President of India

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President of India
Flag of the President of India.svg
Presidential Standard
Secretary Tim Geithner and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee 2010 crop.jpg
Incumbent
Pranab Mukherjee

since 25 July 2012
Style Hon'ble President
(Within India)
His Excellency
(Outside India)
Residence Rashtrapati Bhavan
Appointer Electoral College
Term length Five years (renewable)
Inaugural holder Rajendra Prasad
26 January 1950
Formation Indian Constitution
26 January 1950
Salary INR1.5 lakh (US$2,500) (Per Month)[1]
Website President of India

The President of India is the head of state of the Republic of India. The President is the formal head of the executive, legislature and judiciary of India and is the commander-in-chief of the Indian Armed Forces.

The President is indirectly elected by the people through elected members of the Parliament of India (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) as well as of the state legislatures (Vidhan Sabha but not Vidhan Parishads) and serves for a term of five years. Historically, ruling party (majority in the Lok Sabha) nominees (for example, United Progressive Alliance nominee Pranab Mukherjee) have been elected or largely elected unanimously. Incumbent presidents are permitted to stand for re-election. A formula is used to allocate votes so there is a balance between the population of each state and the number of votes assembly members from a state can cast, and to give an equal balance between State Assembly members and the members of the Parliament of India. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, then there is a system by which losing candidates are eliminated from the contest and their votes are transferred to other candidates, until one gains a majority.

Although Article 53 of the Constitution of India states that the President can exercise his or her powers directly or by subordinate authority,[2] with few exceptions, all of the executive authority vested in the President are, in practice, exercised by the popularly elected Government of India, headed by the Prime Minister. This Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister with the help of the Council of Ministers.

The President of India resides in an estate in New Delhi known as the Rashtrapati Bhavan[3] (which roughly translates as President's Palace). The presidential retreat is The Retreat in Chharabra, Shimla and Rashtrapati Nilayam (President's Place) in Hyderabad.

The 13th and current President is Pranab Mukherjee, who was elected on 22 July 2012, and sworn-in on 25 July 2012. He is also the first Bengali to be elected as President.[4] He took over the position from Pratibha Patil, who was the first woman to serve in the office.[5]

Origin[edit]

India achieved independence from British Rule on 15 August 1947, initially as a Dominion within the Commonwealth of Nations with George VI as the King of India, represented in the country by a Governor-General.[6] Still, following this, the Constituent Assembly of India, under the leadership of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, undertook the process of drafting a completely new constitution for the country. The Constitution of India was eventually enacted on 26 November 1949 and came into force on 26 January 1950,[7]:26 making India a republic.[8]:9 The offices of monarch and governor-general were replaced by the new office of President of India, with Rajendra Prasad as the first incumbent.[8]:1

Powers and duties[edit]

Legislative[edit]

Legislative power is constitutionally vested in the Parliament of India of which the president is the titular head. The President summons both the Houses (the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha) of the Parliament and prorogues them. He can dissolve the Lok Sabha.[7]:147 These powers are formal and by convention, the President uses these powers according to the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.[9]

The President inaugurates the Parliament by addressing it after the general elections and also at the beginning of the first session each year. Presidential address on these occasions is generally meant to outline the new policies of the government.[10]:145

All bills passed by the Parliament can become laws only after receiving the assent of the President. The President can return a bill to the Parliament, if it is not a money bill or a constitutional amendment bill, for reconsideration. When, after reconsideration, the bill is passed and presented to the President, with or without amendments, the President is obliged to assent it. The President can also withhold his assent to a bill when it is initially presented to him (rather than return it to the Parliament) thereby exercising a pocket veto.[11]

When either of the two Houses of the Parliament of India is not in session, and if government feels the need for immediate procedure, the President can promulgate ordinances which have the same force and effect as laws passed by Parliament. These are in the nature of interim or temporary legislation and their continuance is subject to parliamentary approval. Ordinances remain valid for no more than six weeks from the date the Parliament is convened unless approved by it earlier.[12]

Appointment powers[edit]

The President appoints, as Prime Minister, the person most likely to command the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha (usually the leader of the majority party or coalition). The President then appoints the other members of the Council of Ministers, distributing portfolios to them on the advice of the Prime Minister.[13]:72

The Council of Ministers remains in power during the 'pleasure' of the President. In practice, however, the Council of Ministers must retain the support of the Lok Sabha. If a President were to dismiss the Council of Ministers on his or her own initiative, it might trigger a constitutional crisis. Thus, in practice, the Council of Ministers cannot be dismissed as long as it commands the support of a majority in the Lok Sabha.

