State Council of Ministers (CoM)

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State Council of Ministers (CoM)
State Council of Ministers (CoM)

The State Council of Ministers (CoM) is the backbone of the executive arm of the State Government. Wielding immense power in shaping the state policy and ensuring its implementation, it acts as the State’s central decision-making body. This article of NEXT IAS aims to study in detail the State Council of Ministers (CoM), its meaning, constitutional provisions, composition, roles, responsibilities, and other related aspects.

The State Council of Ministers (CoM) is a central body that forms part of the executive branch of the State Government. It is the real executive authority under the Parliamentary System of Government as provided by the Indian Constitution. The Council serves as the principal advisory body to the Chief Executive Head of State i.e. the Governor. It also plays a pivotal role in decision-making, as well as in the formulation and implementation of government policies.

The important constitutional provisions related to the State Council of Ministers (CoM) in India are listed in the following table.

ArticleSubject-Matter 
Article 163Council of Ministers to aid and advise Governor
Article 164Other provisions as to Ministers 
Article 166Conduct of business of the Government of a State
Article 167Duties of Chief Minister as respects the furnishing of information to the Governor, etc. 
Article 177Rights of Ministers as respects the Houses

The above constitutional provisions have been discussed in detail in the sections that follow.

  • There shall be a Council of Ministers (CoM) with the Chief Minister as the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his/her functions, except in so far as he/she is required to exercise his/her functions in his/her discretion.
  • If any question arises whether a matter falls within the Governor’s discretion or not, the decision of the Governor shall be final.
    • Moreover, the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in his/her discretion.
  • The advice tendered by Ministers to the Governor shall not be enquired into in any court.
  • The Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister.
  • The total number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a State shall not exceed 15 percent of the total strength of the Legislative Assembly of that State. But, the number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, in a State shall not be less than 12.
    • This provision was added by the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003.
  • A member of either House of State Legislature belonging to any political party who is disqualified on the grounds of defection shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a Minister.
    • This provision was also added by the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003.
  • The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor.
  • The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the State Legislative Assembly.
  • The Governor shall administer the oaths of office and secrecy to a Ministers.
  • A Minister who is not a member of the State Legislature for any period of six consecutive months shall cease to be a minister.
  • The salaries and allowances of ministers shall be determined by the State Legislature.
  • All executive actions of the Government of a State shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the Governor.
  • Orders and other instruments made and executed in the name of the Governor shall be authenticated in such manner as may be specified in rules to be made by the Governor.
    • The validity of an order or instrument which is so authenticated shall not be called in question on the ground that it is not an order or instrument made or executed by the Governor.
  • The Governor shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of the State, and for the allocation among ministers of the said business in so far as it is not business with respect to which the Governor is required to act at his/her discretion.

It shall be the he Governo

  • to communicate to the Governor all decisions of the Council of Ministers related to the administration of affairs of the State and proposals for legislation.
  • to furnish such information related to the administration of affairs of the State and proposals for legislation as the Governor may call for.
  • If the Governor so requires, to submit for consideration of the Council of Ministers any matter on which a decision has been taken by a Minister but which has not been considered by the Council of Ministers.
  • Every Minister shall have the right to speak and take part in the proceedings of the Assembly (and also the Council where it exists), and any Committee of the State Legislature of which he may be named as a member, but shall not by virtue of this article be entitled to vote.
    • It means that a Minister who is a member of one House of State Legislature has the right to speak and take part in the proceedings of the other House also (if it is a bicameral legislature).
    • But, he can vote only in the House (Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council) of which he is a member.
  • As the phrase “Council of Ministers (CoM)” suggests, the State Council of Ministers (CoM) in India refers to a group of ministers headed by the Chief Minister – the supreme governing authority of the State.
  • However, the Constitution does not specify the ranking of ministers or the size of the State Council of Ministers.
    • They are decided by the Chief Minister of the State according to the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situation.
  • The State Council of Ministers comprises the following three categories of ministers:
    • Cabinet Ministers,
    • Ministers of State (MoS), and
    • Deputy Ministers.
  • Cabinet Ministers are the ones who head important departments of the State Government such as Home, Defence, Finance, etc.
  • These ministers are the members of the Cabinet, attend its meetings, and play an important role in deciding the policies of the government.
  • Ministers of State (MoS) are the ones who can either be
    • Attached to the Cabinet Ministers; or
    • Given an independent charge of Ministries/Departments.
  • However, they are not a member of the Cabinet and do not attend its meetings unless specifically invited.
  • Deputy Ministers are not given independent charge of the departments.
  • They are, rather, attached to the Cabinet Ministers and assist them in their duties.
  • They are not members of the Cabinet and do not attend the meetings of the Cabinet.
Note: The Council of Ministers also include a Deputy Chief Minister. Mostly, the Deputy Chief Ministers are appointed for local political reasons.

