The President of India
- He is the first citizen of India and acts as the symbol of unity, integrity and solidarity of the nation.
- The President is elected not directly by the people but by members of electoral college consisting of:
- The elected members of both the Houses of Parliament
- The elected members of the Legislative assemblies of the states; and
- The elected members of the Legislative assemblies of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and of the Union Territory of Puducherry.
Who is eligible to run for the President?
-A person who is 35 years of age
-An Indian National
-Must have a support of 50 MPs/MLAs (these can’t be nominated members)
-Must deposit Rs 15,000 as a security amount with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
-Must not hold any Office of Profit. (Any Constitutional position, which may further give rise to a conflict of interests in discharging of duties.)
Article 55 of Indian Constitution lays the guidelines about the way Indian President is to be elected.
“The election of the President shall be held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote and the voting at such election shall be by secret ballot. Explanation in this article, the expression population means the population ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published: Provided that the reference in this Explanation to the last preceding Census of which the relevant figures have been published shall, until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2000 have been published, be construed as a reference to the 1971 Census,” article 55 reads.
Let us understand this in detail:
– Secret Vote: Unlike the voting for any Bill or any motion in Parliament or state Assembly, secret voting is done to elect the President (Nobody can ever come to know who voted for whom).
– Parties can’t issue a whip to their members: Since the Presidential election is intended to be free and fair, and representatives are supposed to exercise their free will, political parties are not allowed to issue a whip to their members for voting.
– Vote value: Vote of each MP and MLA carries a certain value. In the case of MLAs, the value is calculated by dividing total population of the state by the number of elected members to the Legislative Assembly, further divided by 1000. As of now, the value of each MLAs vote is fixed. The population data is taken from the 1971 Census. For example, the maximum vote value of an MLA is 208 (Uttar Pradesh), while the minimum is 8 (Goa).
– In the case of an MP, the vote value is decided by dividing the total value of votes of all MLAs of the whole country, divided by the total number of elected MPs in Lower House (Lok Sabha) and Rajya Sabha (Upper House). At present, the vote value of each MP is fixed at 708.
– Voting System: Unlike the conventional ballot voting, where the voter polls only for a single candidate of his choice, the lawmakers mark their preferences in the Presidential election. For example, if three candidates A, B, and C, are in the fray, then an elected lawmaker will vote according to his/her preference making her/his most preferred candidate as the top choice and accordingly for the rest of the candidates. It is mandatory for every lawmaker to mark his first preference, otherwise the vote is deemed invalid. He or she, however, can leave other preferences vacant.
- The value of an MLA’s vote varies from state to state, mainly to reflect the population of each state.
- To arrive at this value, the total population of the state (1971 census) is divided by 1,000 and the number of MLAs in the state
- By this calculation, the value of one MLA’s vote in Delhi is 58, in Uttar Pradesh it is 208 and in Sikkim it is just 7.
- Similarly the total value of all MLA votes in Delhi is 4,060, Uttar Pradesh is 83,824 and Sikkim is 224. The total value of all MLA votes is 5,49,495.
Value of MP’s Vote Is the Same Across Houses
- Only elected members of both houses are allowed to vote.
- The value of the vote of a member of parliament is the same across Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, it is 708.
- This is calculated by dividing the total value of MLA votes by the number of elected MPs in both houses. Therefore, 5,49,495 divided by 776, which gives you 708.
- The President of India is the head of the State. He exercises only nominal powers. His functions are mainly ceremonial in nature like the Queen of Britain.
- All the political institutions in India, function in the name of the President of India and the President supervises their functions to bring harmony in their works to achieve the objectives of the State.
- In India, the President is elected, not appointed, (although not elected directly by the people). The President is elected by the Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Members of the Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) of each state.
- Participation of Members of the state’s Legislative Assemblies in the election of the president of India shows that the President of India represents the entire nation. At the same time, the indirect election of the President ensures that he cannot claim popular mandate like that of the Prime Minister and thus remains only a nominal head of the State.
- All major policy decisions and orders of the government are issued in the President’s name.
