The Prime Minister of India (PM) is the head of the Council of Ministers (COM) that accompanies him/her when forming the government. Articles 74 and 75 specifically mention that the President of India appoints the PM as well as his COM as per the list of names given by the PM himself. The Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers form the Central Government of India.
In the unprecedented case of the Prime Minister resigning or passing away, before the tenure of office is over, there are certain steps that are carried out as per the constitutional provisions and the orders of the President of India. The steps so followed are:
- Upon resignation of the Prime Minister, the rest of the cabinet or the COM also resigns effectively. This means that the whole government of the union functions with the PM as the backbone. Once the PM is gone, the rest of COM are also bound to leave their positions and dissolve the government. In any case, if the new PM so elected or chosen wants the same cabinet ministry as before, they have to be reappointed to their posts.
- The President invites the largest part in Lok Sabha to prove its majority in the house. The party is asked to respond within 10 days to prove the majority which maybe through the party alone or coalition form.
- A caretaker government will be appointed so that the functioning of the country is maintained and no irregularities arise. This caretaker government will be appointed on the discretion of the President of India. In Indira Gandhi V. U.N.R Rao, the Supreme Court held that there must COM present at all times to aid and advice the President. This caretaker government cannot take any major policy decisions and the advice of such government is not binding on the President. The advice so given is at the discretion of the President himself whether or not he/she wants to consider it or not
- In case of a situation where in the first largest party that has been called to prove its majority in the Lok Sabha fails to do so, the second largest party will be called. If the second largest party succeeds in proving majority then they can successfully form a government.
- In the case where no party is able to prove majority, the whole Lok Sabha is dissolved by the President and he/she will call for fresh elections to the various seats of Lok Sabha. As per the constitution, not more than six months must lapse before two sessions of the Parliament. This means that the Election Commission of India is bound to hold the elections such that a new government can take office within six months of the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha.
These are the steps followed once the Prime Minister of India resigns or passes away due to any reason.
In 1964 and 1966 , after the deaths of Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri during their office tenure, the incumbent Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda was made the acting PM till further steps were taken. He was acting PM for a period of 13 days in both cases. This system of caretaker government however, is not specified in the constitution and is a mere convention followed.
This convention was not followed after the assassination of Indira Gandhi as the Home Minister was not made the acting PM but rather, Rajiv Gandhi was made the PM directly till the next Lok Sabha elections. An important point to note however, is that Rajiv Gandhi at the time of being made PM by the party with highest majority in the Lok Sabha, was not a part of the parliament itself. If there is a time period of more than 6 months left for the next elections for Lok Sabha to be held, the PM who is not a part of the parliament has to gain a seat in the Lok Sabha within six months of his/her tenure. Failure to do so automatically results in collapse of the government and further the President, depending on the situation carries out the same procedure all over again.
Hence, the above mentioned conventions and constitutional practices followed after the PM of India resigns/ passes away looks flexible as per the will of the president in order to secure the country’s interest. It is of paramount importance that the post of the Prime Minister of a country not be compromised in order to maintain the integrity of the nation and avert threats from within and outside the system.
Image Source: http://www.parliamentofindia.nic.in
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