Whether collective responsibility is the basis of Parliamentary form of Government?

The author in this article discusses whether collective responsibility is the basis of Parliamentary form of Government? It further discusses that the principle of collective responsibility secures the unity of the Cabinet and the Council of Ministers


What is Collective Responsiblity?

Collective Ministerial Responsibility in the crux of any Parliamentary form of government.  The principle of collective responsibility represents ministerial accountability to the legislature of the country. In India, the concept of collective responsibility exists. The Union Executive is collectively responsible to the House of the People and the State Executive is collective responsibility to the Legislative Assembly. This is specifically enshrined in the Constitution under Article 75(3).

It can be interpreted to mean that the Government must maintain a majority in the Lok Sabha, the House of People as a condition of its survival. The entire object of Collective responsibility is to make all the people holding ministerial office collectively, or in the legal language “vicariously responsible for such acts of the others as are referable to their collective violation so that, even if an individual may not be personally responsible for it, yet, he will be deemed to share the responsibility with those who may have actually committed some wrong.”[1]

The collective responsibility under Article 75 of the Constitution of India has two meanings: (I) All members of Government are unanimously in support of the policies made by that government,

 (II) The ministers, are personally and morally responsible for the success and failure of all the policies.[2]

 Collective responsibility of the cabinet refers to the accepted conduct of Government Ministers as part of the cabinet. Ministers are bound to support publicly the decisions made by the Cabinet as a whole and will show no disagreement with any decision made by the particular government outside the cabinet room. This concept has evolved to ensure cabinet’s unity and party discipline and showing that the government stands firmly behind the policies it promotes and seeks to pass through the parliament. The principle of collective responsibility secures the unity of the Cabinet and the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Nehru took occasion to expound the principle as follows in the context of State Governments,

What is Parliamentary form of Government?

Parliamentary government is a vote based type of government in which the ideological group that successes the most extreme seats in the lawmaking body or parliament during the administrative political race shapes the legislature. This lion’s share party picks a pioneer to be the Prime Minister, and other high-positioning individuals from the gathering make up the bureau. The minority party frames the restriction, and its main responsibility is to challenge the dominant part party. On the off chance that no gathering can win a lion’s share in the political decision, an alliance government will be shaped with a couple of ideological groups collaborating together.

It’s called ‘parliamentary government’ since the entirety of the force is vested in the parliament. In a presidential framework like the United States, the official branch is independent, and the president is chosen by the citizens of the country. In a parliamentary framework, the top of the administration is managed the parliament, and is regularly one of the most senior individuals or priests in parliament, which is the place we get the term ‘PM.’ Often in a parliamentary framework, the nation will have a Head of State, who is a stylized figure like the Queen, however doesn’t participate in enacting or legislative issues.The decisions of the Cabinet are regarded as the decisions of the whole Council of Ministers and binding on all Ministers. A Minister cannot disown responsibility for any Cabinet decision so long as he remains a Minister. He cannot both remain a Minister and criticize or oppose a Cabinet decision or even adopt an attitude of neutrality, or oppose a colleague in public. A Minister who disagrees with a Cabinet decision on a policy matter, and is not prepared to support and defend it, should no longer remain in the Council of Ministers and should better resign.

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Legal Backing to the Doctrine of Collective Responsibility

The guideline of collective responsibility is both healthy and essential. In S.P. Anand, Indore v. H. D. Deve Gowda[3], it was held that despite the fact that a Prime Minister isn’t an individual from either House of Parliament, when he is delegated he likewise his Ministers become liable to the House and the guideline of collective responsibility administers the law based procedure. On no other condition can a Council of Ministers function as a group and carry on the administration of the nation. It is the Prime Minister who upholds collective duty among the Ministers through his definitive capacity to excuse a Minister. The Supreme Court has decided that the rule of collective duty is in full activity insofar as the Lok Sabha isn’t broken up. “Be that as it may, when it is broken up the Council of Ministers can’t normally appreciate the certainty of the House of People.”[4]

