Parliamentary & Federal System - Questions and Answers

1)   Which of the following are the features on the basis of which the parliamentary system of government in India operates?

a. Nominal and real executives
b. Executive responsible to lower house
c. Prime Minister is the real executive
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: All of the above


    The features are -

    Nominal and Real Executives -

    1. The President is the nominal executive (de jure executive or titular executive) - head of the State.

    2. The Prime Minister is the real executive (de facto executive) - head of the government.

    Majority Party Rule -

    1. The political party with majority seats in the Lok Sabha forms the government.

    2. The leader of that party is appointed as the Prime Minister by the President.

    3. However, when no single party gets the majority, a coalition of parties may be invited by the President to form the government.

    Collective Responsibility -

    1. This is bedrock principle of parliamentary government.

    2. Article 75 - the ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament in general and to the Lok Sabha in particular.

    3. The principle implies that the Lok Sabha can remove the council of ministers headed by the prime minister) by passing a vote of no confidence.

    Political Homogeneity -

    1. Usually members of the council of ministers belong to the same political party, and thus they share the same political ideology.

    2. In coalition government, the ministers are bound by consensus.

    Double Membership -

    1. The ministers are members of both the legislature and the executive.

    2. The minister has to be member of the Parliament. If not, he must get elected within 6 months else he cannot remain minister.

    Leadership of the Prime Minister - The Prime Minister is the leader of council of ministers, leader of the Parliament and leader of the party in power.
  • Fusion of powers can be seen as opposed to separation of powers.
    Dissolution of the Lower House -

    1. The lower house of the Parliament (Lok Sabha) can be dissolved by the President on recommendation of the Prime Minister before the expiry of its term and fresh elections could be held.

    2. Thus, the executive enjoys the right to get the legislature dissolved in a parliamentary system.

    Secrecy -

    1. The ministers operate on the principle of secrecy of procedure and cannot divulge information about their proceedings, policies and decisions.

    2. Oath of secrecy is administered to them by President before entering their office.

2)   Which of the following is/are true?

1) Both India and Britain allow only member of Parliament to be appointed as minister.
2) Both India and Britain can have PM from lower or upper house.

a. Only 1
b. Only 2
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Neither 1 nor 2


    The parliamentary system of government in India though largely based on the British parliamentary system has following differences -

    1. India has a republican system in place of British monarchical system.

    2. The Head of the State in India (that is, President) is elected, while the Head of the State in Britain(that is, King or Queen) enjoys a hereditary position.

    3. The British system is based on the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament. The Parliament is not supreme in India and enjoys limited and restricted powers due to a written Constitution, federal system, judicial review and fundamental rights.

    4. In Britain, the prime minister should be a member of the Lower House (House of Commons)of the Parliament.

    5. In India, the prime minister may be a member of any of the two Houses of Parliament. (Indira Gandhi (1966), Deve Gowda (1996), and Manmohan Singh (2004), were members of the Rajya Sabha).

    6. Usually, the members of Parliament alone are appointed as ministers in Britain. In India, a person who is not a member of Parliament can also be appointed as minister, but for a maximum period of 6 months.

    7. Britain has the system of legal responsibility of the minister. India has no such system.

    8. Unlike in Britain, the ministers in India are not required to countersign the official acts of the Head of the State.

    9. ‘Shadow cabinet’ is an unique institution of the British cabinet system. It is formed by the opposition party to balance the ruling cabinet and to prepare its members for future ministerial office. India doesn’t have such institution.

3)   What are not features of Presidential form of government?

1) Single executive.
2) Dual executive.
3) Double membership.
4) Dissolution of lower house.

a. 1, 2, 4
b. 2, 3, 4
c. 1, 2, 3
d. 1, 3, 4
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 2, 3, 4


    America has presidential form of government.

    The features are as follows -

  • The President is both the head of the State and the head of government.
  • As the head of State, he occupies a ceremonial position. As the head of government, he leads the executive organ of government. There is single executive.
  • The President is elected by an electoral college for a fixed tenure (In USA for four years).
  • President and legislators are elected separately.
  • He cannot be removed by the Congress except by impeachment for a grave unconstitutional act.
  • The President governs with the help of a cabinet or a smaller body called ‘Kitchen Cabinet’.It is only an advisory body and consists of non-elected departmental secretaries.
  • They are selected and appointed by him, are responsible only to him, and can be removed by him anytime. They may not be political homogeneity.
  • The President and his secretaries are not responsible to the Congress for their acts.
  • They neither possess membership in the Congress nor attend its sessions. Thus, they have single membership (of executive only).
  • The President cannot dissolve the House of Representatives - the lower house of the Congress.
  • The doctrine of separation of powers is the basis of the American presidential system.
  • The legislative, executive and judicial powers of the government are separated and vested in the three independent organs of the government.
  • Domination of president can be seen.
    Merits -

    1. Definiteness in policies.

    2. Separation of powers.

    3. Stable government.

    4. Government by experts.

    Demerits -

    1. May lead to autocracy.

    2. Conflict between legislature and executive.

    3. Non-responsible government.

    4. Narrow representation.

4)   Due to which of following reasons the founding fathers preferred the British parliamentary system?

