The President of India: Role and Position

A glance at the provisions relating to the powers, functions, duties and responsibilities of the President shows that it would be unfair if one takes the position that the Indian President is a titular head. Nor can one take the position that the President of India is a real ruler. We do not have the President like that of the United States. Nor do we have the President like the King/Queen of the United Kingdom. “There are articles in the Constitution of India which stipulate important functions to be done exclusively by the President�and functions always carry with them a definite role and a position with powers: the executive powers of the Union are vested in the President and are to be exercised by him or by officials subordinate to him (Article 53(i)); he is the supreme commander of the armed forces (Article 53(2)); all the orders and instruments are made and executed in his name (Article 72(2)), while all the executive actions are expressed in his name (Article 77(1)); he appoints the Prime Minister and on his advice, appoints other ministers (Article 75(1)), all holding office during the pleasure of the President; almost all major appointments of the Government of India are made by him; he makes rules for the convenient transactions of the business of the Union Government; without his assent, no bill passed by the two Houses of the Parliament can become a law: he can send the bill back to the originating House of Parliament.

He can withhold his assent on the bill (Article 111); he can issue ordinances during the intervals of the Parliament (Article 123); he can establish inter-state councils in the public interest (Article 263); he can grant pardon, remit, commute, suspend the sentence of the person convicted of offence (Article 72(1)); all financial actions are taken in his name (Articles 110, 112, 117); he can proclaim emergency situation in the country or in part thereof (Articles 352, 356, 360). Numerous other articles of the Constitution too bestow powers and functions on the President. A purely theoretical interpretation of the numerous provisions with regard to the powers and functions of the President, as stated above, may give an impression that the President of India if he so desires, can become a real ruler, if not a dictator.

But such a hasty impression would be both disastrous as well as dangerous. “There are certain articles in the Constitution which do not permit the President to act as he likes, Article 74(1) makes it clear that the President acts in accordance with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister, which advice is not only binding on him, but that such an advice would not be inquired into by any court (though the President may require the Council of Ministers to reconsider such an advice, but he has to act in accordance with the reconsidered tendered advice). “The fact is that the President does act mostly through the Council of Minister. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had rightly said: �He (the President) can do nothing, contrary to their (minister�s) advice nor can he do anything without their advice.�

“The President appoints all the members of the Council of Ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister and makes all the major appointments on the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. “The decisions with regard to the administration and proposals of legislation are the domain of the Council of Ministers communicated to him by the Prime Minister. Any address of the President, either in the Parliament or in public, is prepared by the ministers. He withholds or gives assent or sends the bill passed by the Parliament on the decision made by the Council of Ministers. He issues ordinances on the advice of the Council of Ministers and his power to pardon is exercised on the advice of the Council of Ministers. All the money bills, including the budget, though require prior permission of the President is, in fact, those of the Council of Ministers.

“The proclamation of emergency under Article 352 needs the written recommendations of the cabinet while those of other two types (Articles 356 and 360) of proclamations are made on the advice of the Council of Ministers. “The President, on his own, cannot appoint his own Prime Minister; there is no concept of President�s Prime Minister; what is there in the Constitution is the fact that the President appoints the Prime Minister who has to head the Council of Ministers; He appoints that person as the Prime Minister who commands confidence of majority in the Parliament, especially of the House of the People (the both Sabha)�in case of the hung Parliament (the Lok Sabha in particular), the President goes by certain parliamentary norms, and not on his own: he chooses the leader of the alliance parties made before general elections; thereafter the leader of the largest party in the Parliament; thereafter, the alliance made in the Parliament after the general elections, and lastly, the leader of the alliance parties, assuring the support inside or outside the Council of Ministers.

In any case, the President cannot, on his own, appoint the Prime Minister. Likewise he cannot make any other appointment; he does not prepare his own address to the Parliament; he cannot refuse the assent to the ordinary bills, but can, of cource, send back the bills to the originating house of the Parliament; he can neither refuse to give assent to the money bill or constitutional amendments; he is the supreme commander of the armed forces, but neither he can declare war or make peace with other countries and yet he has the enormous responsibility of preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution and the law, devoting himself to the service and well-being of the people of India. Bound as the President of India is, by oath under Article 60, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, the President has to see that there is the Council of Ministers (prescribed by the Constitution, under Article 74) and there has to be the Prime Minister to head the Council of Ministers. “is means that the President if he has to preserve the Constitution, he has to have the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head, which Council of Ministers has to be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha (Article 75(3)), though the ministers, hold office during the pleasure of the President. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was right when he had said that the President could not do anything without the advice of the ministers. It should be remembered that the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister does not stop working even when the Lok Sabha is dissolved.

“The spirit and the language of the Constitution is that the President exercises all his powers and functions on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. “That the President of India is constitutional head has been made clear through the decision of the Supreme Court as in Shamsher Singh v. State of Punjab�1974. “The working of the Constitution, since 1950, as is evident from the parliamentary system adopted in India, establishes the fact that the President of India is the head of the State and that the real executive power vests with the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. And yet it is not to be assumed that the role of the Indian President is insignificant. We must note that the President is elected by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both the Houses and of the State Legislative Assemblies; an election which makes the country republic as also makes the President one who represents the entire nation. We must also note that the President acts judiciously at times when, for example, the Prime Minister is to be appointed in a situation of deciding the incumbent among a number of claimants, especially during the days of hung Parliament or at a time when the recommendation for the dissolution of the Lok Sabha is made by the Council of Ministers on the edge of losing the confidence of the Lok Sabha.

We must take note of the responsibilities the President performs while protecting the interests of certain states, especially the needy tribal ones (Schedules V and VI), looking into the water disputes faced by certain states. We must note the role of the President in times of coalitional politics. We must take note of the President�s role in advising, guiding and exerting his influence on the administration of the day when the nation needs it. Dr. Rajender Prasad (1950-1962) did express his displeasure on the Hindu code bill; Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (1962-1967) made Jawaharlal Nehru drop defence Minister Krishna Menon and change the army cheif following the China war in 1962; Dr. Zakir Hussain (1967-1969) sought to maintain the dignity of the office of the President; V.V. Giri (1969-1974) did express his displessure over the Prime Minister�s handling of the railway�s strike; Fakhruddin Ali Ammed (1974-1977) was the Prime Minister�s President and signed the 1975 national emergency; Neelam Sanjive Reddy (1977-1982) played a proactive role during his period as the President in the formation of the Janata Party government, refusing the ordinances relating to the implementation of the Mandal Commission;

Giani Zail Singh (1982-87) played the role of the Prime Minister�s President initially but had di&erences with Rajiv Gandhi when he was the Prime Minister; R. Venkatraman (1987-92) while playing the role of the constitutional head suggested the foumulating of the national government during the period of politial instability; Dr. S. D. Sharma (1992-1997) expressed his displeasure on the demolition of the Babri Masjil; Dr. K. R. Narayanana (1997- 2002) did play an impartial role during his period of office, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (2002-2007) maintained the diquity of the office of the President while Pratibha Patil (2007-2012), the first woman President, remained a constitutional head; Pranab Mukherjee (2012 till date) a seasoned politician of his own times is doing extremely well with the majority National Demourate Alliance government led by the Bhartiya Janata Party.

Written by princy

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