First, Indian National Congress (INC) leader Manish Tewari on Saturday had described the abolition of Groups of Ministers (GoM) and Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) as an “internal matter” of the Union Government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “It is the prerogative of every government to run the state the way they want. The Prime Minister has chosen to abolish to a GoM and EGoM; it is their internal matter. But I would like to respectfully point out that the GoM and the EGoM were constituted during UPA rule. They have inter ministerial connotations and it became a kind of a single window system for speedy and sorted decisions with exchange of ideas within ministers from different sections,” he had said.
On that very day, the party’s leader Meem Afzal critiqued the move. He said, “The way Narendra Modi sidelined BJP during elections, the same is being done now in respect to abolishing EGoM, GoM. He wants to keep all the power in his hands. He wants to become a one man army. The GoM and EGoM used to be given the authority to take important decisions.”
It seems Afzal’s view has prevailed in the INC. A while ago, party spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala held a press conference to come down heavily on the government’s decision to dissolve the GoMs and EGoMs. While the party appreciates the fact that running the government in a certain way is the prime minister’s prerogative, India has had a constitutional tradition of upholding a collective responsibility of Union ministries, he said. “Collective responsibility of the Cabinet and utilisation of colllective wisdom of the Cabinet are two such places of established constitutional practices. In the last 24 hours, the manner in which this government has gone about abolishing the GoMs and EGoMs without extensive consultations and debates on policy, puts a question mark on this tradition of collective responsibility,” Surjewala said. The party sees the move as centralisation of decision-making processes and monopolisation of power.
Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is a Group of Ministers (GoM) of the Union Government are also authorised (empowered) by the appointing authority to take decisions in such matters after investigation. While a GoM investigates and reports to the Cabinet, which takes the decision, an EGoM additionally takes decisions on matters it is authorised for, and such decisions have the force of the Government decision. Both EGoM and the GoM are appointed under the Government of India’s Transaction of Business Rules 1961, which at para 6 (4) provides that ‘Ad hoc Committees of Ministers including Group of Ministers may be appointed by the Cabinet, the Standing Committees of the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for investigating and reporting to the Cabinet on such matters as may be specified, and, if so authorised by the Cabinet, Standing Committees of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister, for taking decisions on such matters. Rule 6(6) further provides that ‘any decision taken by a Standing or Ad hoc Committee may be reviewed by the Cabinet’. Therefore decisions in a matter taken by EGoM remain subject to review by the Cabinet at the latter’s discretion.