President of India


President of India
President of the
Republic of India
(भारत के राष्ट्रपति)
Presidential Standard of India.PNG
Presidential Standard
Emblem of India.svg
Emblem of India
Madame President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil
Incumbent
Pratibha Patil

since 25 July 2007
Style Madame President
(Within India)
Her Excellency
(Outside India)
Residence Rashtrapati Bhavan
Nominator UPA, Left[1]
Term length Five years, renewable
Inaugural holder Dr Rajendra Prasad
January 26, 1950
Formation Indian Constitution
January 26, 1950
Salary INR 1,50,000 ($ 3340) per month
Website President of India

The President of India (Hindi: भारत के राष्ट्रपति [2]) is the head of state and first citizen of India, as well as the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. President of India is also the formal head of all the three branches of Indian Democracy - Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Powers to pardon and clemency vests with the President of India.

Although Article 53 of the Constitution states that the President can exercise their powers directly,[3] with few exceptions, all of the authority vested in the President is in practice exercised by the Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister.

The President is elected, from a group of nominees, by the elected members of the Parliament of India (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) as well as of the state legislatures (Vidhan Sabhas), and serves for a term of five years. Historically, ruling party (majority in the Lok Sabha) nominees have been elected and run largely uncontested. Incumbents 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 National Parliament members. If no candidate receives a majority of votes there is a system by which losing candidates are eliminated from the contest and votes for them transferred to other candidates, until one gains a majority. The Vice-President is elected by a direct vote of all members (elected and nominated) of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

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

The 12th President of India is Her Excellency Pratibha Devisingh Patil, the first woman[4] to serve in the office, who was sworn in on 25 July 2007.

Contents

Origin

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India formally took shape as an independent and sovereign nation from the United Kingdom on 15 August 1947 and the country became a Commonwealth dominion.

This was a temporary measure, however, as the continued existence of a shared monarch in the Indian political system was not considered by some to be appropriate. The first Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten, was also the last British Viceroy of India. He soon handed power over to C. Rajagopalachari, who became the only ethnically Indian governor general. In the meantime, the Constituent Assembly was led by Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The drafting was finished on 26 November 1949, and the Constitution was formally adopted on 26 January 1950 – a date of symbolic importance as it was on 26 January 1930 that Indian National Congress celebrated complete independence in the Lahore Session. When the constitution took effect, the Governor General and king were replaced by an elected president, with Dr. Rajendra Prasad serving as the first President of India.

The move ended India's status as a Commonwealth dominion, but the republic remained in the Commonwealth of Nations. Nehru argued that a nation should be allowed to stay in the Commonwealth simply by observing the British monarch as "Head of the Commonwealth" but not necessarily head of state. This was a ground-breaking decision that would set a precedent in the second half of the twentieth century for many other former British colonies to remain in the Commonwealth after becoming newly independent republics.

With the Constitution of India coming into effect on 26 January 1950, under Article 52, Part V, the office of the President of India was established, with Dr. Rajendra Prasad as its first occupant.

Powers and duties

Legislative powers

The president summons both the Houses of the Parliament and prorogues them. He or she can dissolve the Lok Sabha. 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.

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.

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, for reconsideration. When after reconsideration, the bill is passed and presented to the President, with or without amendments, President is obliged to assent to it.The President can also withhold his assent to the bill thereby exercising pocket veto.

When both Houses of the Parliament are not in session and if government feels the need for immediate action, 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.

Article LIII executive powers

The Constitution vests in the President of India all the executive powers of the Central Government. The President appoints the 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.

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:

The President also receives the credentials of Ambassadors and High Commissioners from other countries.

The President is the Commander in Chief of the Indian Armed Forces.

The President of India can grant a pardon to or reduce the sentence of a convicted person for one time, particularly in cases involving punishment of death.

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 other cases, however, the President exercises his or her executive powers on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Financial powers

All money bills originate in Parliament, but only if the President recommends it. He or she causes 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.

Judicial powers

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

If they consider a question of law or a matter of public importance has arisen they can ask for the advisory opinion of the Supreme Court. They may or may not accept that opinion.

He/she has the right to grant pardon. He/She can suspend, remit or commute the death sentence of any person..

