There is a subtle difference between the Cabinet and the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers is a bigger body which includes all categories of Ministers. All Ministers and Deputy Ministers are the members of the Council of Ministers.
The Cabinet is a smaller body which consists of a few important senior ministers who are in charge of separate departments. The Cabinet is described as “a wheel within a wheel”. It s the nucleus of the Council of Ministers.
The Cabinet Ministers are the senior most members of the Council of Ministers. It is left for the Prime Minister to decide who should be included in the Cabinet. The Cabinet is usually a smaller body consisting of nearly 10 to 20 persons.
The Ministers of the State are not members of the Cabinet and they do not attend the Cabinet meetings. In special circumstances they may be requested to be present in the Cabinet meeting and express their views. The Cabinet holds the most important position in the Union Government.
It exercises all powers on behalf of the Council of Ministers. The policy decisions are taken in the Cabinet. The Cabinet also prepaid legislative programmes for the Parliament. It serves as a ordinating body among the various departments of the Central Government.
In the words of Bagehot, the Cabinet is a “hyphen that joins, the buckle that binds the executive and the legislative departments together”. Ramsay Muir calls it as “the steeringwheel of ship of the State”.
Thus the Cabinet is the most powerful body in a parliamentary form of Government. “In the words of M.V. Pylee “the Cabinet the formulator of national policies the highest appointing authority, the arbiter of inter-departmental disputes and the supreme organ of co-ordination in the Government”.
The Cabinet, in fact, performs its varied functions through some committees. These committees are of either permanent nature like Standing Committees or they may be ad-hoc committees appointed from time to time to deal with new problems of importance.
Sometimes the Cabinet has committees like Foreign Affairs Committee, Defence Committee Economic Affairs Committee etc. These Committees are usually composed of some eminent members of the Cabinet and are headed by the Prime Minister. We shall examine functions of the Cabinet and Council of Ministers below.