The President is responsible for making a wide variety of appointments. These include:[13]:72

Financial powers[edit]

All money bills originate in Parliament, but only if the President recommends them. He or she presents the Annual Budget and supplementary Budget before Parliament. No money bill can be introduced in Parliament without his or her assent. The President appoints a finance commission every five years. Withdrawal from the contingency fund of India is done after the permission of the President.[15][16]:48 The Contingency Fund of India is at the disposal of the President.

Judicial powers[edit]

The President appoints the Chief Justice of the Union Judiciary and other judges on the advice of the Chief Justice. He or she dismisses the judges if and only if the two Houses of the Parliament pass resolutions to that effect by a two-thirds majority of the members present.[17]

According to Article 143 of Indian Constitution, if the President considers a question of law or a matter of public importance has arisen, he or she can ask for the advisory opinion of the Supreme Court.

Diplomatic powers[edit]

All international treaties and agreements are negotiated and concluded on behalf of the President.[18]:18 However, in practice, such negotiations are usually carried out by the Prime Minister along with his Cabinet (especially the Foreign Minister). Also, such treaties are subject to the approval of the Parliament. The President represents India in international forums and affairs where such a function is chiefly ceremonial. The President may also send and receive diplomats, i.e. the officers from the Indian Foreign Service.[10]:143 The President is the first citizen of the country.[9]

Military powers[edit]

The President is the supreme commander of the defence forces of India. The President can declare war or conclude peace,[9] subject to the approval of parliament only under the decision of the Council of the Armed Forces Chief staffs, Military Secretary and President's Officer (Deputy Military Secretary). All important treaties and contracts are made in the President's name.[19] He also appoints the heads of the armed forces.

Pardoning Powers[edit]

As mentioned in Article 72 of Indian Constitution, the President is empowered with the powers to grant pardons in the following situations:[9]

  • Punishment is for offence against Union Law
  • Punishment is by a Military Court
  • Sentence is a death sentence[19]

The decisions involving pardoning and other rights by the President are independent of the opinion of the Prime Minister or the Lok Sabha majority. In most cases, however, the President exercises his or her executive powers on the advice of the Prime Minister and the cabinet[13]:239[20]

Emergency powers[edit]

The President can declare three types of emergencies: national, state, financial.[18]:12

National emergency[edit]

National emergency can be declared in the whole of India or a part of its territory on causes of war or armed rebellion or an external aggression. Such an emergency was declared in India in 1962 (Indo-China war), 1971 (Indo-Pakistan war),[21] 1975 to 1977 (declared by Indira Gandhi on account of "internal disturbance").[see main]

Under Article 352 of the India Constitution, the President can declare such an emergency only on the basis of a written request by the Cabinet Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. Such a proclamation must be approved by the Parliament within one month. Such an emergency can be imposed for six months. It can be extended by six months by repeated parliamentary approval, there's no maximum duration.[18][page needed]

In such an emergency, Fundamental Rights of Indian citizens can be suspended.[7]:33 The six freedoms under Right to Freedom are automatically suspended. However, the Right to Life and Personal Liberty cannot be suspended.(Article 21)[22]:20.6

The President can make laws on the 66 subjects of the State List (which contains subjects on which the state governments can make laws).[23] Also, all money bills are referred to the President for its approval.[16]:88 The term of the Lok Sabha can be extended by a period of up to one year, but not so as to extend the term of Parliament beyond six months after the end of the declared emergency.[13]:223

State emergency[edit]

If the President is satisfied, on the basis of the report of the Governor of the concerned state or from other sources that the governance in a state cannot be carried out according to the provisions in the Constitution, he/she can declare a state of emergency in the state. Such an emergency must be approved by the Parliament within a period of 2 months.

Under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, it can be imposed from six months to a maximum period of three years with repeated parliamentary approval every six months. If the emergency needs to be extended for more than three years, this can be achieved by a constitutional amendment, as has happened in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

During such an emergency, the President can take over the entire work of the executive, and the Governor administers the state in the name of the President. The Legislative Assembly can be dissolved or may remain in suspended animation. The Parliament makes laws on the 66 subjects of the state list[24] (see National emergency for explanation).

A State Emergency can be imposed via the following:

  1. By Article 356 – If that state failed to run constitutionally i.e. constitutional machinery has failed[25]:159
  2. By Article 365 – If that state is not working according to the given direction of the Union Government.[26]

This type of emergency needs the approval of the parliament within 2 months. It can last up to a maximum of three years via extensions after each 6-month period. However, after one year it can be extended only if

  1. A state of National Emergency has been declared in the country or in the particular state.
  2. The Election Commission finds it difficult to organise an election in that state.

