. The House may be dissolved before the expiration of its full term under certain circumstances.20 When a proclamation  of Emergency is in force, the term of the Lok Sabha can be extended by the Parliament for a period not exceeding one year at a time and not exceeding in any case a period of six months after the proclamation has ceased to operate.21

Relative Roles of the Two Houses

The two Houses of Parliament enjoy co-equal power and status in all spheres except in financial matters and in re­gard to the responsibility of the Council of Ministers, which are exclusively the domain of the Lok Sabha. Accordingly, the following limitations have been placed on the powers of the Rajya Sabha:

  • A Money Bill cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
  • Rajya Sabha has no power either to reject or amend a Money Bill. It can only make recommendations on the Money Bill. If such a Bill is not returned to the Lok Sabha within a period of 14 days, the Bill shall be deemed to have been passed by both the Houses at the expiration of the said period in the form in which it was passed by the Lok Sabha.22
  • Whether a particular Bill is a Money Bill or not is to be decided by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.23
  • Rajya Sabha may discuss the Annual Financial State­ment.24 It has no power to vote on the Demands for Grants.
  • Rajya Sabha has no powers to pass a vote of no-confi­dence in the Council of Ministers.25

It should not, however, be taken to mean that the Rajya Sabha is less important or has been given a secondary posi­tion in relation to the Lok Sabha. The powers of the Rajya Sabha are on par with those of the Lok Sabha in case of other Bills. Every non-financial measures must be passed by both the Houses individually before it can become an Act. Rajya Sabha has equal powers with the Lok Sabha in important matters like the impeachment of the President, removal of the Vice-President, constitutional amendments, and removal of the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.26 President's Ordinances, proclamation of Emergency and the proclamation of the failure of constitutional  machinery in a State must be placed before both Houses of Parliament.27 Disagreement between the two Houses on a Bill, other than a Money Bill and a Constitutional  Amendment Bill is resolved by both the Houses in a joint-sitting where matters are decided by majority vote. Such a joint-sitting of the two Houses is presided over by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.28

Further, the Constitution has assigned some special powers to the Rajya Sabha. It alone has the power to de­clare that it would be in national interest for the Parliament to legislate in respect of a matter in the State List. If by a two-thirds majority, Rajya Sabha passes a resolution to this effect, the Union Parliament can make laws for the whole or any part of the country even with respect to a matter enumerated in the State List.29 Also, under the Constitution, Parliament is empowered to make laws providing for the creation of one or more All-India Services common to the Union and the States, if the Rajya Sabha declares by a resolution  supported by not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting, that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest to do so.30

Parliament and the Executive

The term 'Executive' is often used rather loosely to connote several different things. Under the Constitution of India, the head of the Executive is the President. All executive power is vested in him and is to be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him. All executive  action, therefore, is taken in the name of the President.31 He is, however, required to act only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at its head. As such, the President is only the formal constitutional  or nominal executive. The real or the political executive is the Council of Ministers.32 The Ministers constitute  the Government of India and the head of the government is the Prime Minister. Then, there is the permanent  administration comprising the civil services—the huge staff of administrators, experts, technocrats and others  forming the administrative apparatus which really helps the ministers in the formulation and implementation of policies. For the sake of conceptual clarification, therefore, the term 'Executive' may be used to indicate the political executive, i.e. the Council of Ministers, while the terms 'administration' or 'administrative' may refer to the permanent services or the administrative machinery.

After a new Lok Sabha is duly elected and constituted, the President invites the leader of the party or parties com­manding the support of more than half of the members of the Lok Sabha, to form the Government. Thus, the Prime Minister is appointed by the President. The other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.33 It may be pointed out here that the President has little opportunity of exercising a personal choice in appointing  the Prime Minister. Only, if a situation arises where none of the parties gets a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, President  may have to use his judgement to pick up the leader who, in his opinion, is likely to command the support of the majority in the House.

While the Prime Minister usually is a member of the Lok Sabha, ministers are drawn from both Houses of Par­liament. A person other than a member of Parliament may also be appointed as a minister, but he has to vacate the office after six months unless, in the meanwhile, he manages  to get himself elected to either of the tow Houses. Ministers hold office during the pleasure of the President and Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.34 So, the ministers are under a constitutional obligation  to resign collectively as soon as they loose the confidence of the Lok Sabha. At the same time, every min­ister holds office during the pleasure of the President and shall be liable to dismissal by him. But since the President does so only on the advice of the Prime Minister, this power actually rests with the latter.

