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Position of the Prime Minister

The Constitution of India does not describe the office of the Prime Minister in detail. It is, therefore, difficult to State what is the exact position of the Prime Minister. The general accepted theory is that the Prime Minister is just like “primus inter pares” or “first among equals”. This is the phrase, which is used to describe the office of the Prime Minister ship in a parliamentary system.

The Prime Minister is to take the support of his Cabinet colleagues and thus among the Cabinet colleagues the Prime Minister is first among equals.
However, this phrase is too modest to describe a great office of a parliamentary system.

To quote Ramsay Muir, a leading constitutional authority of England, “the phrase primus inter-pares is nonsense as applied to a potentate who appoints and can dismiss his colleagues. He (Prime Minister) is in fact, though not in law, the working head of the State, endowed with such a plenitude of power as no other constitutional ruler possesses, not even the President of the United States”.

William Harcourt calls him as “Inter stella Lunar Minores” or ‘A Moon among lesser Stars”. Jennings, another notable authority of the British Constitution, describes Prime Minister as “Sun around which other planets revolve”.

Regarding the office of the Prime Minister, it is said “nowhere in the wide world does so great a substance cast so small a shadow”. Thus, the office of the Prime Minister is an important one in a parliamentary system of Government. The Prime Minister of India possesses more or less same powers as claimed by his British counterpart.

  1. T. Shah observed in the Constituent Assembly, “This Constitution concentrates so much power and influence in the hands of the Prime Minister that there is every danger to apprehend that the Prime Minister may become a dictator if he chooses to do so”.

In this context, Dr. Ambedkar stated in the Constituent Assembly, “The Prime Minister is really the keystone of the arch of the Cabinet and unless and until we create that office and endow that office with statutory authority to nominate any dismiss Ministers there can be no collective responsibility”.

Thus, the Prime Minister is a national leader and he is the defacto ruler of the nation. The pertinent question is can the President flout the advice of the Prime Minister? There is a little scope to do so. When the President thinks of disregarding the advice of the Prime Minister, he should not overlook the following factors:

  1. The Prime Minister is the leader of the Majority Party.
  2. He commands confidence of the Legislature.
  3. His removal may create difficulty for the President.

The President is now bound to act according to the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.

From the above-mentioned reasons, it is expected that the President is ordinarily bound by the advice of the Prime Minister. The Office of the Prime Minister is no doubt a great office of authority and dignity.

However, his authority is a matter of influence in the context of his personality. Defined powers legally conferred; do not always determine the position of an office. The personality of the incumbent is more important. If the Prime Minister is dynamic, efficient, and strong and possesses exceptional qualities, it is difficult for his colleagues to oppose him. He can exercise immense power by virtue of his personality.

Thus, we may conclude, the office of the Prime Minister is “necessarily what the holder chooses to make it”. It is no doubt the most important office in the parliamentary form of government. That is why critics in recent times have described this form of government as the “Prime Ministerial form” of Government.

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