1) Familiarity with system.
2) More responsibility.
3) Separation of power.
4) Heterogeneous Indian Society.

a. Only 1, 2, 4
b. Only 1, 2, 3
c. Only 2, 3, 4
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: Only 1, 2, 4


    The founding fathers preferred the British parliamentary system because
    Familiarity with the System -
    1. The parliamentary system had been in operation in India during the British rule.
    2. After this experience, it was questioned why should we go back and buy a novel experience.
    Preference to More Responsibility -
    1. Dr B R Ambedkar pointed out in the Constituent Assembly that ‘a democratic executive must satisfy two conditions: stability and responsibility.
    2. Unfortunately, it has not been possible so far to devise a system which can ensure both in equal degree.
    3. The American system gives more stability but less responsibility.
    4. The British system, on the other hand, gives more responsibility but less stability.’
    5. We have preferred more responsibility to more stability.
    Necessity to Avoid Legislative - Executive Conflicts -
    1. Presidential government has conflicts between the legislature and the executive.
    2. Also an infant democracy could not afford to take the risk of a continuous conflict or threatened conflict between these two organs of the government.
    Nature of Indian Society -
    1. India is one of the most heterogeneous and complex plural societies in the world. Parliamentary system offers greater scope for giving representation to various section, interests and regions in the government.
    2. This promotes a national spirit among the people and builds a united India.
  • Swaran Singh Committee appointed by the Congress government in 1975 also considered in detail whether the parliamentary system should be continued or should be replaced by the presidential system.
  • The committee opined that there is no need to replace parliamentary system.

5)   Which of the following are correct regarding Parliamentary System?

1) It is government by experts.
2) It is unstable government.
3) It is against separation of powers.
4) It can lead to despotism.
5) It is responsible government.

a. 1, 4, 5
b. 2, 3, 5
c. 1, 3, 4
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 2, 3, 5


    Merits of The Parliamentary System -
    Harmony between legislature and executive - The executive is a part of the legislature and both are interdependent at work resulting in less disputes.
    Responsible Government -
    1. The ministers are responsible to the Parliament for all their acts of omission and commission.
    2. The Parliament exercises control over the ministers through various devices like question hour, adjournment motion, discussions, no confidence motion, etc.
    Helps in preventing despotism -
    1. The executive authority is vested in council of ministers and not in a single person thus checking dictatorial tendencies of the executive.
    2. Executive is responsible to the Parliament and can be removed by a no-confidence motion.
    Ready Alternative Government -
    1. Ruling party on losing its majority, the Head of the State can invite the opposition party to form the government without fresh elections.
    2. Dr Jennings says, ‘the leader of the opposition is the alternative prime minister’.
    Wide Representation - It is possible to provide representation to all sections and regions in the government.
    Demerits of The Parliamentary System -
    Unstable Government -
    1. There is no guarantee that a government can survive its tenure.
    2. The ministers depend on the mercy of the majority legislators.
    3. A no-confidence motion or political defection or multi-party coalition can make the government unstable.
    No Continuity of Policies -
    1. Uncertainty of the tenure is not conductive for the formulation and implementation of long-term policies.
    2. Change in the ruling party is usually followed by changes in the policies of the government.
    Dictatorship of the Cabinet -
    1. When the ruling party enjoys absolute majority in the Parliament, the cabinet becomes autocratic and exercises nearly unlimited powers.
    Against Separation of Powers -
    1. In the parliamentary system, the legislature and the executive are together and inseparable.
    2. Thus it goes against the theory of separation of powers. In fact, there is a fusion of powers.
    Government by Amateurs -
    1. The system is not conductive to administrative efficiency as the ministers are not experts in their fields.
    2. The PM in the selection of ministers is restricted to the members of Parliament alone and cannot tap into external talent.
    3. Also, the ministers devote most of their time to parliamentary work,cabinet meetings and party activities.