The Indian political system represents a real fusion of the highest executive and legislative authorities. The relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is one that is most intimate and ideally does not admit any antagonism or dichotomy. The two are not visualized as competing centre of powers but as inseparable partners or co-partners in the business of government. Parliament is a large body. It does not and cannot govern by itself. The Council of Ministers may in a sense be described as the grand executive committee of the Parliament, charged with the responsibility of governance on behalf of the parent body. In other words, the Executive is not a separate or outside body. It is in Parliament, inasmuch as the Council of Ministers is drawn from the remains part of the Parliament and responsible to the Lok Sabha, the relationship may be said to be that of a part to the whole and one of interdependence. There is, however, a clear distinction between the functions of the Executive and the functions of the Parliament.35 Parliament is to legislate, advise, criticise and ventilate public grievances. The Executive is to govern, albeit on behalf of the Parliament (See Diagram 1). In the words of the first Secretary of the Indian Parliament:

Parliament should not any time share in the executive responsibilities  of the Government of the day because once it begins to do that, the parliamentary and the executive responsibilities get blurred. Parliament tends to weaken and does not exercise the full power of criticism.36

While the Executive has almost unlimited right to initiate  and formulate legislative and financial proposals before Parliament and to give effect to approved policies unfettered and unhindered by Parliament, the latter has the unlimited power to call for information, to discuss, to scrutinize  and to put the seal of popular approval on proposals made by the Executive. The Executive remains responsible and the administration accountable to Parliament. The function of Parliament is to exercise political and financial control over the Executive and to ensure parliamentary surveillance  of administration.

Parliament and Judiciary

The Judiciary in India is an authority co-ordinate with the Legislature an i the Executive. The Supreme Court of India and the High Courts in States form a single integrated judiciary. The Supreme Court stands at the apex of the judicial system; it is the highest tribunal of the country.

Parliament has the power to make laws regulating the constitution, organisation, jurisdiction and powers of the Courts. Supreme Court of India consists of the Chief Justice and other judges. It was laid down in the Constitution that the number of judges other than the Chief Justice, would not be more than seven. Parliament was, however, empow­ered to prescribe a larger number of judges by law.37 Under this provision, the Parliament passed the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956, increasing the number of other judges to 10, and subsequently by various amendments  to this Act, to 25. Thus, at present the number of judges of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice, is 26.

For each State, there is a High Court consisting of a Chief Justice and such other judges as the President may from time to time deem it necessary to appoint.38 Under the Constitution, the Parliament may by law:

  • extend the jurisdiction of a High Court to, or exclude the jurisdiction of a High Court from, any Union Terri­tory;39
  • establish a common High Court for two or more States or for two or more States and a Union Territory;40 and
  • constitute a High Court for a Union Territory or declare any Court in any such territory to be a High Court for all or any of the purposes of the Constitution.41

According to the Constitution, Judges of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President after consulta­tion with the Chief Justice and such other judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary. Judges of a High Court are to be appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State concerned and the Chief Justice of that High Court.42 But, by its decisions in the Judges' cases, the Supreme Court has practically taken over the power of selecting the judges for appointment in its own hands.

A judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court may by writing under his hand, addressed to the President, resign his office but he cannot be removed from his office except through a process prescribed in the Constitution. Contrary to common belief, there is no provision in the Constitution for the impeachment of a judge. The impeachment procedure  is only for the President of India. A judge can be removed from his office by the President on grounds of misbehavior  or incapacity, after an address passed by both Houses of Parliament with a special majority, (i.e. by a majority  of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of each House present and voting) is presented to him43 in the same session.

The Parliament is not empowered to discuss the conduct  of any judge of the Supreme Court, or a High Court in the discharge of his duties except in the case of a motion for presenting address to the President praying for the removal of a judge.44 This has apparently been done to secure the independence of the judges both from the Executive as also from the Legislature. The protection of the Judge in this re­gard is, however, restricted to his judicial duties and does not apply to his private conduct.

