What are the powers and functions of Indian President?

The constitution of India envisages a parliamentary Government in India. Part V chapter I of the constitution of Indian Republic deals with the office of the President of India. Although Article 53 of the constitution says that the executive power of union shall be exercised by the President either directly or through officers sub-ordinate to him.

In practice the President has to abide by the decisions of the council of ministers with the Prime Ministers at the head. Our constitution is a harmonious blend of the political systems of the U.S.A. and the U.K. The President merely represents the nation, he does not rule.

Qualifications - To be elected a President the candidate :

(i) Should be a citizen of India;

(ii) Should be of not less than 35 years of age;

(iii) Should be qualified for elections as a member of the House of people; and

(iv) Should not hold any office of profit under the Government of India or any state Government or any local authority subject to the control of any of these Government;

(v) Must not be a member of the parliament.

Election:

The founding fathers of the constitution did not provide for the popular election of the President. Article 54 of the Indian constitution provides for the election of the President of India.

The President of India is elected by indirect election, that is by an electoral college, in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

The electoral college shall consist of (a) the elected members of both the Houses of Parliament and (b) the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the states (Art. 54).

As far as practicable, there shall be uniformity of representation of the different states at the election, according to the population and the total number of elected members of the Legislative Assembly of each state, and party shall also be maintained between the state as a whole and the union (Art. 55).

This second condition seeks to ensure that the votes of the states, is the aggregate, in the electoral college for the election of the President shall be equal to that of the people of the country as a whole. In this way, the President should be a' representative of the nation as well as a representative of the people in the different states.

Term of office:

The President's term of office is for five years from the date on which he enters upon his office; but he is eligible for re-election.

The President's office may terminate within the term of five years in either of two ways, (i) By resignation in writing under his hand addressed to the vice-President of India, (ii) By removal for violation of the constitution, by the process of impeachment (Art. 56).

Impeachment Procedure:

An impeachment is a quasi- judicial procedure in parliament. Either House may prefer the charge of violation of the constitution before the other House which shall then either investigate the charge itself or cause the charge to be investigated.

But the charge cannot be preferred by a House unless (a) a resolution containing the proposal is moved after a 14 days notice in writing signed by not less than 1/4 of the total number of members of the House; and (b) the resolution is then passed by a majority of not less than 2/3 of the total membership of the House.

The President shall have a right to appear and to be represented at such investigation. If as a result of the investigation, a resolution is passed by not less than 2/3 of the total membership of the House before which the charge has been preferred declaring that the charge has been sustained, such resolution shall have the effect of removing the President from his office with effect from the date on which such resolution is passed (Art. 61).

Since the constitution provides the mode and ground for removing the President, he cannot be removed otherwise than by impeachment, in accordance with the terms of Art 56 and 61.

Emoluments and Allowances:

The President shall be entitled without payment of rent to the use of his official residence and shall be also entitled to such emoluments, allowances and privileges as may be determined by Parliament by law that behalf is so made, such emoluments, allowances and privileges as are specified in the second schedule of the constitution.

The President receives a salary of Rs. 50.000 per month and an annual pension on the expiration of his term or on resignation provided he is not re-elected to the office. The emoluments and allowances of the President shall not be diminished during his term of office.

Vacancy in the office of President:

A vacancy in the office of the President may be caused in way of the following ways (i) on the expiry of his term of five years, .(ii) By his death, (iii) By his resignation, (iv) on his removal by impeachment, (v) Otherwise, e.g., on the setting aside of his election as President.

Powers of the President:

The President of India is the head of a parliamentary state, entrusted with all the executive authorities including the supreme command of the forces. He exercises his power with the aid and advice of the council of ministers.

He is a more constitutional ruler. The Prime Minister is the real head of the Government. However, a vast number of powers have been earmarked for the President by the constitution. His powers can be summarized under following categories.

(1) Executive powers:

Article 53 of the constitution, declares the President to be the chief of the state. Sub-clause (i) States, "The executive powers of the union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him either directly or through offices sub-ordinate to him in accordance with his constitution. The constitution vests the supreme executive authority of the union in the President.

All executive actions are taken in his name. He holds the supreme command of India's defence forces and has the power of declaring war or concluding peace. All important appointments of Prime Minister, judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, Comptroller and Auditor General, Chairman and Member of the Union Public Service Commission, Governors etc.

Besides he has the power to appoint an Inter-State Commission, Finance Commission, Election Commission, etc. He has the power to be kept informed of all the officers of the Union. It is the duty of the Prime Minister to communicate to the President all decisions of the council of ministers relating to the administration of Union Affairs.

The President may ask for information regarding administration. It may be remarked that though the President acts on the advice of the Prime Minister in regard to the exercise of executive powers, yet he can exercise a great influence over the Union administration.

(2) Legislative Powers:

According to the Constitution the President is an integral part of the Parliament. He has many powers in relation to the Parliament.

