Composition of the Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers consists of all three categories of Ministers. They are
- Cabinet Ministers
- Ministers of
- Deputy Ministers.
A Cabinet Minister is the head of his ministry. There cannot be more than one Cabinet Minister in any ministry. It is also to be remembered that a ministry may or may not have a Cabinet Minister.
Size and Nature of the Council
The Constitution does not fix the size of the Council of Ministers. It is for the Prime Minister to determine its size according to the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situation.
But the choice of the Prime Minister is limited to the extent that he must consider the claims and views of the leading members of the Parliamentary party in both Houses.
The need to give representation to important regions and communities are two other important factors which no Prime Minister can afford to ignore. Likewise, important communities, such as Muslims and Sikhs, must always be properly represented. One result of this sort of regional and communal representation is that the size of Council of Ministers has remained big and often unwieldy.
However, the Administrative Reforms Commission has regarded ten per cent of the total membership of the Lok Sabha as an ideal size.
There are three categories of Ministers in the Council of Ministers. These three categories are: Ministers with Cabinet rank, Ministers of State, and Deputy Ministers. All the Ministers, irrespective of their rank, are members of the Council of Ministers. A Cabinet is a small group of fourteen to twenty Ministers.
In practice there exists a still smaller group of three to five Ministers. Such a group is known as the ‘Inner Cabinet’ or the Kitchen Cabinet’.
The Ministers of State and the Deputy Ministers do not attend the Cabinet meetings. They are present if invited. The Cabinet meetings can be attended only by Ministers with a Cabinet rank A Deputy Minister assists a Minister in the working of the Department under his charge.
Though Cabinet meetings are attended by Ministers with a Cabinet rank and decisions are taken in the Cabinet, they are binding on the Council of Ministers.
The Cabinet works through a number of committees like the Political Affairs Committee, the Defence Committee, etc. There is a Cabinet Secretariat headed by a Cabinet Secretary who assists the Cabinet to discharge its functions effectively.
There may be some ministries without Cabinet Ministers. It is possible that there is a ministry with a Minister of State as its head. But such a head is not a member of the Cabinet. But on invitation he may attend Cabinet meetings without power to vote. The third member in the hierarchy of a ministry is the Deputy Minister. A Deputy Minister does not have independent charge. He works under the control of a Minister of State.