He/she enjoys the judicial immunity:

  • No criminal proceedings can be initiated against him/her during his term in office.
  • He/She is not answerable for the exercise of his/her duties.

Basic terminologies used: 1. Pardon - completely absolves the offender 2. Reprieve - temporary suspension of the sentence 3. Respite - awarding a lesser sentence on special ground 4. Remission - reducing the amount of sentence without changing its character 5. Commutation - substitution of one form a punishment for another form which is of a lighter character

Diplomatic powers

All international treaties and agreements are negotiated and concluded on behalf of the President. 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, ie the officers from the Indian Foreign Service.

Military powers

The President is the supreme commander of the defence forces of India. The President can declare war or conclude peace, subject to the approval of parliament only under the decision of the Council of the three Armed Forces Chief staffs, Military Secretary and President's Officer. All important treaties and contracts are made in president's name.

Emergency powers

The President can declare three types of emergencies: national, state and financial.

National emergency

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

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, up to a maximum of three years.

In such an emergency, Fundamental Rights of Indian citizens can be suspended. The six freedoms under Right to Freedom are automatically suspended. However, the Right to Life and Personal Liberty cannot be suspended.

The Parliament can make laws on the 66 subjects of the State List (which contains subjects on which the state governments can make laws). Also, all money bills are referred to the Parliament for its approval. 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.

State emergency

State emergency, also known as President's rule, is declared due to breakdown of constitutional machinery in a state.

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 six 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 (see National emergency for explanation). All money bills have to be referred to the Parliament for approval.

On 19 January 2009, President's rule was imposed on the Indian State of Jharkhand, making it the latest state where this kind of emergency has been imposed.

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
  2. By Article 365:-If that state is not working according to the given direction of the Union Government.

This type of emergency needs the approval of the parliament within 2 months. This type of emergency 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 organize an election in that state.

Financial emergency

If the President is satisfied that there is an economic situation in which the financial stability or credit of India is threatened, he/she can proclaim financial emergency as per the Constitutional Article 360. Such an emergency must be approved by the Parliament within two months. It has never been declared. On a previous occasion, the financial stability or credit of India has indeed been threatened, but a financial emergency was avoided through the selling off of India's gold reserves.

A state of financial emergency remains in force indefinitely until revoked by the President.

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

Selection process

Eligibility

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 citizen of India
  • of 35 years of age or above
  • qualified to become a member of the Lok Sabha

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.

Conditions for Presidency

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.

Election and Oath of the President

Whenever the office becomes vacant, the new President is chosen by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both houses of Parliament and the elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies (Vidhan Sabha).

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.

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. For votes cast by those in Parliament, the total number of votes cast by all state legislators is divided by the number of members of both Houses of Parliament. This is the number of votes per member of either house of Parliament.

In 2007, the President of India was elected indirectly by the members of the Indian Parliament and by the individual States' Legislative Assemblies. Although Indian presidential elections involve actual voting by MPs and MLAs, they tend to vote for the candidate supported by their respective parties.[5]

Hence the internal process for the election involved lobbying by parties for their respective candidates. UPA, the ruling coalition and NDA, the major opposition coalition hence hold the key to the nomination and support gathering. Another key player in the final decision was the Left parties, which agreed to support the UPA candidate under certain conditions for nomination.[6] Mayawati, the newly elected chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India, was also said to be a significant factor in the final election.[7]

The oath of office for the President of India is as follows:

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 Republic of India.

Constitutional role

Article 53(1) of the Constitution vests in the President "[t]he executive power of the Union", to be "exercised by him [sic] either directly or through officers subordinate to him" in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. However, the Constitution also states that the Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, is "to "aid and advise the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice".

However, the Article 74(2) bars all courts completely from assuming even an existence of such an advice.[8] Therefore from the courts' point of view, the real executive power lies with the President. As far as President's decision and action are concerned no one can challenge such decision or action on the ground that it is not in accordance with the advice tendered by the Ministers or that it is based on no advice.[9]

The president of India shall, before entering upon his office, make and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice of India or, in his absence, the senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court available, an oath or affirmation that he/she shall protect, preserve and defend the Constitution (Article 60).

