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Reasons for Adoption of the Parliamentary System in India

India’s founding fathers did a lot of analysis in deciding the structure and shape of our democracy. Let us not try to trivialize that. They ensured that what we got followed the best practices of the period back then. Instead of copying, they spent a lot of time in poring over international systems and arguing on relative merits & demerits.

The Parliamentary system ensures a better representation of the populace and well suited for countries with huge diversity. For instance, if only one person has to be the leader, only the majority community will rule. In a parliamentary system you can have leaders from various communities and the smaller groups could form alliances to keep a check on the majority. The parliamentary system is also better in protecting against an autocratic one-man rule.

India did not just copy the British Constitution, instead the Constituent Assembly took inspirations from various constitutions and modified them as per India’s own requirements. Comparing a monarch with a president is a basic mistake for the simple reason that the former is hereditary while the latter is elected.

Secondly, we adopted the parliamentary democracy because this system is based on the principle of co-operation and co-ordination between the legislative and executive organs and limits the scope of conflicts between the two while the presidential system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers between the two organs. The parliamentary system ensures greater responsibility and answerability and that is what our forefathers had hoped for.

To say that presidential form is more effective than parliamentary system would again be wrong. It certainly makes the President more powerful, high-handed and his government more stable but if that means that the Government is more effective, it is certainly not. In the presidential system, responsibility, answerability and transparency suffer.

Difference between the Indian and the British Models

  1. In Britain, the head of the state is either King or Queen of the royal family while in India, the elect head of the state or president is elected after every 5 years.
  2. In Britain, the Prime minister should be a member of the Lower House, while in India, the Prime Minister can be a member of the Lower House (Lok Sabha) or Upper House (Rajya Sabha).
  3. In Britain, Ministers should be Members of Parliament (MPs) while In India, it is not necessary for a Minister to be a MP, but this is only for a period of 6 months.
  4. In Britain, the Opposition forms a ‘shadow cabinet’ in contrast to the ruling party’s cabinet, and prepare their minister for future ministerial office. In India there is no such concept.
  5. In Britain, the Ministers are legally bound to their responsibility, while in India, there is no such legal limitation for ministers.
  6. In Britain, the Parliament is supreme but in India, the Parliament is not supreme and has limited powers.
  7. In Britain the Prime Minister selects and assigns portfolios to the ministers whereas the same is done by the President in India as per Art.75.
  8. The President always acts upon the advice of the Prime Minister . However before the 42nd and 44th amendment it was not obligatory on the President to act upon the advice of the Prime Minister.
  9. The ministers of Britain are invariably selected among the members of the parliament whereas in India any one can hold the position of Minister at the pleasure of the president, with due qualification as per law, even if he is not a member of both the houses. But he has to get elected within six months to either of the houses.
  10. In the United Kingdom, the cabinet serves as a unit before the Parliament and Sovereign. Its views are placed by the cabinet as a single whole before the Parliament and Sovereign as if they are views of one man. In India, the President can ask the Prime Minister to place a subject before the council of ministers if it is not discussed and decided by the Cabinet.
  11. The President of India can demoralize the cabinet by resorting to frequent exercise of suspensive veto and the Council Ministers can hardly take any action on this, except through impeachment which is a laborious and time consuming process.
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