On 19 January 2013, President's rule was imposed on the Indian State of Jharkhand, making it the latest state where this kind of emergency has been imposed.[27]

Financial emergency[edit]

If the President is satisfied that there is an economic situation in which the financial stability or credit of India is threatened,[28] he/she can then proclaim a financial emergency, as per the Article 360.[25]:159 Such an emergency must be approved by the Parliament within two months. It has never been declared.[29]:604

A state of financial emergency remains in force indefinitely until revoked by the President.[13]:195

The President can reduce the salaries of all government officials, including judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, in case of a financial emergency. All money bills passed by the State legislatures are submitted to the President for approval. He can direct the state to observe certain principles (economy measures) relating to financial matters.[30]

Selection process[edit]

Eligibility[edit]

Article 58 of the Constitution sets the principle qualifications one must meet to be eligible to the office of the President. A President must be:

A person shall not be eligible for election as President if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State or under any local or other authority subject to the control of any of the said Governments.

Certain office-holders, however, are permitted to stand as Presidential candidates. These are:

In the event that the Vice President, a State Governor or a Minister is elected President, they are considered to have vacated their previous office on the date they begin serving as President.

Under The Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952,[31] a candidate, to be nominated for the office of president needs 50 electors as proposers and 50 electors as seconders for his or her name to appear on ballot.[32]

Conditions for Presidency[edit]

Certain conditions, as per Article 59 of the Constitution, debar any eligible citizen from contesting the presidential elections. The conditions are:

  • The President shall not be a member of either House of Parliament or of a House of the Legislature of any State, and if a member of either House of Parliament or of a House of the Legislature of any State be elected President, he shall be deemed to have vacated his seat in that House on the date on which he enters upon his office as President.
  • The President shall not hold any other office of profit.
  • The President shall be entitled without payment of rent to the use of his official residences and shall be also entitled to such emoluments, allowances and privileges as may be determined by Parliament by law and until provision in that behalf is so made, such emoluments, allowances and privileges as are specified in the Second Schedule.
  • The emoluments and allowances of the President shall not be diminished during his term of office.[29]:170

Election process[edit]

Whenever the office becomes vacant, the new President is chosen by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both houses of Parliament(M.P.), the elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies (Vidhan Sabha) of all States and the elected members of the legislative assemblies (M.L.A.) of two Union Territories i.e., National Capital Territory(NCT) of Delhi and Union Territory of Puducherry.

The nomination of a candidate for election to the office of the President must be subscribed by at least 50 electors as proposers and 50 electors as seconders. Each candidate has to make a security deposit of INR15,000 (US$250) in the Reserve Bank of India.[33] The security deposit is liable to be forfeited in case the candidate fails to secure one-sixth of the votes polled.

The election is held in accordance to the system of Proportional representation by means of Single transferable vote method. The Voting takes place by secret ballot system. The manner of election of President is provided by Article 55 of the Constitution.[34]

Each elector casts a different number of votes. The general principle is that the total number of votes cast by Members of Parliament equals the total number of votes cast by State Legislators. Also, legislators from larger states cast more votes than those from smaller states. Finally, the number of legislators in a state matters; if a state has few legislators, then each legislator has more votes; if a state has many legislators, then each legislator has fewer votes.

The actual calculation for votes cast by a particular state is calculated by dividing the state's population by 1000, which is divided again by the number of legislators from the State voting in the electoral college. This number is the number of votes per legislator in a given state.Every elected member of the parliament enjoys same number of votes which may be obtained by dividing the total number of votes assigned to the members of legislative assemblies by the total number of elected representatives of the parliament.

Although Indian presidential elections involve actual voting by MPs and MLAs, they tend to vote for the candidate supported by their respective parties.[35]

Oath or affirmation[edit]

The President is required to make and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice of India (or in his absence, the senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court), an oath or affirmation that he/she shall protect, preserve and defend the Constitution as follows:[36]

I, (name), do swear in the name of God (or solemnly affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President (or discharge the functions of the President) of the Republic of India, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law, and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of India.

Article 60, Constitution of India

Emoluments[edit]

President pay
Date established Salary in 1998 Salary in 2008
30 December 2008 INR50,000 (US$840) INR1.5 lakh (US$2,500)
Sources:[37]

The President of India used to receive INR10,000 (US$200) per month as per the Third Schedule of the Constitution. This amount was increased to INR50,000 (US$800) in 1998. On 11 September 2008 the Government of India increased the salary of the President to INR1.5 lakh (US$2,500). However, almost everything that the President does or wants to do is taken care of by the annual INR225 million (US$3.8 million) budget that the Government allots for his or her upkeep.[38] Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President's official residence, is the largest Presidential Palace in the world.[39][40] The Rashtrapati Nilayam at Bolarum, Hyderabad and Retreat Building at Chharabra, Shimla are the official Retreat Residences of the President of India.[41] The official state car of the President is a custom-built heavily armoured Mercedes Benz S600 (W221) Pullman Guard.