The constitutional provisions regarding the appointment of ministers of the State Council of Ministers (CoM) in India are as follows:

  • The Chief Minister is appointed by the Governor of State.
  • Other ministers are appointed by the Governor of State on the advice of the Chief Minister.
    • Thus, the Governor can appoint only those persons as ministers who are recommended by the Chief Minister.
  • A person who is not a member of either House of the State Legislature can also be appointed as a minister. But, within 6 months, he/she must become a member of either House of the State Legislature, otherwise, he ceases to be a minister.
  • A minister who is a member of one House of the State Legislature has the right to speak and to take part in the proceedings of the other House. But, he/she can vote only in the House of which he/she is a member.

The Governor of State administers the Oath of Office as well as the Oath of Secrecy to the Ministers of the State Council of Ministers (CoM).

Oath of Office
In his/her Oath of Office, the Minister swears:
– to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution
– to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India
– to faithfully and conscientiously discharge the duties of his office
– to do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
Oath of Secrecy
In his/her Oath of Secrecy, the Minister swears:
– that he/she will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to – any person any matter that is brought under his consideration or
– becomes known to him as a State Minister, except as may be
– required for the due discharge of his duties as such minister.
  • The salaries and allowances of the Council of Ministers are determined by the State Legislature from time to time.
  • A minister gets the salary and allowances that are payable to a Member of the State Legislature.
  • Additionally, the minister also gets a sumptuary allowance (according to his/her rank), free accommodation, travelling allowance, medical facilities, etc.

The role of the State Council of Ministers in India can be seen in the following points:

  • It is the highest decision-making authority in the politico-administrative system of a State.
  • It is the chief policy-formulating body of the State Government.
  • It is the supreme executive authority of the State Government.
  • It is the Chief Coordinator of the State Administration.
  • It is an advisory body to the Governor of State.
  • It acts as the Chief Crisis Manager in the case of emergencies.
  • It deals with all major legislative and financial matters.
  • It exercises control over higher appointments like constitutional authorities and senior secretariat administrators.

As per the Constitutional provisions, the ministers forming part of the State Council of Ministers (CoM) have two types of responsibilities – Collective Responsibility and Individual Responsibility. Moreover, in the Indian context, the ministers have no Legal Responsibility.

The details regarding the Responsibility of Ministers are explained in the sections that follow.

Article 164 contains the principle of Collective Responsibility and provides that the State Council of Ministers (CoM) is collectively responsible to the State Legislative Assembly. It means that:

  • When the State Legislative Assembly passes a No-Confidence Motion against the State Council of Ministers (CoM), all the ministers have to resign, including those ministers who are from the State Legislative Council.
  • The State Council of Ministers can advise the Governor to dissolve the State Legislative Assembly on the grounds that the House does not represent the views of the electorate faithfully and calls for fresh elections.
  • The Governor may not oblige the Council of Ministers that has lost the confidence of the State Legislative Assembly.
  • The decisions of the Cabinet bind all the Cabinet ministers and other ministers, even if they differ with it. Every minister must stand by such decisions and support them both within and outside the State Legislature.
    • If any minister disagrees with such a decision and is not prepared to defend it, he/she must resign from his/her post.
  • Article 164 also contains the principle of Individual Responsibility and provides that the ministers hold office during the pleasure of the Governor.
  • It means that the Governor can remove a minister even at a time when the Council of Ministers enjoys the confidence of the State Legislative Assembly.
    • However, the Governor can remove a Minister only on the advice of the Chief Minister.
  • In case of a difference of opinion or dissatisfaction with the performance of a Minister, the Chief Minister can ask him to resign or advise the Governor to dismiss him.
    • By exercising this power, the Chief Minister can ensure the realization of the rule of Collective Responsibility.

