Collective responsibility of Cabinet

THE Supreme Court on Friday observed that the Prime Minister is not above the Cabinet as the PM could not go on a solo flight in matters pertaining to financial issues. The apex court also maintained that the Constitution did not refer to one-man government.
Cabinet collective responsibility, also known as collective ministerial responsibility, is a constitutional convention in governments using the Westminster System that members of the cabinet must publicly support all governmental decisions made in Cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them. Article-91 of the Constitution of Pakistan also envisages this principle and going by the fact that the Prime Minister is part and parcel of the cabinet, the Government should not have gone for a review petition in the SC pertaining to powers of the PM to levy or give exemption in taxes. The idea of the collective responsibility implies that the government decisions are made by meetings of the whole cabinet and not by a single member including the Prime Minister. If our Constitution does not envisage pecuniary powers for the upper house of Parliament then why this power should be exercised by one person even if he is chief executive of the country. In democratic countries, proposals that affect the government’s financial position, or important financial commitments, are invariably put before the Cabinet and not decided by the Prime Minister alone. In our country, the idea of collective responsibility has been misunderstood and successive Prime Ministers or chief executives misused the power to levy a tax or give exemption in the shape of so-called SROs that were mostly aimed at benefitting blue-eyed people or some particular segments of the society. It has also been observed that the successive Presidents and Prime Ministers have also been announcing huge developmental projects without going through proper procedures and scrutiny of the concerned organization, making many of such projects as mere burden on the national exchequer without substantial benefits to the people. The apex court has done well by clarifying the situation and hopefully this would bring more sanity to the system.

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