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All you Need to Know About Union Executive- NCERT Notes UPSC

Jul 19, 2022

All you Need to Know About Union Executive

Legislature, Executive and Judiciary are the three organs of government. Together, they perform the functions of the government, maintain law and order and look after the welfare of the people. 

The Constitution ensures that they work in coordination with each other and maintain a balance among themselves. In a parliamentary system, the executive and the legislature are interdependent: the legislature controls the executive, and, in turn, is controlled by the executive. 

Read this detailed article on Union Executive and upgrade your UPSC CSE preparation for the upcoming UPSC Mains 2022 exam. 


  • It is the branch of government responsible for the implementation of laws and policies adopted by the legislature. It is often involved in the framing of policy. 
  • The executive branch is not just about Presidents, Prime ministers and ministers and extends to the administrative machinery (civil servants). 
  • Types of Executive:
    • Political Executive: The heads of government and their ministers who are saddled with the overall responsibility of government policy. 
    • Permanent Executive: Those who are responsible for day-to-day administration.
All you Need to Know About Union Executive

Types of Executive

  • In the Presidential System, the office of the President is very powerful. Example- United States, Brazil.
  • Parliamentary System: Example- Germany, Italy, Japan, UK.
    • The Prime Minister is the head of government. 
    • President or a monarch is the nominal Head of state
    • The role of President or Monarch: It is primarily ceremonial and the prime minister along with the cabinet wields effective power.
  • A Semi-Presidential System: Example- France, Russia, Sri Lanka.
    • It has both a President and a Prime Minister but unlike the parliamentary system, the President may possess significant day-to-day powers
    • Possibility of conflict: Sometimes the President and the PM may belong to the same party and sometimes to two different parties and thus, would be opposed to each other.
CanadaParliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy.
FranceSemi-presidential system: The President appoints the Prime Minister as well as the ministers but cannot dismiss them as they are responsible to the parliament. 
JapanParliamentary system with the Emperor as the head of the state and the Prime Minister as the head of government.
ItalyParliamentary system with the President as the formal head of state and the Prime Minister as the head of government. 
RussiaSemi-presidential system where President is the head of state and Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President, is the head of government.
GermanyParliamentary system in which President is the ceremonial head of state and the Chancellor is the head of government. 

Parliamentary Executive in India

  • Experience of India with Parliamentary system: India had some experience of running the parliamentary system under the Acts of 1919 and 1935.
  •  The Constitution makers wanted to ensure that the government would be sensitive to public expectations and would be responsible and accountable.
  • The other alternative to the parliamentary executive was the presidential form of government. which puts much emphasis on the President as the chief executive and as a source of all executive power. There is always the danger of personality cult in the Presidential executive
  • But in the parliamentary form, there are many mechanisms that ensure that the executive will be answerable to and controlled by the legislature or people’s representatives.

Parliamentary System of India

The Constitution adopted the parliamentary system of executive for the governments both at the national and state levels.

At the National level: 

  • The Constitution vests the executive power of the Union formally in the President who is the formal Head of the state of India.
  • The President exercises these powers through the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers run the government.

At the State level 

  • The executive comprises the Governor and the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers

The President

  • Term: The President is elected for a period of five years
  • Election:
    • There is no direct election by the people for the office of the President. 
    • Voters: The elected MLAs and MPs.
    • Procedure: This election takes place in accordance with the principle of proportional representation with a single transferable vote
  • Removal: 
    • The President can be removed from office only by Parliament by following the procedure for impeachment which requires a special majority.
    • The only ground for impeachment is a violation of the Constitution.

Power and position of President 

  • As formal Head of the government:
    • The President has wide-ranging executive, legislative, judicial and emergency powers. 
    • In a parliamentary system, these powers are in reality used by the President only on the advice of the Council of Ministers
    • The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers have the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha and they are the real executive. 
    • In most cases, the President has to follow the advice of the Council of Ministers.

Discretionary Powers of the President 

  • Constitutionally, the President has a right to be informed of all important matters and deliberations of the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister is obliged to furnish all the information that the President may call for. 
  • The President often writes to the Prime Minister and expresses his views on matters confronting the country.

