Q. “Accountability of the executive to the legislature, in Westminster forms of Government is arithmetically driven”. Examine-in the Indian context.
Accountability means being held to account, scrutinised, and being required to give an account or explanation. The Westminster model of parliamentary government is usually described as government through Parliament rather than government by Parliament, Parliamentary government seeks to control the exercise of power by making the executive directly responsible to the legislature.
- Article 75 (3) of the Constitution provides that “the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of People.” This provision is the cornerstone of one of the most important functions of the Union Legislature, namely, legislative oversight of executive functioning.
- The Constitution, by making this provision, has empowered the legislature, the House of People, to hold the executive accountable for its acts of omission and commission, to monitor the actions of the executive with a view to ensuring that they are being carried out effectively and according to the legislative intent.
WAYS IN WHICH ACCOUNTABILITY IS ARITHMETICALLY DRIVEN:
- No-Confidence Motion-The most powerful weapon that enables the Parliament to ensure executive accountability is the no-confidence motion. As long as the government has the support of its party or coalition of parties that has a majority in the LokSabha, the power. Thus, the Parliament can effectively control the executive and ensure a more responsive government. However for such a motion to be passed, numbers are important and any government with a sufficiently comfortable majority does not get called into question based on this device.
- Participation in Legislation: Generally bills are introduced by ministers relating to their departments. It is very rare that Private member bills are introduced and subsequently passed by the houses. These bills in the second reading referred to the committees are thoroughly scrutinized and any evidence or documents required for such scrutiny by the committee is provided by the executive. Moreover, even if the Government is in a minority in the RajyaSabha, the provision of joint sitting invariably allows the Government’s objectives to be met.
- Ordinances: The President can proclaim ordinances in the absence of House in session. However, the ordinance lapses if the Houses pass a resolution disapproving it.
- Emergency Provisions: The power of the executive to declare an emergency at the State level is subject to parliamentary control and yet, if it has sufficient numbers, a number of provisions of the constitution can be amended by a simple majority.
- The opposition- the effectiveness of the opposition simply depends upon the party composition of Parliament. Where governments have a comfortable majority, there is not much that the opposition can do to censure the government.
- Joint Sessions: The authors of the Constitution of India visualized situations of deadlock between the upper house i.e. RajyaSabha and the lower house i.e. LokSabha. Therefore, the Constitution of India provides for Joint sittings of both the Houses to break this deadlock. However, the government in the majority has always been able to get the bills passed as evident from past experiences.
HOW ACCOUNTABILITY NOT DRIVEN ARITHMETICALLY:
- The Department related Parliamentary Standing Committees consider the Demands for Grants of the related Ministries and examine Bills pertaining to the related Ministries. There have been several instances where the issues taken up by the Committees have strongly influenced the thinking and policies of the Government.
- The Committee on Public Accounts and the Committee on Public Undertakings exercise budgetary oversight. These financial committees are considered the most potent parliamentary mechanism for effective financial accountability of the executive
- Question Hour is usually the first hour of every sitting of the house. Usually, members ask questions and ministers’ answers. Zero Hour is an informal tool available to the members to raise matters without any prior notice.
- Privilege Motion -The motion will be introduced by the opposition if a minister has misled the house by providing wrong information. Its purpose is to ensure the concerned minister.
- 5. Censure Motion– It can be brought against the ruling government or against any minister for the failure to act or seeking disapproval of their policy. It can be moved only in LokSabha only by the opposition.
- Accountability of the executive to Parliament is the very essence of parliamentary democracy but this accountability shouldn’t affect the functional effectiveness of the institution. Democratic control
should be limited when it turns into rule-obsession, protecting the integrity of the institution should be limited when it leads to proceduralism and when efforts to bring improvement leads to rigidity are where the line should be drawn.