The Gujarat High Court has depicted the rule of collective responsibility as follows: “Collective responsibility implies all Ministers share collective responsibility in any event, for choices in which they have taken no part at all or in which they may have contradicted at the gathering of the Council of Ministers. Collective Responsibility implies the individuals from Council of Ministers express a typical sentiment. It implies unanimity and confidentiality.”[5]

As indicated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, collective responsibility implies that “all individuals from a legislature are consistent on the side of its approaches and would show that unanimity on open events despite the fact that while defining the strategies, they may have communicated an alternate view in the gathering of the Cabinet.”[6]

It is to offer impact to the guideline of collective duty that the thoughts of the Cabinet are left well enough alone and classified since protection of a unified front will get incomprehensible if divulgences are allowed of the distinctions of feeling which rose at a Cabinet meeting among its members.[7]

The consequences of this secrecy are far reaching. “Depending on this assurance, Cabinet individuals are allowed to voice their suppositions without hold regarding all matters which come up for conversation; the intentions which have impacted the Cabinet in going to its choice won’t be uncovered; the dissentients can bolster the corporate approach without acting naturally singled out for uncommon assault or having the thought processes impugned.”[8]

A Cabinet Minister may lose his office on the off chance that he uncovers the subtleties of a Cabinet conversation to the press. The mystery may now and again be discharged in part when a Minister leaves his office. He is qualified for say something in Parliament so he may uncover the explanations behind his renunciation.

How far can an Ex-Cabinet Minister be legitimately committed not to uncover Cabinet conversation?

This request has been answered in Britain in Attorney-General v. Jonathan Cape Ltd.[9] Crossman was a Cabinet Minister for just about six years (1964-1970). He kept up a quick and dirty dairy about the Cabinet strategies. After he halted to be a Minister, he began to assemble his diaries with a view to their unavoidable appropriation. Crossman kicked the pail in 1974. After his downfall, his diaries were normal for circulation. The Attorney General brought a movement for mandate against Crossman’s specialists for controlling them to disseminate the diaries. His contention was that the Cabinet systems and Cabinet papers being puzzle, these couldn’t be uninhibitedly revealed. The mystery of Cabinet papers and systems radiate from “the demonstration of joint Cabinet obligation” “whereby any game plan decision came to by the Cabinet must be reinforced starting there by all people from the Cabinet whether they backing of it or not, aside from in the event that they feel obliged to leave.”

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Ministers must not Vote against Government Policy

Without this, it could be argued that a government has lost the right to exist, and is therefore the most fundamental part of the whole doctrine of Collective Cabinet Responsibility. When a Minister votes for his or her government, he/she is giving a public expression of support even though, in private, he or she may be less enthusiastic for the measure. Even as abstention would be seen as breaking the convention – it is not enough simply not to vote against, but a positive display of support is required.

Ministers must not speak against Government Policy

Voting against or abstaining are fairly clear breaches of the convention, yet speaking against the government is less clear-cut. In the age of spin, press briefing, and leaks, a Minister may always find a way to communicate his or her dissatisfaction with a particular Government position.

All decisions are decisions of the whole Government

A Minister should not brief or leak against a cabinet colleague in order to attack the position of an individual or group within the Cabinet or to place distance between themselves and the policy.

A former minister must not reveal Cabinet secrets

To protect the unanimity and confidentiality of the Cabinet proceedings, a Minister must not reveal the secrets in any form.

The Convention of Collective Responsibility

Geoffrey Marshall has identified three strands within the convention of collective responsibility [10], which are as follows:

  1. The Confidence PrincipleA government can only remain in office for so long as it retains the confidence of the House of Commons, a confidence which can be assumed unless and until proven otherwise by a confidence vote.
  2. The Unanimity Principle: Perhaps the most important practical aspect is that all members of the government speak and vote together in Parliament, same in situations where the Prime Minister and Cabinet themselves make an exception such as a free vote or an ‘agreement to differ’.
  3. The Confidentiality PrincipleThis recognizes that unanimity, as a universally applicable situation, is a constitutional fiction, but one which must be maintained, and is said to allow frank ministerial discussion within Cabinet and Government.