Three situations where the President can exercise the powers using his or her own discretion:

  • The President can send back the advice given by the Council of Ministers and ask the Council to reconsider the decision.
    • Acts on his (or her) own discretion: When the President thinks that the advice has certain flaws or legal lacunae, or that it is not in the best interests of the country, the President can ask the Council to reconsider the decision. 
    • As per an amendment, it was decided that the President can ask the Council of Ministers to reconsider its advice but, has to accept the reconsidered advice. 
  • Veto power by which he can withhold or refuse to give assent to Bills (other than Money Bill) passed by the Parliament.
    • Every bill passed by the Parliament goes to the President for his assent to become a law.
    • The President can send the bill back to the Parliament asking it to reconsider the bill. This ‘veto’ power is limited because, if the Parliament passes the same bill again and sends it back to the President, then, the President has to give assent to that bill.
    • However, there is no mention in the Constitution about the time limit within which the President must send the bill back for reconsideration. 
    • “Pocket veto”: The President can just keep the bill pending with him without any time limit. It gives the President an informal power to use the veto in a very effective manner.

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  • Discretion arises more out of political circumstances:
  • Formally, the President appoints the Prime Minister when a leader has the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha. 
  • Sometimes after an election, no leader or an alliance has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, or two or three leaders are claiming majority support in the House.
  • In such a situation, the President has to use his own discretion in judging who really may have the support of the majority or who can actually form and run the government. 
  • Scope for Presidential assertiveness: When governments are not stable and coalitions occupy power. 

Need of the President

  • In a parliamentary system, the Council of Ministers is dependent on the support of the majority in the legislature. So, it may be removed and replaced at any time.
  • Such a situation requires a Head of the state who has a fixed term and who may be empowered to appoint the PM and who may symbolize the entire country
  • When no party has a clear majority, the President has the additional responsibility of making a choice and appointing the Prime Minister to run the government of the country.

The Vice-President of India

  • Term: Elected for Five years. 
  • Election method: It is similar to that of the President and the only difference is that members of State legislatures are not part of the electoral college
  • Removal: The Vice President may be removed from his office by a resolution of the Rajya Sabha passed by a majority and agreed to by the Lok Sabha. 
  • Role:
    • The Vice President acts as the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and takes over the office of the President when there is a vacancy by reasons of death, resignation, removal by impeachment or otherwise. 
    • The Vice President acts as the President only until a new President is elected. For example, B. D. Jatti acted as President after the death of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed until a new President was elected.

Prime Minister and Council of Ministers

The President exercises his powers only on the advice of the Council of Ministers, which is headed by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

  • In the parliamentary form of executive, it is essential that the Prime Minister has the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha.  So, he/she loses the office if this support of the majority is lost. 
  • Since 1989, various political parties have come together and formed a coalition that has a majority in the House. A person is appointed PM who is acceptable to most partners of the coalition.
  • The Prime Minister allocates ranks and portfolios to the ministers. 

Council of Ministers

  • The Prime Minister decides who will be the Ministers in the Council of Ministers.
  • The Ministers are given the ranks of Cabinet Minister, Minister of State or Deputy Minister
  • Similarly, Chief Ministers of the States choose Ministers from their own party or coalition. 
  • Size of the Council of Ministers:
    • 91st Amendment Act (2003): The Council of Ministers shall not exceed 15 percent of the total number of members of the House of the People (or Assembly for states).
    • Before this, the size of the Council of Ministers was determined according to exigencies of time and requirements of the situation. The minister berth was used as temptation to win over the support of the members of the Parliament.

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Executive under control and supervision of the legislature

  • The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha
  • Council of Ministers which loses the confidence of the Lok Sabha is obliged to resign
  • Collective responsibility: It is based on the principle of the solidarity of the cabinet. It implies that a vote of no confidence even against a single Minister leads to the resignation of the entire Council of Ministers. 
  • Binding on all Ministers to pursue or agree to a policy: It indicates that if a minister does not agree with a policy or decision of the cabinet, he or she must either accept the decision or resign. 

Pre-eminent position of Prime Minister

  • Council of Ministers cannot exist without the Prime Minister: The Council comes into existence only after the Prime Minister has taken the oath of office. 
  • The death or resignation of the Prime Minister automatically brings about the dissolution of the Council of Ministers, but the demise, dismissal or resignation of a minister only creates a ministerial vacancy. 
  • It acts as a link between the Council of Ministers on the one hand and the President as well as the Parliament on the other.
  • Constitutional obligation of Prime Minister: To communicate to the President all decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation. 
  • The Prime Minister is involved in all crucial decisions of the government and decides on the policies of the government. 
  • Power wielded by the Prime Minister flows from various sources: Control over the Council of Ministers, the leadership of the Lok Sabha, command over the bureaucratic machine, access to media, projection of personalities during elections, projection as a national leader during international summitry as well as foreign visits.