(i) He summons, prorogues the Parliament and can dissolve the House of people.

(ii) He can address either Houses of Parliament or both the Houses jointly.

(iii) He can send message to either, House of Parliament whether with respect to a Bill pending in Parliament of otherwise.

(iv) He can cause certain reports and statements to be laid before the Parliament such as the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, or the Report of the Finance Commission.

(v) He recommends the introduction of certain bills in the Parliament such as the re-organisation of states or alteration of boundaries; a money-bill involving expenditure.

(vi) No bill can become a low unless and until assented to by the President.

(vii) The President many withhold his assent or return the Bill to the House, for reconsideration, if it is not a money bill.

(viii) Certain types of bills passed by the state Legislature are be reserved for his assent certain. Bills require his prior sanction before they are introduced in the state Legislature.

(ix) He nominates 12 members to the council of states and two Anglo-Indian in the House of people.

(x) He promulgates ordinance, during the races of Parliament.

(3) Financial Powers:

In respect of finance the President enjoys the following powers :

(i) No money bill can be introduced in the House of people without the previous sanction of President.

(ii) He causes to be laid before the Parliament the Annual Finance Statement called the Budget before the beginning of every financial year.

(iii) He can make advances from the contingency fund of India to meet unforeseen expenses, pending approval by the Parliament.

(iv) He appoints the finance commission from time to time to make recommendation regarding the distribution of taxes between the Union and the states.

(v) He determines the shares of Income Tax receipts between the union and the states and allocates to the states of Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Orissa their share of the export duty in jute.

(4) Judicial Powers:

The President has the power to grant pardons and reprives, and suspend, remit or commute sentences of persons convicted by court martial, and in all cases in which 'sentences of death' have been passed. The Presidents power of Pardon covers offences against Acts relating to matters in the Union list.

The Presidents power does not affect the similar powers of the Governor and military officers will respect to Court-Martial. It is worthy of note that the Presidents judicial power does not include the power to grant amnesty. This power is left to the parliament.

The President enjoys certain privileges in respect to criminal or civil proceedings against him. No criminal proceedings can be started against him during his term of office. Civil proceedings can -be initiated only after he has been served with a two months written notice.

(5) The Military Powers:

The Supreme Command of the Defence Forces, of course, vested in the President of India, but the constitution expressly lays down that the exercise of this power shall be regulated by law.

This means that though the President may have the power to take action as to declaration of war or peace or the employment, of the Defence Forces, it is competent for Parliament to regulate or control the exercise of such powers.

(6) The Diplomatic powers:

Like the head of other states, the President of India represents India in international affairs and has the power to appoint Indian representatives to other countries and receives diplomatic representatives of other states.

(7) Emergency Powers:

In addition to the power enumerated above the President of India enjoys vast emergency powers. Article, 352 to 360 deal with the Emergency Provisions. The constitution visualizes three kinds of emergencies:

(a) Emergency arising out of a threat to the security of India or any part of it by war, external aggression or internal disturbances,

(b) Emergency arising out of the failure of the constitutional machinery in any one of the states.

(c) Emergency caused by a threat to the financial stability of India.

It is the President who determines whether the emergency exists or not. His judgement in this case cannot be questioned. If the President issues a declaration of national emergency caused by war or threat of war he may:

(i) Suspend the autonomy of states and empower the Parliament to make laws on all matters including matters in the state list.

(ii) Extend the executive power of the union so as to give directions to any state regarding the manner in which the executive power of the union is to be exercised;

(iii) Suspend the fundamental rights including the right to constitutional remedies.

(iv) The President can modify the provisions relating to distribution of revenues between the centre and the states in order to secure adequate revenue for the Government of India to meet situation created by emergency.

The above is the assessment of various powers of the President of India. Looking to these powers one may say that President is no less than a dictator and especially so when an emergency has been declared.

However, whatever may be the constitutional provisions regarding the powers of the President and however vast these powers may be, yet it may be said that the President of India being the head of-a parliamentary Government cannot but exercise his powers on the advice of the cabinet which includes the elected representatives of the people.

Article 74 clearly provides that "there shall be a council of ministers to aid and advice the President in the exercise of these functions. The President cannot give without a council of minister. Article 74 is a mandatory one.

The constitution does not visualize the rule of the President at the centre. The powers of the President are the powers of the council of ministers which is responsible to the parliament. The President who acts without the advice the council of ministers or rejecting this advice acts on his own runs the risk to his own office.

The President must act according to their advice because disregard of their advice would kill the essence of the parliamentary Government which requires that the head of the state should exercise his powers on the advice of the cabinet responsible to the parliament.

If he abuses his emergency powers he can be removed from the office by a process of impeachment. Thus he will not like his name to be married. Moreover it is expected that he will make use of emergency powers with due caution on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Hence his emergency powers have been compared with a loaded gun which can kill the people and also safeguard them. The gun therefore will have to be used safely.