Tag Archives: Polity and Governance

In Focus: Presidential System of Government

In Focus: Presidential System of Government

  • The Presidential system of government is one where the Executive is constitutionally independent of the Legislature, and is not responsible to the legislature.
  • The Presidential form of government, unlike the Parliamentary system, is based on separation of powers, not on the fusion of Legislature and the Executive. 
  • The Presidential system is found, besides the United States of America, in several Latin American countries.
  • The Executive:
    • The executive branch includes the president, vice president, the cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, and other boards, commissions, and committees.
    • The President is the Head of the Government, as is directly elected by the people. The President is also the Head of the State.
    • The vice president supports the president, and is elected along with the president.
      • If the president is unable to serve, the vice president becomes president.
      • The vice president can be elected and serve an unlimited number of four-year terms as vice president, even under a different president.
    • Cabinet members are nominated by the president and must be approved by a simple majority of the Senate (51 votes if all 100 Senators vote).
  • The Legislature:
    • The American Legislature is called the Congress. Its two chambers are:
      • The House of Representatives (Lower House)
      • The Senate (Upper House)
  • The Judiciary:
    • The judicial branch interprets the meaning of laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution.
    • It is comprised of the Supreme Court and other federal courts.
    • The Justices of the Supreme Court are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  

Checks and Balances between the three organs:

  • Each branch of government can change acts of the other branches:
  • The president can veto legislation created by Congress and nominates heads of federal agencies.
  • Congress confirms or rejects the president’s nominees to federal agencies and can remove the president from office in exceptional circumstances.
  • The Justices of the Supreme Court can overturn unconstitutional laws, while their appointment is made by the president (after the nominee is confirmed by the Senate).
  • This ability of each branch to respond to the actions of the other branches is called the system of checks and balances.

Essential features of this system of government:

  • President as the real Executive:
    • All the Executive powers are vested in the hands of the President. The President is free to choose his Ministers (called Secretaries) from anywhere.
  • Separation of powers:
    • The Executive and the Legislature are independent of each other.
  • Non-responsible Executive:
    • The President and his Ministers are not members of Legislature. They are not responsible to Legislature.
  • Fixed tenures:
    • The tenure of office cannot be lessened or increased under any circumstances. The President can be removed by the Legislature only by a process of impeachment.
    • The Legislature too cannot be dissolved before the expiry of its fixed tenure.

Question Hour: Objective, Origin, Regulation, Types of questions.

In Focus: Question Hour

  • Lok Sabha starts every day with Question Hour.
  • The functioning of the Parliament under normal circumstances is as shown:
  • Objective of Question Hour
    • Question Hour is the time of an hour during which Members of Parliament ask any questions from ministers related to the implementation of laws and policies under the purview of their Ministry.
    • Members use it to hold the government accountable for its policies and actions.
    • Its broadcasting on TV started in 1991 and since then, it has become one the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.
  • Origin of Question Hour
    • Asking questions of the government has a long history in our legislative bodies.
    • Prior to Independence, the first question asked of government was in 1893.
    • It was on the burden cast on village shopkeepers who had to provide supplies to touring government officers.
  • Regulation of Question Hour
    • Parliament has comprehensive rules for dealing with every aspect of Question Hour.
    • Authority Conducting the Question Hour:
      • The presiding officers of the two houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
    • Kinds of Questions to be Asked:
      • Parliamentary rules provide guidelines on the kind of questions that can be asked by MPs.
      • Questions have to be limited to 150 words.
      • They have to be precise and not too general.
      • The question should also be related to an area of responsibility of the Government of India.
      • Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
    • Managing Question Hour:
      • To streamline the answering of questions raised by MPs, the ministries are put into five groups.
      • Each group answers questions on the day allocated to it.
    • Limit on Number of Questions:
      • Parliament rules limit the number of starred and unstarred questions an MP can ask in a day .
      • An MP may submit a maximum of five questions per day.
      • Of the questions listed against his name, one may be a starred question. (it is discussed in detail in later section of Types of Questions).
    • Days to Conduct Question Hour:
      • It is the presiding officers of the two Houses who finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.
      • Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session. But there are two days when an exception is made.
    • Exceptions:
      • There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses in the Central Hall.
      • The President’s speech takes place at the beginning of a new Lok Sabha and on the first day of a new Parliament year.
      • Question Hour is not scheduled either on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.
    • Significance of Question Hour
      • The questions that MPs ask are designed to elicit information and trigger suitable action by ministries.
      • Over the last 70 years, MPs have successfully used this parliamentary device to shine a light on government functioning.
      • Their questions have exposed financial irregularities and brought data and information regarding government functioning to the public domain.

Different Types of Questions:

  • There are three different types of questions- Starred, Unstarred and Short Notice Questions.
  • Starred Question:
    • A starred question is asked by an MP and answered orally by the Minister-in-charge.
    • Each MP is allowed to ask one starred question per day.
    • Starred questions are submitted in advance (15 days) and only 20 questions are picked (through ballot) for oral answer on a day.
    • The questioning MP can thereafter ask upto two supplementary questions.
    • The Speaker may then permit other MPs to ask supplementary questions.
  • Unstarred Question:
    • An unstarred question receives a written reply from the Ministry.
    • These are also submitted 15 days in advance.
    • A maximum of 230 unstarred questions are picked for a day.
  • Short Notice Question:
    • These relate to a matter of urgent public importance.
    • They can be asked with less than 10 days’ notice, with reasons for the short notice.
    • Like starred questions they are answered orally followed by supplementary questions.
    • These are admitted at the discretion of the Speaker, with the consent of the concerned Minister.
    • This is a rarely used device; such questions have not been admitted even once in the last 10 years.