6)   Which of the following federal features of the Indian constitution?

1) Rigid constitution
2) Appointment of Governor
3) Integrated judiciary
4) Bicameral legislature

a. 1, 2, 3
b. 1, 4
c. 2, 3
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 1, 4


    The federal features of the Constitution of India are -

    Dual Polity -

    1. The Constitution establishes dual polity i.e., the Union and the states.

    2. Each has sovereign powers to be exercised in the field assigned to them respectively, by the Constitution.

    Written Constitution -

    1. The Constitution is a written document and also the lengthiest Constitution of the world.

    2. Originally, it contained a Preamble, 395 Articles (divided into 22 Parts) and 8 Schedules.

    3. At present, it consists of a Preamble, about 465 Articles (divided into 25 Parts) and 12 Schedules.

    4. It specifies the structure, organization, powers and functions of both the Central and state governments and prescribes the limits within which they must operate.

    Division of Powers -

    1. The Constitution divided the powers between the Centre and the states in Union List, the State List and the Concurrent List.

    2. Both the Centre and the states can make laws on the subjects of the concurrent list, but in case of a conflict, the Central law prevails.

    3. The residuary subjects are given to the Centre.

    Supremacy of the Constitution -

    1. The Constitution is the supreme (or the highest) law of the land.

    2. The laws enacted by the Centre and the states not conforming to its provisions can be declared invalid by the Supreme Court or the high courts through their power of judicial review.

    3. Organs of the government at both the levels must operate within the jurisdiction prescribed by the Constitution.

    Rigid Constitution -

    1. The Constitution is rigid as those provisions which are concerned with the federal structure (i.e., Centre-State relations and judicial organization) can be amended only by the joint action of the Central and state governments.

    2. Such amendments need a special majority of the Parliament and also an approval of half of the state legislatures.

    Independent Judiciary -

    1. It is to protect the supremacy of the Constitution by exercising the power of judicial review; and to settle the disputes between the Centre and the states or between the states.

    2. The Constitution contains various measures like security of tenure to judges, fixed service conditions, etc. to make the judiciary independent of the government.

    Bicameralism -

    1. The Constitution has a bicameral legislature consisting of an Upper House (Rajya Sabha)and a Lower House (Lok Sabha).

    2. The Rajya Sabha represents the states of Indian Federation, while the Lok Sabha represents the people of India as a whole.

    3. The Rajya Sabha (even though a less powerful chamber) is required to maintain the federal equilibrium by protecting the interests of the states.

7)   Which of the following unitary features of the Indian constitution?

1) Bicameralism.
2) Appointment of Governor.
3) Integrated judiciary.
4) Suspensive Veto Over State Bills.

a. 2, 3, 4
b. 1, 4
c. 2, 3
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 2, 3


    The unitary features of the Constitution of India are -
    Strong Centre -

    1. The division of powers is in favor of the Centre.

    2. The more important and more number of subjects have been included in the Union List.

    3. Centre has overriding authority over the Concurrent List.

    4. Residuary powers are with the Centre

    States Not Indestructible -

    1. The Parliament can by unilateral action change the area, boundaries or name of any state by simple majority.

    Single Constitution -

    1. The Constitution of India has Constitution of the Centre as well as of the states.

    2. Both the Centre and the states must operate within this single-frame.

    3. The only exception in this regard is the case of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own (state) Constitution.

    Flexibility of the Constitution -

    1. The bulk of the Constitution can be amended by the unilateral action of the Parliament, either by simple or by special majority.

    2. Further, the power to initiate an amendment to the Constitution lies only with the Centre.

    No Equality of State Representation -

    1. The states are given representation in the Rajya Sabha on the basis of population.

    2. In US’s Upper House, each state has equal representation as a safeguard for smaller states.

    Emergency Provisions -

    1. During an emergency, the Central government becomes all powerful and the states go into the total control of the Centre.

    2. It converts the federal structure into a unitary one without a formal amendment of the Constitution. This kind of transformation is not found in any other federation.

    Single Citizenship -

    1. Like that of Canada, India has single citizenship.

    2. The other federal states like US, Switzerland and Australia have dual citizenship, that is, national citizenship as well as state citizenship.

    Integrated Judiciary -

    1. Single system of courts with the Supreme Court at the top and the state high courts below it enforces both the Central laws as well as the state laws.

