Executive Branch

The Executive

The Indian government is made up of three components: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The Executive branch is primarily responsible for the implementation of the laws passed by the legislature and the policies of the government. It is common for people to identify the executive with the government of the country due to an increase in the power and role of the executive in every state.[1]

The term ‘Executive’ has both broad and narrow definitions. A broad definition of the ‘Executive Branch’ includes all permanent civil servants who undertake the execution of laws and policies and run the administration of the state.[2] The narrow definition includes only the political executive. The Union Executive in India comprises the President, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, together with the Prime Minister’s Office. The State Executive consists of the Governor, the Chief Minister and the State Council of Ministers.


Functions of the Indian Executive[3]:

  • Enforcement of laws: The executive organises and maintains the police force in order to maintain law and order.
  • Appointments: The President is responsible for appointing the Prime Minister, who is in turn in charge of appointing other Cabinet ministers in consultation with the President.
  • Treaties: This power determines which treaties are to be signed, negotiated, concluded or ratified in accordance with constitutional provisions and international law.
  • Defence, peace-making and declaration of war: The power to command defence forces, ensure peace or declare war in order to protect the unity and integrity of India is one of the most important functions of the Executive.
  • Foreign policy: The executive is responsible for maintaining foreign relations and formulating foreign policy for the State.
  • Policy-making: The executive is also in charge of shaping major policies in order to promote the socio-economic development, health, education, growth and welfare of the country.
  • Delegated legislation: A major part of the legislative making powers in modern states has been delegated to the executive due to paucity of time and in order to reduce the burden on the legislature. For instance, the legislature would make the framework and the policy within which the executive is able to make laws. The law filling function is then delegated to the Executive which has to pass the law within the given framework and policy.
  • Financial functions: The executive comparatively has power over the management of finances in the country. This involves the preparation of the budget which is required to be approved by the legislature.
  • Judicial function: The Executive has the powers to grant pardons, commute sentences and reduce the punishment of those found guilty of heinous crimes.
  • Granting of titles and honour: The Executive has the power to grant titles and honours for achievements to citizens from different walks of life.


Union Executive

The President[4] is an elected member of the Executive.[5] He/she is elected by the members of the Electoral College, which consist of the elected members of both houses of Parliament and the legislative assemblies of the states.[6] This is done in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote, where suitable weightage is given to each vote.[7] The system of proportional representation ensures equal representation to all groups.[8] The single transferable vote system allows each voter to mark out her preference for the presidential candidate.[9]If there are 3 candidates, for example, the voter will give 3 preferences. However, giving a preference does not suffice alone in being a decisive factor for winning the election. There are specific formulae by which the final calculation is done and a candidate is declared as the elected President. 

To become President, an individual must be an Indian citizen, not less than 35 years of age and meet the qualification for election as a member of Lok Sabha.[10] Some of the major qualifications being he/she must be a citizen of India, must not be less than 25 years of age, must not hold any office of profit, to name a few.[11] The tenure of office is fixed at 5 years[12] and the same member is eligible to be re-elected as President.[13] Removal of the President is in line with Article 61 which involves an impeachment process in case of violation of the Constitution. The charge of violating the constitution can be preferred by either house of the Parliament. Upon completion of an investigation into the charges and a resolution being passed by not less than 2/3 of the majority of members in both the houses sustaining the charge, the President would stand impeached and would have to step down from office. He/She can also resign by his own writing to the Vice President. The Vice-President communicates this fact to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.[14] The president exercises executive power directly or through his subordinates, as per the provisions of the Constitution.[15] The President is the supreme commander of the defence forces in India. Presidential power can be exercised to summon, adjourn, address the Parliament, dissolve the Lok Sabha announce ordinances when both the houses are not in session. Powers also include: making financial recommendations, giving assent to bills, granting pardons, commuting sentences and reducing punishments. The President carries out functions of the government in states where there is break-down of constitutional machinery. The President also has the power to declare emergency where there lies a threat to India’s security. 

The Vice President[16] is elected by members of an Electoral College consisting of members of both houses of the Parliament in the same procedure as the President.[17] The qualifications for the Vice President is the same as that of the President, with the exception that he must be eligible for election as a member of Rajya Sabha.[18] His tenure is for a period of 5 years.[19] He serves as the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. As the ex-officio chairman, he presides over the meetings of the Rajya Sabha and ensures that its proceedings are conducted in consonance with the Constitutional provisions.[20] He also acts as the guardian of the rights and privileges of the members of the House. His removal is to be in accordance with Article 67(b)[21]. The Vice President acts as the President when the latter is unable to discharge his functions due to absence, illness or any other situation, such as vacancy in office[22]. At that time, his powers as the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha[23]comes to a halt.