The Parliament may by law provide for the establishment  of an administrative tribunal for each State or for two or more States. The law made under this provision may specify the jurisdiction and powers of the tribunals. Such a law may exclude the jurisdiction of all Courts, except the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Art. 136, with re­spect to certain specified matters.45 Further, the Constitution empowers the Parliament to create an All-India Judicial Service which shall not include any post inferior to that of a district judge.46

The validity of any proceedings in either House of Parliament cannot be questioned before a court of law on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.47 The Presiding Officer of each House or any other officer or mem­ber of Parliament who is for the time being vested with the powers to regulate procedure, or to enforce or carry out the decision of either House of Parliament, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the courts in exercise of those powers.48 The courts have no jurisdiction to issue a writ, direction or or­der relating to a matter which affects the internal affairs of the House.

In the framework of a Constitution which guarantees individual fundamental rights, divides powers between the Union and the States and clearly defines and delimits the powers and functions of every organ of the State including the Parliament, Judiciary plays a very important role under its powers of judicial review. The Courts may declare a law made by Parliament ultra vires the Constitution and as such, null and void and unenforceable. Article 13 of the Constitution clearly prohibits the making of any law Parliament or the State Legislature or by any other authority, which may be inconsistent with, or in derogation of, any of the fundamental rights contained in Part III of the Constitution. Articles 32 and 226 confer power on the Supreme Court and the High Courts, respectively, for the enforcement of these rights. Thus, the constitutional validity of a law can be challenged in India on the ground that the subject matter  of the legislation:

  • is not within the competence of the Legislature which

has passed it,

  • is repugnant to the provisions of the Constitution, or (in) it infringes one of the fundamental rights.

It is sometimes assumed and often said that just as it is for the Legislature to make laws and for the Executive to execute them, it is for the Courts to interpret the

Constitution and the laws. This is very misleading and patently wrong. The Judiciary in our polity is not the sole interpreter. There are many authorities who very legitimately interpret the Constitution almost daily during the discharge of their functions. For example, the Presiding Officers in the Houses of Parliament have to interpret the provisions of the Constitution while giving their rulings, which are final in their respective chambers. The basic function of the Courts is to adjudicate disputes between individuals, between individuals and the State, between the States and between the Union and the States and while so adjudicating, the Courts may be required to interpret the provisions of the Constitution and the laws. And, the interpretation given by the Supreme Court becomes the law honored  by all Courts of the land. There is no appeal against the judgement of the Supreme Court. It remains the law of the land unless its interpretation is reviewed or reversed by the Supreme Court itself or the law or the Constitution is suitably amended by Parliament. If an Act of the Parliament is set aside by the Judiciary, the Parliament can re-enact it after the removing the defects for which it was set aside. Also, the Parliament may, within the limits of its constituent powers, amend the Constitution in such a manner that the law no longer remains unconstitutional.

Thus, the Parliament in India is not as supreme as the British Parliament where no judicial review of legislation is permitted. At the same time Judiciary in India is not as supreme  as in the United States of America which recognises virtually no limit on the scope of judicial review.

 Parliament and the State Legislatures

The Constitution of India has established a federal structure  of government in the country inasmuch as there is a distribution of legislative, executive and financial powers between the Union and the States. But it is extremely doubt­ful if Indian polity can be described as federal. The word 'federation' is nowhere used in the text of the Constitution. In fact, the proposal to describe India as a 'federation' was specifically turned down in the Constituent Assembly. Ar­ticle 1 of the Constitution described India as a 'Union of States'. There are many features of the Constitution and a large number of its provisions which very clearly and strongly militate against it being a federal Constitution. Unlike in the United States of America, the citizenship in India is one; the flag is one; the Constitution is one. The Judiciary also is one integrated whole and not divided be­tween the Union and the States. The brief point here, however, is that there can be difference of opinion in re­gard to whether Indian polity is federal, unitary or quasi-federal or it is a polity which is unitary in spirit but federal in structure.

The Union of India as of today is composed of 28 States and 7 Union Territories as specified in the First Schedule of the Constitution. The territory of the Union is divided amongst the States and the Union Territories. A law made by a State Legislature can be applicable only in the territory of that State. The Union Parliament can make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India. Parliament also enjoys the power of extra-territorial legislation49, i.e. a law made by it will be applicable not only to the people and property within the territory of India but also to Indian citizens  living abroad. No such power of legislation is available to the States.

