Write a detailed note on parliamentary form of government.
The parliamentary system of government is the one in which the executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts. The presidential system of government, on the other hand, is one in which the executive is not responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts, and is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect of its term of office.The parliamentary government is also known as cabinet government irresponsible government or Westminster model of government and is prevalent in Britain, Japan, Canada, India among others.Ivor Jennings called the parliamentary system as cabinet system because the cabinet is the nucleus of power in a parliamentary system. The parliamentary government is also known as responsible government as the cabinet is accountable to the Parliamentary and stays in office so long as it enjoys the latter’s confidence.It is described as ‘Westminster model of government after the location of the British Parliament, where the parliamentary system originated. In the past, the British constitutional and political experts described the Prime Minister as ‘primus international’ in relation to the cabinet. In the recent period, the Prime Minister’s power, influence and position have increased significantly vis-a-vis the cabinet. He has come to play a dominant role in the British politico-administrative system.
Features of Parliamentary Form of Government
- Nominal and Real Executive:
The President is the nominal executive while the prime Minister is the real executive. Thus, the President is head of the state, while the Prime Minister is head of the government.
- Majority Party Rule:
The political party which secures majority seats in the Lok Sabha forms the government. The leader of that party is appointed as the Prime Minister by the President; other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. However, when no single party gets the majority, a coalition of parties may be invited by the President to form government.
- Collective Responsibility
This is the primary bedrock principle of parliamentary government. The ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament.
- Double Membership:
The ministers are members of both the legislature and the executive.
- Leadership of the Prime Minister
The Prime Minister plays the leadership role in this system of government. He is the leader of council of ministers, leader of the Parliament and leader of the party in power. In these capacities he plays a significant and highly crucial role in the functioning of the government.
Merits of the Parliamentary Form of Government
- Harmony between Legislature and Executive
The greatest advantage of the parliamentary system is that it ensures harmonious relationship and cooperation between the legislative and executive organs of the government. The executive is a part of the legislature and both are interdependent at work. As a result, there is less scope for disputes and conflicts between the two organs.
- Responsible Government:
The parliamentary system establishes a responsible government. The ministers are responsible to the Parliament for all their acts of omission and commission. The Parliament exercises control over the ministers through various devices like question hour, discussion, adjournment motion, no confidence motion, etc.
- Prevents Despotism:
Under this system, the executive authority is vested in a group of individuals (council of ministers) and not in a single person. This dispersal of authority checks the dictatorial tendencies of the executive. Moreover, the executive is responsible to the Parliament and can be removed by a no-confidence motion.
- Wide Representation:
In a parliamentary system, it is possible to provide representation to all sections and regions in the government. The Prime Minister while selecting his minister can take this factor into consideration.
Demerits of the Parliamentary Form of Government
- Unstable Government:
The Parliamentary system does not provide a stable government. There is no guarantee that government can survive its tenure. The ministers depend on the majority legislators for their continuity and survival in office. A no-confidence motion or political defection or evils of multiparty coalition can make the government unstable.
- No Continuity of policies:
The parliamentary system is not conductive for the formulation and implementation of long term policies. This is due to the uncertainty of the tenure of the government. A change in the ruling party is usually followed by changes in the policies of the government.
- Dictatorship of the Cabinet:
When the ruling party enjoys absolute majority in the Parliament, the cabinet becomes autocratic and exercises nearly unlimited powers.
Harold J Laski says that the parliamentary system gives the executive an opportunity for tyranny.
Ramsay Muir the former British Prime Minister, also complained of the dictatorship of the cabinet.
- Against Separation of Powers:
In the parliamentary system, the legislature and the executive are together and inseparable. The cabinet acts as the leader of the legislature as well as the executive. Hence, the whole system of government goes against the letter and spirit of the theory of separation of powers.