The Prime Minister[24]  is the leader of the parliamentary party in the majority (Lok Sabha) and is appointed by the President[25]. The Prime Minister and the other ministers make up the Council of Ministers and this group cannot exceed 15% of the members of the Lok Sabha.[26] The Council of Ministers[27] constitute the most powerful unit of the Executive. Headed by the Prime Minister, it consists of Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State, deputy ministers and parliamentary secretaries. Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.[28]

India following the Parliamentary system of government vests more power in the executive head of the government which is the Prime Minister than the head of the State i.e. the President. Thus the Office of Prime Minister is the most powerful in India and he/she is the most powerful person in India. It is the Office of the Prime Minister that takes all the political decisions and undertakes the framing of policies.[29]


State Executive

The State executive comprises the Governor[30] and a State Council of Ministers, headed by the Chief Minister. The Governor of a State is appointed by the President[31] for a term of five years and holds office during his pleasure.[32] He/she can be re-appointed for another term. He/she must be an Indian citizen, must have completed 35 years of age, must not hold any office of profit and must not be a member of the Legislature of the Union or of any other state. If he/she is a member of the Legislature, he/she immediately ceases to be a Member of the Legislature.[33]

The Chief Minister is appointed by the Governor by suggesting a procedural vote of confidence in the state legislature, to establish the selection of the Chief Minister.[34] He/She is to appointed for a tenure of 5 years. However, this tenure can be terminated by the governor before the completion of this tenure when the majority party/alliance loses the confidence vote in the state legislative assembly.[35]The Chief Minister may also resign from his/her post before the completion of the term. The minimum age for becoming the Chief Minister is 25 years and there is no age for the retirement to this office.[36]

Some of the executive power of the State is vested in the Governor.[37] This power includes using their discretion in the appointment of Chief Minister of a State, sending a report to President of a break-down of constitutional machinery in a State and in respect of matters relating to assent to a Bill passed by the legislature. The Governor has the power to reserve any Bill on subjects such as the imposition of taxes on storage, compulsory acquisition of property and other such subjects for the consideration of the President.[38] The Governor also appoints other ministers on the advice of the Chief Minister who form the Council of Ministers in the State.[39]This is done by choosing members of the party for particular ministries. However, the governor exercises these powers as a nominal head. It is the Chief Minister which exercises the executive power of the state government which includes technological, socio-economic development etc. in their respective state.[40] All the major decisions in the state are taken by the Chief Minister with the support of the council of ministers. Different departments are allotted to the Ministers.[41] The core council of ministers are chosen by the Chief Minister and form the Cabinet. Ministers are removed from their portfolios if they have not performed as per the Chief Minister’s expectations. [42]

[1] D.D. Basu, Shorter Constitution of India, (13th ed., 2001).

[2] K.K Ghai, ‘Executive: Definition, Functions and Types of Executive’, Available at: http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/political-science/executive-definition-functions-and-types-of-executive/40360, last accessed: 10 December, 2019.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Article 52, Constitution of India, 1950.

[5] ‘The Union’, Know India, Government of India, Available at: https://knowindia.gov.in/profile/the-union/executive.php, last accessed: 12 December, 2019.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Article 55, Constitution of India, 1950.

[8] ‘How is the President of India elected?’ Indian Express, 17th July, 2017, Available at: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/how-is-the-president-of-india-elected-pranab-mukherjee-4675979/, last accessed: 9 January, 2020.

[9] Ibid.

[10] ‘The Indian Government’, Available at: https://governmentofindia.weebly.com/executive-branch.html, last accessed: 3 December, 2019.

[11] D.D. Basu, Shorter Constitution of India, (13th ed., 2001).

[12] Article 56, Constitution of India, 1950.

[13]Article 57, Constitution of India, 1950.

[14] Dheeraj, ‘The President of India: Oath, Tenure and Other Details’, Your Article Library, Available at: http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/constitution/the-president-of-india-oath-tenure-and-other-details/49222, last accessed: 2 January, 2020.

[15] Article 53, Constitution of India, 1950.

[16] Article 63, Constitution of India, 1950.

[17] ‘The Union’, Know India, Government of India, Available at: https://knowindia.gov.in/profile/the-union/executive.php, last accessed: 12 December, 2019.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Article 67, Constitution of India, 1950.

[20] Available at: https://www.mapsofindia.com/government-of-india/executive/vice-president.html, last accessed: 10 January, 2020.

[21] Constitution of India, 1950.

[22] Article 65, Constitution of India, 1950

[23] Article 64, Constitution of India, 1950.

[24] Article 75, Constitution of India, 1950.

[25] ‘The Union’, Know India, Government of India, Available at: https://knowindia.gov.in/profile/the-union/executive.php, last accessed: 12 December, 2019.

[26] Article 72, Constitution of India, 1950.

[27] Article 74, Constitution of India, 1950.

[28] Supra n. 27.

[29] Nimisha Kaushik, ‘Difference between President and Prime Minister of India’, Available at: http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/politics/difference-between-president-and-prime-minister-of-india/#ixzz6AneXSzU1, last accessed: 11 January, 2020.

[30] Article 153, Constitution of India, 1950.

[31] Article 155, Constitution of India, 1950.

[32] Article 156, Constitution of India, 1950.

[33] ‘Governor of India’, Available at: https://www.elections.in/government/state-governor.html#info_id1, last accessed: 12 January, 2020.

[34] “Chief Minister of India’, Available at: https://www.elections.in/government/chief-minister.html, accessed last: 12 January, 2020.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Article 154, Constitution of India, 1950.

[38] ‘The States’, Know India, Government of India, Available at: https://knowindia.gov.in/profile/the-states.php, accessed last: 10 December, 2019.

[39] Article 163, Constitution of India, 1950.

[40] “Chief Minister of India’, Available at: https://www.elections.in/government/chief-minister.html, accessed last: 12 January, 2020.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.