    All-India Services -

    1. Centre and the states have their separate public services.

    2. But, all-India services (IAS, IPS, and IFS) are common to both the Centre and states.

    3. The members of these services are recruited and trained by the Centre which also have ultimate control over them.

    4. Thus, these services violate the principle of federalism under the Constitution.

    Integrated Audit Machinery -

    1. The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India audits the accounts of Central and state governments.

    2. But, President appoints and removes CAG without consulting the states.

    Parliament’s Authority Over State List -

    1. The Parliament is empowered to legislate on any subject of the State List if Rajya Sabha passes are solution to that effect in the national interest.

    2. This means that the legislative competence of the Parliament can be extended without amending the Constitution.

    3. Notably, this can be done when there is no emergency of any kind.

    Governor Appointment -

    1. The governor, who is the head of the state, is appointed by the President.

    2. He holds office during the pleasure of the President. He also acts as an agent of the Centre.

    3. Centre exercises control over the states through him.

    Integrated Election Machinery -

    1. The Election Commission conducts elections not only to the Central legislature but also to the state legislatures.

    2. But, this body is constituted by the President and the states have no voice in it.

    3. During removal of members too, the position is same.

    Absolute Veto Over State Bills -

    1. The governor can reserve certain types of bills passed by the state legislature for the consideration of the President.

    2. The President can withhold his assent to such bills not only in the first instance but also in the second instance.

    3. The President enjoys absolute veto over state bills.

    4. But in US and Australia, there are no such provisions.

8)   Which of the following have unitary form of government?

1) Argentina
2) Brazil
3) Sweden
4) Belgium

a. 1, 2
b. 3, 4
c. 1, 3, 4
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 3, 4


  • A unitary government is one in which all the powers are vested in the national government and if the regional governments exist, they derive their authority from the national government.

  • A federal government is one in which powers are divided between the national government and the regional governments by the Constitution itself and both operate in their respective jurisdictions independently.

  • Britain, France, Japan, China, Italy, Belgium, Norway,Sweden, Spain, etc. have the unitary model of government.

  • The US, Switzerland, Australia,Canada, Russia, Brazil, Argentina etc., have the federal model of government.

  • The term ‘federation’ is derived from a Latin word ‘foedus’ which means ‘treaty’ or ‘agreement’.

  • The units of a federation are known by various names - states (as in US) or cantons (as in Switzerland) or provinces (as in Canada) or republics (as in Russia).

  • A federation can be formed in two ways, that is, by way of integration or by way of disintegration.

  • In the first case, a number of militarily weak or economically backward states (independent) come together to form a big and a strong union, as for example, the US.

  • In the second case, a big unitary state is converted into a federation by granting autonomy to the provinces to promote regional interest(for example, Canada).

  • The framers of Indian Constitution adopted the federal system due to - the large size of the country and its socio-cultural diversity.

  • Federal system ensures the efficient governance of the country but combines national unity with regional autonomy.

  • However, the term ‘federation’ has nowhere been used in the Constitution.

  • Instead, Article 1 of the Constitution describes India as a ‘Union of States’.

  • According to Dr. B R Ambedkar, the phrase ‘Union of States’ has been preferred to ‘Federation of States’ to indicate two things -

    1. the Indian federation is not the result of an agreement among the states like the American federation; and

    2. the states have no right to secede from the federation.

  • The federation is union because it is indestructible.

  • The Indian federation resembles the Canadian federation -

    1. in its formation (i.e., by way of disintegration);

    2. in its preference to the term ‘Union’ ; and

    3. in vesting more powers in the center vis-a-vis the states.

9)   Which of the following sentences are true?

1) In federal government, the constitution is supreme.
2) In federal government, the constitution may be written or unwritten.
3) In unitary government, there is no division of powers between Centre and States.
4) Legislature may be bicameral or unicameral in unitary government.

a. Only 3
b. 1, 3, 4
c. 1, 2, 3
d. All of the above
Answer  Explanation 

ANSWER: 1, 3, 4


    Comparison of Federal and Unitary Government -
    Federal Government -

    a. Dual Government (national and regional government).

    b. Written Constitution.

    c. Bicameral legislature.

    d. Division of powers between the both governments.

    e. Rigid Constitution.

    f. Supremacy of the Constitution.

    g. Independent judiciary.

    Unitary Government -

    a. Single government, that is, the national government which may create regional governments.

    b. Constitution may be written (France) or unwritten (Britain).

    c. Constitution may be rigid (France) or flexible (Britain).

    d. Legislature may be bicameral (Britain) or uni-cameral (China).

    e. No division of powers. All powers are vested in the national government.

    f. Constitution may be supreme (Japan) or may not be supreme(Britain).

    g. Judiciary may be independent or may not be independent.