Political conditions affecting the power of the Prime Minister

  • Unassailable: Whenever a single political party has secured a majority in the Lok Sabha. 
  • Weak: Coalition governments sometimes be removed or resigned due to loss of support.

Effect of the Coalition Government on the working of the Parliamentary Executive:

  • It has resulted in a growing discretionary role of the President in the selection of Prime Ministers. 
  • It has necessitated much more consultation between political partners, leading to erosion of prime ministerial authority.
  • It has also brought restrictions on various prerogatives of the Prime Minister, like choosing the ministers and deciding their ranks and portfolios. 
  • Even the policies and programmes of the government cannot be decided by the Prime Minister alone. Policies are framed after a lot of negotiations and compromises among the allies. 
  • The Prime Minister has to act more as a negotiator than as leader of the government. 

Parliamentary Executive at State Level:

  • A similar parliamentary executive exists, though with some variations.
  • Important variation: Governor of the State appointed by the President (on the advice of the central government). 
  • Though the Chief Minister, like the Prime Minister, is the leader of the majority party in the Assembly, the Governor has more discretionary powers
  • The main principles of the parliamentary system operate at the State level too.

Permanent Executive: Bureaucracy

  • The Executive organ of the government includes the Prime Minister, the Ministers and a large organisation called the bureaucracy or the administrative machinery
  • To underline the difference between this machinery and the military service, it is described as civil service.
  • Trained and skilled officers who work as permanent employees of the government are assigned the task of assisting the Ministers in formulating policies and implementing these policies. 

Role of Bureaucracy

  • In a democracy, the elected representatives and the Ministers are in charge of the government and the administration is under their control and supervision. 
  • The administrative officers cannot act in violation of the policies adopted by the legislature. It is the responsibility of the ministers to retain political control over the administration. 
  • India has established professional administrative machinery
  • At the same time, this machinery is made politically accountable.
  • Expected to be politically neutral: As Bureaucracy will not take any political position on policy matters. 

System of Indian Bureaucracy

  • Enormously complex system: It consists of the All-India services, State services, employees of the local governments, and technical and managerial staff running public sector undertakings
classification of civil services
  • Impartial selection based on merit: The Union Public Service Commission has been entrusted with the task of conducting the process of recruitment of civil servants for the government of India. 
  • Similar public service commissions are provided for the States also. 
  • Members of the Public Service Commissions are appointed for a fixed term
  • Their removal or suspension is subject to a thorough enquiry made by a judge of the Supreme Court.
  • More representative: The Constitution has provided for the reservation of jobs for the Dalits and Adivasis. Subsequently, they have also been provided for women and other backward classes. 
  • Persons selected by the UPSC for Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service constitute the backbone of the higher-level bureaucracy in the States. 
  • An IAS or IPS officer is assigned to a particular State, where he or she works under the supervision of the State government. 
  • Key administrative officers of the States are under the supervision of the central government:
    • However, the IAS or IPS officers are appointed by the central government, and they can go back into the service of the central government.
    • Only the central government can take disciplinary action against them
  • Apart from the IAS and the IPS officers appointed by the UPSC, the administration of the State is looked after by officers appointed through the State Public Service Commissions. 

Issues with the Bureaucracy

  • Insensitive to ordinary citizens: People are afraid of approaching a government officer. 
  • Political interference: It turns the bureaucracy into an instrument in the hands of the politician. 
  • There are less provisions for protecting the civil servants from political interference.
  • Not enough provisions: It is also felt that enough provisions are not there to ensure the accountability of the bureaucracy to the citizen. There is an expectation that measures like the Right to Information may make the bureaucracy a little more responsive and accountable.

Interesting Points

  • Semi-Presidential Executive in Sri Lanka:
    • The system of Executive Presidency was introduced in 1978. Under this, people directly elect the President. The President has vast powers under the Constitution. 
    • The President chooses the Prime Minister from the party that has a majority in the Parliament. Though ministers must be members of the Parliament, the President has the power to remove the Prime Minister or ministers. 

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