Indian Government System
and guided by Mahatma Gandhi and his unique philosophy of SATYAGRAHA and
Non Violence, India attained her Independence on 15th August 1947.
Later, the People of India, 'gave unto themselves', a Constitution, that
has governed the Republic of India since then.
is a constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of government, and at
the heart of the system is a commitment to hold regular, free and fair
elections. These elections determine the composition of the government, the
membership of the two houses of parliament, the state and union territory
legislative assemblies, and the Presidency and vice-presidency.
India, a union of states, is a Sovereign,
Secular, Democratic Republic with a Parliamentary system of Government. The
Indian polity is governed in terms of the Constitution, which was adopted by the
Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into force on 26 January 1950.
The President is the constitutional head of
Executive of the Union. Real executive power vests in a Council of Ministers
with the Prime Minister as head. Article 74(1) of the Constitution provides that
there shall be a Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister to aid and
advise the President who shall, in exercise of his functions, act in accordance
with such advice. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the
Lok Sabha, the House of the People.
the states, the Governor, as the representative of the President, is the head of
Executive, but real executive power rests with the Chief Minister who heads the
Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers of a state is collectively
responsible to the elected legislative assembly of the state.
The Constitution governs the sharing of
legislative power between Parliament and the State Legislatures, and provides
for the vesting of residual powers in Parliament. The power to amend the
Constitution also vests in Parliament.
Union Executive consists of the President, the Vice-President and Council of
Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President.
President is elected by members of an Electoral College consisting of elected
members of both Houses of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of the states,
with suitable weightage given to each vote. His term of office is five years.
other powers, the President can proclaim an emergency in the country if he is
satisfied that the security of the country or of any part of its territory is
threatened whether by war or external agression or armed rebellion. When there
is a failure of the constitutional machinery in a state, he can assume to
himself all or any of the functions of the government of that state.
Vice-President is elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of
members of both Houses of Parliament in accordance with the system of
proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. He holds
office for five years. The Vice-President is Ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya
Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers comprises Cabinet
Ministers, Minister of States (independent charge or otherwise) and Deputy
Ministers. Prime Minister communicates all decisions of the Council of Ministers
relating to administration of affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation
to the President. Generally, each department has an officer designated as
secretary to the Government of India to advise Ministers on policy matters and
general administration. The Cabinet Secretariat has an important coordinating
role in decision making at highest level and operates under direction of Prime
Legislative Arm of the Union, called Parliament, consists of the President,
Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. All legislation requires consent of both houses of
parliament. However, in case of money bills, the will of the Lok Sabha always
Rajya Sabha consists of 245 members. Of these, 233 represent states and union
territories and 12 members are nominated by the President. Elections to the
Rajya Sabha are indirect; members are elected by the elected members of
Legislative Assemblies of the concerned states. The Rajya Sabha is not subject
to dissolution, one third of its members retire every second year.
Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of the people chosen by direct election
on the basis of universal adult suffrage. As of today, the Lok Sabha consists of
545 members with two members nominated by the President to represent the
Anglo-Indian Community. Unless dissolved under unusual circumstances, the term
of the Lok Sabha is five years.
Elections -Scale of Operation
Elections in India are events involving
political mobilisation and organisational complexity on an amazing scale. In the
1996 election to Lok Sabha there were 1,269 candidates from 38 officially
recognised national and state parties seeking election, 1,048 candidates from
registered parties, not recognised and 10,635 independent candidates. A total
number of 59,25,72,288 people voted. The Election Commission employed almost
40,00,000 people to run the election. A vast number of civilian police and
security forces were deployed to ensure that the elections were carried out
peacefully. The direct cost of organising the election amounted to approximately
Rs. 5,180 million.
& Reservation of Seats
The country has been divided into 543
Parliamentary Constituencies, each of which returns one MP to the Lok Sabha, the
lower house of the Parliament. The size and shape of the parliamentary
constituencies are determined by an independent Delimitation Commission, which
aims to create constituencies which have roughly the same population, subject to
geographical considerations and the boundaries of the states and administrative
Constituency Boundaries are drawn up
Delimitation is the redrawing of the boundaries
of parliamentary or assembly constituencies to make sure that there are, as near
as practicable, the same number of people in each constituency. In India
boundaries are meant to be examined after the ten-yearly census to reflect
changes in population, for which Parliament by law establishes an independent
Delimitation Commission, made up of the Chief Election Commissioner and two
judges or ex-judges from the Supreme Court or High Court. However, under a
constitutional amendment of 1976, delimitation was suspended until after the
census of 2001, ostensibly so that states' family-planning programmes would not
affect their political representation in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas. This
has led to wide discrepancies in the size of constituencies, with the largest
having over 25,00,000 electors, and the smallest less than 50,000.