- The President appoints all the major heads of the institutions of the government, i.e.,
- The appointment of the Chief Justice of India,
- The Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts of the states,
- The Governors of the states,
- The Election Commissioners,
- Ambassadors to other countries, etc.
- The government of India makes all international treaties and agreements in the name of the President.
- The President is the supreme commander of the defense forces of India.
- However, all these powers are exercised by the President only on the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.
- The President can ask the Council of Ministers for reconsideration on any advice (asked to him by the Council of Ministers), but if the Council of Ministers recommend the same advice again, he is bound to act according to it.
- A Bill passed by the Parliament becomes a law only after the President gives assent to it. The President can return a Bill back to the Parliament for reconsideration, but he has to sign it, if the Parliament passes the Bill again (with or without amendment).
Impeachment of the President
- Article 61 – lays down the procedure for the impeachment of the President.
- The procedure is a quasi-judicial procedure.
- The only ground for impeachment is violation of the Constitution.
- The charge against the President may be initiated in any house of the Parliament. The charge must be in the form of a proposal contained in a resolution.
- The notice for moving the resolution must be signed by not less than one fourth of the total number of members of the House.
- Advance notice of 14 days is required.
- The resolution must be passed by a majority of not less than two third of the total membership of the House.
- After the change is so preferred it is investigated by the House. The President has the right to appear and be represented in such investigations.
- If after investigation the House passes the resolution by 2/3 majority of the house and if the other House also passes this resolution by the same majority, the effect of the resolution would be that the President shall be removed from his office the date on which the resolution is passed.
POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT
A. Executive powers
- The executive power of the Union is vested in the President. The executive power does not only mean the execution of laws passed by the legislative but also the powers to carry out the business of the Government.
- However, it is evident that President is not free to use his powers; rather he acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
- The executive powers of the President include administrative powers and military powers.
- Administratively, the President may not discharge any function as there are ministries responsible for such an act. This way President becomes a formal head and action is taken in his name.
- The administrative power also includes the power to appoint and remove the high dignitaries of the State.
- The President shall have the power to appoint:
- The Prime Minister of India.
- Other Ministers of the Union.
- The Attorney-General for India.
- The Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
- The judges of the Supreme Court.
- The judges of the High Courts of the States.
- The Governor of a State
- A commission to investigate interference with water-supplies.
- The Finance Commission.
- The Union Public Service Commission and joint Commissions for a group of States.
- The Chief Election Commissioner and other members of the Election Commission
- A Special Officer for the Schedule Castes and Tribes.
- A Commission to report on the administration of Scheduled Areas.
- A Commission to investigate into the condition of backward classes.
- A Commission on Official Language.
- Special Officer for linguistic minorities.
- The President shall have the power to remove:
- The Attorney-General of India;
- The Governor of a State;
- The Chairman or a member of the Public Service Commission of the Union or of a State, on the report of the Supreme Court;
- A Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court or the Election Commissioner, on an address of Parliament.
B. Legislative Powers
- Summoning, Prorogation, Dissolution: Indian President shall have the power to summon or prorogue the Houses of Parliament and to dissolve the lower House. He shall also have the power to summon a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament in case of a deadlock between them. [Arts. 85, 108]
- The Opening Address: The President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together, at the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year, and “inform Parliament of the causes of its summons” [Art. 87].
- The Right to send Messages: Apart from the right to address, the Indian President shall have the right to send messages to either House of Parliament either in regard to any pending Bill or to any other matter, and the House must then consider the message “with all convenient dispatch” [Art. 86(2)].
- Nominating Members to the Houses: President has been given the power to nominate certain members to both the Houses upon the supposition that adequate representation of certain interests will not be possible through the competitive system of election. Thus, (I) In the Council of States, 12 members are to be nominated by the President from persons having special knowledge or practical experience of literature, science, art and social service [Art. 80(1)]. (II) The President is also empowered to nominate not more than two members to the House of the People from the Anglo-Indian community, if he is of opinion that the Anglo-Indian community is not adequately represented in that House [Art. 331].