In India, there is no provision for a system of legal responsibility of a Minister at both the Central and the State level. Thus, it is not required that an order of the Governor for a public act should be counter-signed by a Minister.

  • Article 163 provides for a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his/ her functions except for the discretionary ones.
  • If any question arises about whether a matter falls within the Governor’s discretion or not, the decision of the Governor is final and the validity of anything done by him/her cannot be called into question on the ground that he/she ought or ought not to have acted at his/her discretion.
  • The nature of advice tendered by the Ministers to the Governor cannot be enquired by any court.
    • This provision emphasizes the intimate and confidential relationship between the Governor and the ministers.
  • As observed by the Supreme Court in the Shamsher Singh vs. State of Punjab Case of 1974:
    • The Governor has to act on the aid and advice of the State Council of Ministers in the exercise of his/her powers and functions except in spheres where he/she has to act at his/her discretion.
    • The Governor is not required to act personally without or against the aid and advice of the State Council of Ministers.
    • Wherever, the Constitution, requires the satisfaction of the Governor, the satisfaction is not the personal satisfaction of the Governor but it is the satisfaction of the State Council of Ministers.

The words ‘Council of Ministers’ and ‘Cabinet’ are often used interchangeably. However, they differ from each other in various respects as depicted in the table below:

Council of Ministers Cabinet 
It is a wider body, consisting of 60 to 70 Ministers.It is a smaller body, consisting of 15 to 20 Ministers.  
It includes all three categories of ministers – Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State, and Deputy Ministers.It includes the Cabinet Ministers only. Thus, it is a sub-set of the Council of Ministers. 
It does not meet, as a body, to transact government business. Thus, it has no collective functions. It meets, as a body, frequently and usually once in a week to deliberate and make decisions regarding the transaction of government business. Thus, it has collective functions.
It is vested with all powers but in theory.It exercises, in practice, the powers of the Council of Ministers and thus, acts for the latter. 
Its functions are determined by the Cabinet. It directs the Council of Ministers by making policy decisions that are binding on all Ministers. 
It implements the decisions taken by the Cabinet. It supervises the implementation of its decisions by the Council of Ministers. 
It is collectively responsible to the Lower House of the Parliament.It enforces the collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers to the Lower House of Parliament. 
  • The State Cabinet works through various committees called Cabinet Committees.
  • These Cabinet Committees are of two types:
    • Standing Committee,
    • Ad Hoc Committees.
      • The former are of permanent nature whereas the latter are of a temporary nature.
  • These Cabinet Committees are set up by the Chief Minister according to the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situation.
    • Hence, their number, nomenclature and composition vary from time to time.
    • These Committees not only sort out issues and formulate proposals for the consideration of the Cabinet but also make decisions. However, the Cabinet can review their decisions.
  • The Kitchen Cabinet is a smaller informal body than the Cabinet consisting of the Chief Minister and his/her few influential colleagues.
  • It may consist of not only the Cabinet Ministers but also friends and family members of the Chief Minister.
  • The Merits and Demerits of the Kitchen Cabinet are as follows:
  • It being a small unit, is a much more efficient decision-making body than a large Cabinet.
  • It can meet more often and deal with business much more expeditiously than a large Cabinet.
  • It helps the Chief Minister maintain secrecy in making decisions.
  • It reduces the authority and status of the Cabinet.
  • It circumvents the legal process by allowing outside persons to play an influential role in the functioning of the government.

In conclusion, the State Council of Ministers (CoM) plays a vital and multifaceted role in the governance and administration of the State. From formulating policies to executing legislative agendas, from managing governmental departments to advising the Governor, its role is multifaceted and indispensable. Through these varied responsibilities, it ensures the integrity and effectiveness of governmental operations and maintains the trust of the citizens in the government.

What is the role of the Council of Ministers (CoM)?

The Council of Ministers, also known as the Cabinet, is the Executive branch of the government that is responsible for the day-to-day administration and governance of a country. It acts as the primary decision-making body of the government, responsible for determining the direction and priorities of government policies.

Who appoints the Chief Minister of the State?

The Chief Minister is appointed by the Governor who also appoints other ministers on the advice of the Chief Minister. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the State.

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