The Constitution puts a limit on the size of
the Lok Sabha of 550 elected members, apart from two members who can be
nominated by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian community. There are
also provisions to ensure the representation of scheduled castes and scheduled
tribes, with reserved constituencies where only candidates from these
communities can stand for election. There was an attempt to pass legislation to
reserve one third of the seats for female candidates but the dissolution of Lok
Sabha for the 1998 election occurred before the bill had completed its passage
Elections to the Lok Sabha are carried out
using a first-past-the-post electoral system. The country is split up into
separate geographical areas, known as constituencies, and the electors can cast
one vote each for a candidate (although most candidates stand as independents,
most successful candidates stand as members of political parties), the winner
being the candidate who gets the maximum votes.
The Parliament of the Union consists of the
President, the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of
States). The President is the head of country, and he appoints the Prime
Minister, who runs the government, according to the political composition of the
Lok Sabha. Although the government is headed by a Prime Minister, the Cabinet is
the central decision making body of the government. Members of more than one
party can make up a government, and although the governing parties may be a
minority in the Lok Sabha, they can only govern as long as they have the
confidence of a majority of MPs, the members of the Lok Sabha. Amongst the two
houses, the Lok Sabha is the main legislative body which forms the government
and takes all vital decisions along with the support of the Rajya Sabha .
- The Council of States
The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected
indirectly, rather than by the citizens at large. Rajya Sabha members are
elected by each state Vidhan Sabha using the single transferable vote system.
Unlike most federal systems, the number of members returned by each state is
roughly in proportion to their population. At present there are 233 members of
the Rajya Sabha elected by the Vidhan Sabhas, and there are also twelve members
nominated by the President as representatives of literature, science, art and
social services. Rajya Sabha members can serve for six years, and elections are
staggered, with one third of the assembly being elected every 2 years.
The president can nominate 2 Anglo-Indian
members of the Lok Sabha if it is felt that the representation of the
Anglo-Indian community is inadequate, and 12 Veteran members of the Rajya Sabha,
to represent literature, science, art and the social services.
India is a federal country, and the
Constitution gives the states and union territories significant control over
their own government. The Vidhan Sabhas (legislative assemblies) are directly
elected bodies set up to carrying out the administration of the government in
the 25 States of India. In some states there is a bicameral organisation of
legislatures, with both an upper and Lower House. Two of the seven Union
Territories viz., the National Capital Territory of Delhi and Pondicherry, have
also legislative assemblies.
Elections to the Vidhan Sabhas are carried out
in the same manner as for the Lok Sabha election, with the states and union
territories divided into single-member constituencies, and the
first-past-the-post electoral system used. The assemblies range in size,
according to population. The largest Vidhan Sabha is for Uttar Pradesh, with 425
members; the smallest Pondicherry, with 30 members.
The President is elected by the elected members
of the Vidhan Sabhas, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, and serves for a period of 5
years (although they can stand for re-election). A formula is used to allocate
votes so there is a balance between the population of each state and the number
of votes assembly members from a state can cast, and to give an equal balance
between state and national assembly Parliament members. If no candidate receives
a majority of votes there is a system by which losing candidates are eliminated
from the contest and votes for them transferred to other candidates, until one
gain a majority. The Vice President is elected by a direct vote of all members
elected and nominated, of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Transferable Vote System
Election for the members of the Rajya Sabha and
the President are carried out using the single transferable vote system. The
single transferable vote system is designed to ensure more diverse
representation, by reducing the opportunity for blocks of voters to dominate
minorities. The ballot paper lists all candidates standing for election and the
voters' list them in order of preference. A threshold number of votes, known as
the 'quota' is set, which candidates have to achieve to be elected. For
presidential elections the quota is set at one more than half the number of
votes, ensuring that the winner is the candidate who gets a clear majority. For
the Rajya Sabha the quota is set at the number of votes that can be attained by
just enough MPs to fill all the seats but no more. Votes that are deemed
surplus, those given to candidates who have already got a full quota of votes,
or votes given to candidates who are deemed to be losing candidates, are
transferred according to the voter's listed preferences, until the right number
of candidates have been elected.
An independent Election Commission has been
established under the Constitution in order to carry out and regulate the
holding of elections in India.
The Election Commission was established in
accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950. Originally a Chief
Election Commissioner ran the commission, but first in 1989 and later again in
1993 two additional Election Commissioners were appointed.
The Election Commission is responsible for the
conduct of elections to parliament and state legislatures and to the offices of
the President and Vice-President.
The Election Commission prepares, maintains and
periodically updates the Electoral Roll, which shows who is entitled to vote,
supervises the nomination of candidates, registers political parties, monitors
the election campaign, including candidates' funding. It also facilitates the
coverage of the election process by the media, organises the polling booths
where voting takes place, and looks after the counting of votes and the
declaration of results. All this is done to ensure that elections can take place
in an orderly and fair manner.