Removal[edit]

The President may be removed before the expiry of the term through impeachment. A President can be removed for violation of the Constitution of India.[42]

The process may start in either of the two houses of the Parliament. The house initiates the process by levelling the charges against the President. The charges are contained in a notice that has to be signed by at least one quarter of the total members of that house. The notice is sent up to the President and 14 days later, it is taken up for consideration.

A resolution to impeach the President has to be passed by a special majority (two-third majority of the total number of members of the originating house). It is then sent to the other house. The other house investigates the charges that have been made. During this process, the President has the right to defend oneself through an authorised counsel. If the second house also approves the charges made by special majority again, the President stands impeached and is deemed to have vacated his/her office from the date when such a resolution stands passed. Other than impeachment, no other penalty can be given to the President for the violation of the Constitution.[13]:69

No president has faced impeachment proceedings so the above provisions have never been used.[43]

Succession[edit]

In the event of a vacancy created for the President's post due to death, resignation, impeachment, etc., Article 65 of the Indian Constitution says that the Vice President of India will have to discharge the duties.[22]:20.10 The Vice President reverts to office when a new President is elected and enters office. When the President is unable to act because of absence, illness or any other cause, the Vice President discharges the President's functions until the President resumes the duties.

A Vice President who acts as or discharges the functions of the President has all the powers and immunities of the President and is entitled to the same emoluments as the President.

The Indian Parliament has enacted the law ( The President (Discharge of Functions) Act, 1969)[44] for the discharge of the functions of the President when vacancies occur in the offices of the President and of the Vice President simultaneously, owing to removal, death, resignation of the incumbent or otherwise. In such an eventuality, the Chief Justice, or in his absence, the senior most Judge of the Supreme Court of India available discharges the functions of the President until a newly elected President enters upon his office or a newly elected Vice President begins to act as President under Article 65 of the Constitution, whichever is the earlier.[14]:96

Important presidential interventions in the past[edit]

The President's role as defender of the Constitution and the powers as Head of State, especially in relation to those exercised by the Prime Minister as leader of the government, have changed over time. In particular, Presidents have made a number of interventions into government and lawmaking, which have established and challenged some conventions concerning Presidential intervention.

Proving majority in the parliament[edit]

In 1979, the Prime Minister, Charan Singh, did not enjoy a Parliamentary majority. He responded to this by simply not advising the President to summon Parliament.[9] Since then, Presidents have been more diligent in directing incoming Prime Ministers to convene Parliament and prove their majority within reasonable deadlines (2 to 3 weeks). In the interim period, the Prime Ministers are generally restrained from making policy decisions.

Proof of Majority to form a Government[edit]

Since the 1990s, Parliamentary elections have generally not resulted in a single party or group of parties having a distinct majority. In such cases, Presidents have used their discretion and directed Prime Ministerial aspirants to establish their credentials before being invited to form the government. Typically, the aspirants have been asked to produce letters from various party leaders, with the signatures of all the MPs who are pledging support to their candidature. This is in addition to the requirement that a Prime Minister prove he has the support of the Lok Sabha (by a vote on the floor of the House) within weeks of being sworn into office.[45][46]

Pocket Veto of the Postal Bill[edit]

Since the Indian Constitution does not provide any time limit within which the President is to declare his assent or refusal, the President could exercise a pocket veto by not taking any action for an indefinite time. Pocket Veto was used in 1986 by the then President Zail Singh in the Postal Bill. The president did not assent the bill by arguing that the scope of the bill was too sweeping which would give the government arbitrary powers to intercept postal communications indiscriminately.[43][47][48]

Rashtrapati Bhavan communiqués[edit]

In the late 1990s, President K. R. Narayanan introduced the important practice of explaining to the nation (by means of Rashtrapati Bhavan communiqués), the thinking that led to the various decisions he took while exercising his discretionary powers; this has led to openness and transparency in the functioning of the President.[49]

Offices of Profit Bill[edit]

The constitution gives the President the power to return a bill unsigned but it circumscribes the power to send it back only once for reconsideration. If the Parliament sends back the bill with or without changes, the President is obliged to sign it. In mid-2006, President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam sent back a controversial bill regarding the exclusion of certain offices from the scope of 'offices of profit', the holding of which would disqualify a person from being a member of parliament.[50] The combined opposition, the NDA, hailed the move. The UPA chose to send the bill back to the president without any changes and, after 17 days, Kalam gave his assent on 18 August 2006.[51][52]

Living former Presidents of India[edit]

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
(25 July 2002 to 25 July 2007) 
Pratibha Patil
(25 July 2007 to 25 July 2012) 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]