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Responsibilities of Ministers

Collective Responsibility

By the term ‘collective responsibility’, it means that the Council of Ministers swim and sink as a team. They take office together, defend each other together, and leave together.

If the head of the Council of Ministers i.e. Prime Minister has a no-confidence motion passed against him, his entire team of Ministers must resign. If any of the Ministers’ proposed bills are not passed in entirety by the lower house, the Council of Ministers must resign collectively.

A minister can voice his own opinion and views only during the Cabinet meetings, but on the floor of the House, he must support the PM and defend the decisions of the Council of Ministers, irrespective of his personal beliefs.

Simply put, Collective Responsibility means that all the Ministers are collectively responsible before the legislature for all acts of commission and omission of the Executive. Every minister must defend each other and the policies of the PM till the end.

Individual Responsibility

The principle of individual responsibility of the head of the State is embodied in Article 75(2) — “The Minister shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.”

The result is that, though the Ministers are collectively responsible to the Legislature, they shall be individually responsible to the Executive head and shall be liable to dismissal even when they may have the confidence of the Legislature.

But since the Prime Minister’s advice will be available in the matter of dismissing other Ministers individually, it may be expected that this power of the President will virtually be, as in England, a power of the Prime Minister.

Usually, the Prime Minister exercises this power by asking an undesirable colleague to resign, which the latter readily complies with, in order to avoid the odium of a dismissal.

Individually, ministers are also personally responsible to the parliament. This responsibility includes the minister’s own conduct, but it also extends to the agencies and departments under his or her purview and all actions taken by their civil servants. In case of any wrongdoing or mistake, the minister can be called on to take action to correct the situation, to apologize, and even in some cases to resign from a cabinet position.

It is important to note that while this convention makes ministers politically responsible for their civil servants, it does not relieve the latter from their obligation to obey the law. Similarly, while ministers must take responsibility for the errors of their subordinates, it does not follow that they must accept personal blame for these errors.

No Legal Responsibility

It is a misnomer that there is n legal responsibility of the minister. A minister who is also a public servant is immune to legal action for actions taken by him in good faith. But if he takes any action under the influence of bad faith he exposes himself to all legal actions like any ordinary citizen.

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