At present, there are two Election
Commissioners appointed by the President. Chief Election Commissioner can be
removed from office only by parliamentary impeachment.
Commission decides most matters by consensus but in case of any dissension, the
majority view prevails.
The state legislature is bicameral in some and
in some it is unicameral. In most states legislature is unicameral. In
unicameral state legislature the (only) house is called Legislative Assembly. In
states where there are two houses there is a Legislative Council along with
Legislative Assembly. In such a case Legislative Assembly is the Lower House of
the State Legislature while the Legislative Council is the Upper House. Governor
is an integral part of the State Legislature.
The Legislative Assembly consists of not more
than 500 members and not less than 60. The biggest state Uttar Pradesh has 425
members in its Assembly. States which have small population and are small in
size have a provision for having even lesser number of members in the
Legislative Assembly. Pondicherry, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh have only 30
members each. Sikkim has 32 members. All members of the Legislative Assembly are
elected on the basis of adult franchise, and one member is elected from one
constituency. Just as the President has the power to nominate 2 Anglo Indians to
the Lok Sabha, similarly, the Governor also has the power to nominate a certain
number of members from the Anglo Indian community as he deems fit, if he is of
the opinion that they are not adequately represented in the Assembly.
The Legislative Council consists of not more than 1/3rd of the total strength of
the Legislative Assembly of the state and not less than 40. The members of the
Legislative Council are elected as well as nominated. Broadly speaking, 5/6th of
the total members of the Council are indirectly elected and 1/6th are nominated
by the Governor. The composition is as follows:
i) 1/3 of the total members of the Council are elected by electorates consisting
of members of local bodies such as corporations, municipalities and zila
ii) 1/3 are be elected by members of
Legislative Assembly from among the persons who are not members of the Assembly.
iii) 1/12 are elected by electorates consisting of persons who are graduates of
three years standing, residing in that state.
iv) 1/12 are elected by electorates consisting of persons engaged for at least
three years in teaching in educational institutions within the state, not lower
in standard than secondary schools.
v) The remainder are nominated by the Governor
from persons having knowledge or practical experience in fields such as
legislature, science, arts, co-operative movement and social service.
for membership of the state legislature
The qualifications to be a member of the state
Legislature are largely similar to the qualifications to be the members of
Parliament. A person can become a member of the Legislative Assembly of the
state if he or she is
i) a citizen of India ii) not less than 25 years of age to be member
of the Legislative Assembly and not less than 30 to be a member of the
Legislative Council. No person can become .a member of the Legislative
Assembly or the Legislative Council of any state, unless he himself is a voter
from any constituency of the state. Those who cannot become members of
Parliament can also not become members of state Legislature.
The term of the Legislative Assembly is five
years. But it may be dissolved even earlier than five years by the Governor on
the request of Chief Minister. The term of the Legislative Assembly may be
extended during an Emergency, but not more than six months at a time.
The Legislative Council is the Upper House in
the State. Just like the Rajya Sabha it is a permanent House and cannot be
dissolved. The term of each member is 6 years and 1/3rd members of the House
retire after every two years.
You have read about the Presiding officers of
the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha In the same way the Legislative Assembly and
the Legislative Council also have Presiding Officers. The Legislative Assembly
has a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker. They are elected from among the members of
the House. The Legislative Council has a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman. They
are elected from among its members. The functions performed by these presiding
officers are similar to the function of presiding officers of the two Houses of
Parliament. The Speaker of the Assembly can decide whether a bill is a money
bill or not. Presiding Officers of both the Houses have the right to exercise
casting vote in case of tie.
the State Legislature
The most important function of the Legislature
is law making. The State Legislature has the power to make laws on all items on
which Parliament cannot legislate. Some of these items are police, prisons,
irrigation, agriculture, local governments, public health, pilgrimages, burial
grounds etc. Some items on which both Parliament and states can make laws are
education, marriage and divorce, forests, protection of wild animals and birds
As regards Money Bill, the position is the
same. Bills can originate only in me Legislative Assembly. The Legislative
Council can either pass the bill within 14 days from the date of the receipt of
the Bill or suggest changes in it within 14 days. But these changes may or may
not be accepted by the Assembly.
The State Legislature besides making laws also
has one electoral power, m electing the President of India me elected members of
the Legislative Assembly also take part along with the elected members of
We have seen that some, parts of the
Constitution can be amended by Parliament with the approval of half of State
Legislatures. Thus the State legislatures take part in the process of amendment
of our Constitution.
in the state governments are responsible to the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative
Assembly) of the state. Like Lok Sabha at the centre, state Assembly also keeps
constant vigil over state's Council of Ministers. This is done through
questions, supplementary questions and adjournment motions. The Assembly may
force the Chief Minister and the Council of Minister to resign if it adopts a
vote of no confidence against the government, or if a government proposal, bill
or budget is rejected by the Assembly.