- Laying Reports before Parliament: The President is brought into contact with Parliament also through his power and study to cause certain reports and statements to be laid before Parliament, so that Parliament may have the opportunity of taking action upon them.
- Previous sanction to legislation: The Constitution requires the previous sanction or recommendation of the President for introducing legislation on certain matters.
- Assent to legislation and Veto: A Bill will not be an Act of the Indian Parliament unless and until it receives the assent of the President. When a Bill is presented to the President, after its passage in both Houses of Parliament, the President shall be entitled to take any of the following three steps:
- His assent to the Bill;
- He withholds his assent to the Bill; or
- He may, in the case of Bills other than Money Bills, return the Bill for reconsideration of the Houses, with or without a message suggesting amendments. A Money Bill cannot be returned for reconsideration.
In case of (c), if the Bill is passed again by both Houses of Parliament with or without amendment and again presented to the President, it would be obligatory upon him to declare his assent to it (Art. 111).
Types of ‘Veto power –
From the standpoint of effect on the legislation, executive vetoes have been classified as absolute, qualified, suspensive and pocket veto. Besides the power to veto Union Legislation, the President of India shall also have the power of disallowance or return for reconsideration of a Bill of the State Legislature, which may have been reserved for his consideration by the Governor of the State (Art. 201).
- Absolute Veto: Refusal of assent to any bill. The bill cannot become law, notwithstanding any vote of Parliament.
- Qualified Veto: A veto is ‘qualified’ when it can be overridden by a higher majority of the Legislature and the Bill can be enacted as law with such majority vote, overriding the executive veto.
- Suspensive Veto: A veto is suspensive when the executive veto can be overridden by the Legislature by an ordinary majority.
- Pocket Veto: By simply withholding a Bill during the last few days of the session of the Legislature, the Executive can prevent the Bill to become law.
C. Ordinance Issuing Power (ART- 123)
- The President has a very strong position in the sense that he has the power of issuing ordinance. In case there is a matter of urgency and a law is needed for a particular situation, the President can issue ordinance.
- The 38th Amendment in this regard is a mile stone in the sense that his assent is important.
- The ordinance can be promulgated by the President when the Houses of Parliament are not in session. The ordinance will have the same effect as of the law of the land.
D. Pardoning Power
- Article 72 of the Constitution empowers the President to grant pardons to persons who have been tried and convicted of any offence in all cases where the: –
- Punishment or sentence is for an offence against a Union Law, offence by a court martial (military court) and the sentence of death.
- The object of conferring this power on the President is to keep the door open for correcting any judicial errors in the operation of law and to afford relief from a sentence, which the President regards as unduly harsh.
- The pardoning power of the President includes the following: –
- Pardon– It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments and disqualifications.
- Commutation– It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment for a lighter form. For example, a death sentence may be commuted to rigorous imprisonment, which in turn may be commuted to a simple imprisonment.
- Remission– It implies reducing the period of sentence without changing its character. For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.
- Respite– It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender.
- Reprieve– It implies a stay of the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period. Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the President.
E. Emergency Powers
- The President also enjoys emergency power. In a federal structure the grip of the Union on the State is not so tight and hence the Constitution framers did provide for the exigencies which may require a tighten grip of the Union on the State.
- Article 356 gives powers to the President for the extension of his rule in the State. “If the President on receipt of report from the Governor of a State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on; the President may extend his rule to the State.
- Article 360 deals with financial emergency, “If the President is satisfied that a situation has arisen whereby the financial stability or credit of India or of any part of the territory is threatened, then, the President can declare financial emergency.”
- In three circumstances, the President can exercise his or her discretionary power −
- The President can send back the advice given by the Council of Ministers for reconsideration.
- The President has veto power (also known as ‘pocket veto’) by which he or she can withhold or refuse to give his or her assent to any Bill (other than Money Bill) passed by the Parliament. It happened once, i.e. in 1986, President Gyani Zail Singh withheld the “Indian Post Office (amendment) Bill.”
- The President appoints the Prime Minister.
- In three circumstances, the President can exercise his or her discretionary power −
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