The Constitution provides for a three-fold distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States. List I or the Union List contains 97 subjects over which the Parliament  has exclusive power to make laws. List II or the State List includes 66 entries over which State Legislatures have got exclusive power of legislation. List III or the Concurrent  List contains 47 items on which both the Parliament and the State Legislatures can make laws. While in their own respective spheres as allotted by the Constitution the

Parliament as well as the State Legislatures enjoy complete autonomy, the scheme of distribution of powers emphasises the general predominance of the Parliament in the legisla­tive field.

The Union List, the longest of the three lists, contains important subjects like Defence, Foreign Affairs, Railways, Communication, Banking and Currency, etc. The residuary powers, i.e. power to legislate on a matter not enumerated in any one of the three lists belongs to the Parliament. Fur­ther, in the concurrent sphere, in the event of any repugnancy between a Union and a State law relating to the same subject, the former prevails. In other words, the Union law has got "right of way" in this respect. An excep­tion to this rule is made in favour of a State law with respect to a matter in the concurrent field which, in case of a con­flict with an earlier law of the Parliament, prevails, if it has been reserved for consideration, and received the assent, of the President. But this provision does not prevent the Par­liament from subsequently amending, varying or even repealing the law made by the State Legislature.50 The ex­ecutive power of every State is required to be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws made by the Parlia­ment.51

Even in the spheres exclusively reserved for the States, the Parliament is authorised to legislate under certain cir­cumstances. It may thus legislate on any specified matter in the State List, whenever the Rajya Sabha by a resolution52, supported by a special majority, declares it necessary or expedient in the national interest to do so.53 Further, when a proclamation of Emergency is in operation, the legislative competence of the Parliament widens so as to extend to any matter in the State List. Although any power exercised by the Parliament in the national interest or during an Emer­gency does not restrict the normal legislative power of a State Legislature, in case of any conflict the law made by the Parliament prevails and so long as it remain in force, the State Law, to the extent of its repugnancy, remains in­operative.54

The Parliament also enjoys the power to legislate for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any country or any decision made at an international confer­ence, association or other body on any subject, even if it falls in the State List.55

The Parliament may enter the State List by invitation also. If two or more State Legislatures consider it desirable that any of the matters within their exclusive legislative competence should be regulated by parliamentary legislation and pass resolutions to that effect, the Parliament can undertake necessary legislation. However, the legislation so passed has effect only in the States which had requested and those others which may adopt it afterwards by resolutions passed in that behalf.56 Some of the entries in the Union List themselves empower Parliament to take over to itself, by making the requisite declaration by law, certain spheres and subjects from the State field.57

Our Constitution envisages that if the President re­ceives a report from the Governor of a State, or if the President himself is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with -the provisions of the Constitution, the President may, in such a case, assume to himself by procla­mation, all or any of the executive functions of the State and declare that the powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by, or under the authority of Parliament.58

Predominance of the Parliament is again indicated in the matters of establishment and formation of new States. The Parliament has been empowered—

  • to form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States;
  • increase or diminish the area of any State;
  • alter the boundaries of any State; and
  • alter the name of any State.59

These alterations are not to be treated as amendments to the Constitution and can be effected if the Parliament passes a Bill by a simple majority on the recommendation of the President. Such a Bill is required to be referred to the legislatures of the States concerned for expressing their views thereon within the time allowed for the purpose. However, this reference in practice, does not fetter the hands of the Parliament in making the change as it thinks fit. Also, the Parliament has been empowered to abolish or create a Legislative Council in a State by a simple procedure not involving an amendment of the Constitution. It can be done by an Act of Parliament, if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect by a special major­ity.60

Last but not the least, the Parliament exercises its control over the States through the office of the Governor. The President, as we know, is a constituent of the Parliament and at the same time the Executive head of the Union. Governors of the States are appointed by him and they hold their office during the pleasure of the President.61 Further, the President may make such provisions as he thinks fit for the discharge of the function of the Governor of a State in any contingency not provided for in the Constitution.62

All this, however, does not imply that the States in In­dia have been intended to be made merely administrative agents of the Union. Within the limits laid down in the Constitution, the Union and the States are independent of each other. One is not subordinate to the other in its own field. In the words of Dr. Ambedkar, "the States are as sov­ereign in the field which is left to them by the Constitution as the Centre is in the field which is assigned to it." The authority of one is to coordinate with the other. In fact, the relationship between the Union and the States in India rep­resents a compromise between the following two conflicting considerations:

  • normal division of powers under which States enjoy

autonomy within their own spheres;

  • need for national integrity and a strong Union under exceptional circumstances.