As indicated by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Collective Responsibility is authorized by the implementation of two standards. One rule is that, No individual will be named to the bureau with the exception of on the exhortation of the Prime Minister. Furthermore, no individual will be held as a Member of the Cabinet if the Prime Minister says that he ought to be excused. It is just when the Members of the Cabinet, both in the matter of their excusal are put under the Prime Minister, that it is conceivable to understand our optimal of aggregate obligation.

Strategies by which Parliament Ensures Ministerial Responsibility

The Council of Ministers is dependable to the Lok Sabha. There are a few techniques by which Parliament guarantees Ministerial Responsibility. They are:

a) To put to Ministers addresses which ought to be appropriately replied. No Minister can bear to trifle with an inquiry, on the grounds that occasionally even a basic enquiry may prompt a surprising volume of analysis. The inquiries give MPs, and through them the overall population, some proportion of authority over the Executive.

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b) Moving an Adjournment Motion for talking about a significant issue that ought to have dire thought.

c) Moving Cut Motions when the monetary issues are getting looked at.

d) The discussions happen on a goal moved in the House, however no discussion is permitted during Question Hour or Half-an-Hour conversation.

e) Moving Censure Motion against an individual Minister or a gathering of Ministers for their disappointments.

f) Moving a No-Confidence Motion. Such a Motion is moved by a part or Leader of Opposition. On the off chance that the Motion is conveyed, it suggests loss of certainty and the Government needs to leave.


Article 75(3) obliges the Council of Ministers being Collectively Responsible to Lok Sabha. The entire Council of Ministers is commonly trustworthy to Lok Sabha for all showings of Government. Thusly, it stands or falls together. In case it loses the conviction of the House, the entire Council of Ministers must leave. In like manner, Collective Responsibility would infer that the Ministers must not talk out in the open in different voices.

The standard of Collective Responsibility may be seen as integral to the working of the Parliamentary Government, for what it’s worth in the solidarity of the Cabinet that its key quality misrepresentations. The standard of Collective Responsibility suggests that the Council of Ministers is careful as a body for the general direct of the issues of the organization. All ministers stand or fall together in Parliament, and the organization is carried on as a solidarity. The standard ensures that the Council of Ministers fills in as a gathering, as a unit, and as a body arranges the assurance of the House and that the Cabinet’s decisions are the joint decisions of all the Ministers.[11] There has been for a long time and is at present countless ideological gatherings in India. With no particular social affair prepared for forming an organization in solitude, there have been collusion governments at within and in various states for about the latest 40 years. The country has and is being constrained by different social events which not solely don’t address the bigger part in the country anyway may not address the lion’s offer in their own state. With different political plans there is routinely no concession to critical issues of procedure. Perils of withdrawal of help aside from if a coalition assistant’s particular political arrangement is met, has come about either in a stalemate or in an individual minister answerable for the administration taking decisions without conversing with the Council or the Cabinet.

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[1] State of Karnataka v. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 68: (1977) 4 SCC 608: (1978) 2 SCR 1.

[2] Common Cause v. Union of India, 1999 6 SCC 667.

[3] 1996 (6) SCC 734 : AIR 1997 SC 272

[4] U.N.R. Rao v. Indira Gandhi,  AIR 1971 SC 1002: (1971) 2 SCC 63.

[5] Dattaji Chirandas v. State of Gujarat, AIR 1999 Guj. 48, 59.

[6] Common Cause v. Union of India, AIR 1999 SC 2979 at 2992 : (1999) 6 SCC 667.

[7] Wade and Phillips, op. cit., 100.

[8] Dawson, op. cit., 185

[9] [1976] QB 752.

[10] Marshall, G. (1989), Ministerial Responsibility, pp2-4.

[11] State of Jammu and Kashmir v. Bakshi Gulam Mohd., AIR 1967 SC 122 : 1966 Supp SCR 401