Compensation

The President of India used to receive INR10,000 (US$200) per month as per the Constitution. This amount was increased to INR50,000 (US$1,000) in 1998. On September 11, 2008 the Government of India increased the salary of the President to INR1.5 lakh (US$3,000). However, almost everything that the President does or wants to do is taken care of by the annual INR 22.5 crore (approx. US$ 5 million) budget that the Government allots for his or her upkeep.[10]

The Rashtrapati Bhavan, or Presidential House, is located in Prakash Vir Shastri Avenue, where its main entrance, Gate 35, is located. It is the largest Presidential Palace in the world. The home is in the urban district of New Delhi and was recently renamed from North Avenue in honour of the Member of Parliament who was killed during his tenure here as a representative of the state of Uttar Pradesh.[11]

Living Former Presidents

Removal

The President may be removed before the expiry of his or her term through impeachment. A President can be removed for violation of the Constitution of India.[12]

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 which 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 two-third majority of the total 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 himself/herself through an authorized counsel. If the second house also approves the charges made by two-third 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.

No President has faced impeachment proceedings. Hence, the above provisions have never been used.

Succession

In the event of a vacancy created for the President's post due to death, resignation, removal, etc., Article 65 of the Indian Constitution says that the Vice President will have to discharge his or her duties. The Vice President reverts to his or her office when a new President is elected and enters upon his or her office. When the President is unable to act owing to his or her absence, illness or any other cause, the Vice President discharges the President's functions for a temporary period until the President resumes his or her duties.

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

Parliament has by an enactment made provision 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.

Important presidential interventions

The President's role as defender of the Constitution, and their 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. Some of the more noteworthy are documented here.

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

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 duty bound to sign it. Since the nineties, 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 in to office.

Since the Constitution does not provide any time limit within which the President is to declare his assent or refusal, the President could exercise this veto by not taking any action for an indefinite time; but if the ministry has a strong backing in Parliament, it would not be possible for him to do so even though he\she can do it. Pocket Veto was used in 1986 by the then President Giani Zail Singh in the Postal Bill.

In the late nineties, President 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.

In mid-2006, President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam sent back a controversial bill regarding enlarging the scope of the offices of profit, which disqualify a person from being a member of parliament. The opposition combine, the NDA, hailed the move. The UPA chose to send the bill back to the president without any changes, and after 30 days Kalam gave the assent.

See also

List of Presidents of India

References

  1. ^ {{cite news|title=First formal step towards becoming first woman President|url=http://www.hindu.com/2007/06/24/stories/2007062455981000.htm%7Cpublisher=The Hindu|accessdate=28 August 2011|date=24 June 2007|agency=[[Press Trust of India|PTI}}
  2. ^ The term can be safely Indianised to राष्ट्रपति as long as the President is a male, as was the case before. But this is a purely masculine term and cannot apply to a female as now is the case. It is a matter of debate if now we should use the term राष्ट्रपत्नी
  3. ^ Ministry of Law and justice, Govt of India: "Constitution of India, updated up to 94th Amendment Act", page 26,http://lawmin.nic.in/coi/coiason29july08.pdf
  4. ^ Bibhudatta Pradhan (2007-07-19). "Patil Poised to Become India's First Female President". Bloomberg.com. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&sid=aHJhXtWRZ4bA&refer=india. Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  5. ^ NDTV.com: Balance of power in presidential race
  6. ^ "Talks under way on Presidential election". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 10 May 2007. http://www.hindu.com/2007/05/10/stories/2007051008450100.htm. 
  7. ^ NDTV.com: Mayawati meets Congress President
  8. ^ Ministry of Law and Justice, Govt of India: "Constitution of India, updated up to 94th Amendment Act", page 35,http://lawmin.nic.in/coi/coiason29july08.pdf
  9. ^ S. R. Bommai Vs Union of India: Supreme Court of India, page 169, 11 March 1994, http://judis.nic.in
  10. ^ "President gets richer, gets 300 pc salary hike". CNN-IBN. 09/11/2008. http://www.ibnlive.com/news/president-gets-richer-gets-300-pc-salary-hike/73365-3.html?from=rssfeed. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  11. ^ President's Secretariat (19 February 2003). "PIB Press Release". http://pib.nic.in/archieve/lreleng/lyr2003/rfeb2003/19022003/r1902200326.html. 
  12. ^ Article 56 (1) (b) and Article 61 of the Constitution of India.

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