Thus, in practice there exist, as Granville Austin pre­fers to call, a 'coopreative federation'63 in India which produces a predominance of the Parliament without neces­sarily resulting in weak States.


To sum up, in our scheme of things, the adult population, i.e., those who have attained the age of 18, constitute the electorate; they elect the members of the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of their States. The State Assemblies, in turn, elect the members of the Rajya Sabha. The President is elected by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of the States (See Diagram 2). He is the nominal or the constitutional executive, the real or the political executive being the Council of Ministers. The ministers must be members of Parliament and are collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. According to the Constitution, the judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts are to be appointed by the President but the Supreme Court has held that the decisive authority in the matter would vest in the Judicial Wing.

Ideally, in our political system, the question of conflict between the Parliament and other organs must never arise because the relationship here is that of the part to the whole, of the agent or the servant to the principal. As between the Executive and the Legislature, there is no adversary situa­tion. The two are partners in the service of the people.

The Parliament of India, representing as it does all constitutionally organised shades of public opinion at the national level, occupies a pre-eminent and central position in Indian polity. It embodies and epitomises the 'sovereign will' of the people; it is the mirror and the voice of the nation. The Preamble to the Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the ultimate source of all power are the people of India in whom sovereignty vests (see Diagram 3). The Constitution which is the fundamental law of the land has been "adopted, enacted and given to ourselves" by "we, the people of India". It is, therefore, one of the overriding concerns of the Parliament to see that the will and the aspirations of the people as reflected in its chambers are fulfilled in the best manner possible. Members of Parliament, as elected representatives of the people, ventilate the people's grievances and opinions on various issues, scrutinise the functioning of the government on the floors of the Houses of Parliament and enact laws. The Parliament functions as the 'grand inquest and watchdog of the nation'.

The extent of its legislative jurisdiction, the constitu­ent powers it possesses, its role in emergencies and its relationship vis-çi-visthe judiciary, the Executive, the State Legislatures and other authorities under the Constitution are all indicative of the sweep and scope of the power and jurisdiction of the Parliament. It is, however, important to note here that the Parliament of India cannot be described as a sovereign body in the sense that the British Parliament is understood to be. It has vast but not unlimited powers. The authority and jurisdiction of our Parliament are lim­ited by the powers of the other organs, the distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States,64 the incorporation of a code of justifiable fundamental rights,65 the general provision for judicial review and an indepen­dent judiciary. Despite these limitations on its authority, such powers, as it possesses, under the Constitution are adequate for it to fulfil the role that is ascribed to it.

  • National Stmbole of India
  • History of Parliament
  • The Political System
  • Function of Parliament
  • The Electoral System
  • Parliament Session
  • The Speaker
  • The Question Hours
  • Raising Matters in Parliament
  • Budget in Parliament
  • The Legislative Process
  • Parliamentary Committies
  • Servicing of Parliament
  • Parliamentary Etiquette
  • Parliamentary Privileges
  • Political Parties and Groups
  • Inter parliamentary links
  • Parliament Building
  • Half-A-Century and More of our Parliament
Government of India
  • President of India
  • Vice President of India
  • Prime Minister of India
  • Lok Sabha Speaker
  • Rajya Sabha Speaker
  • Cabinet Ministers
  • Governors of Indian State
  • Cheif Ministers of India
  • Cheif Election Commissinor of India
  • Sitting MPs in Rajya Sabha
  • Sitting MPs in Lok Sabha
Articles in Indian Constitution 
  • Articles 14
  • Articles 15
  • Articles 19
  • Articles 21
  • Articles 370
Elections in India
  • President of India
  • Vise President of India
  • LOK Sabha Eections
  • Rajya Sabha Election
  • Legislative Council Election
  • How a Chief Minister is Selected
  • State Assembly Elections
  • Municipal Corporation Election
  • Gram Panchayat Elections
  • Zila Panchayat Elections
  • Block Panchayat Election
Elections 2017
  • Uttar Pradesh (403 Seats)
  • Punjab (117 Seats)
  • Goa ( 40 Seats)
  • Uttarakhand ( 70 Seats)
  • Manipur (60 Seats)