Under Article 53 of the Constitution the executive power of the Union vested in the President who is empowered to exercise it either directly or through officers subordinate to him.

The list of powers which the Constitution confers upon the President is long and impressive. These may be I broadly classified under three categories, Executive powers, Legislative Powers and Emergency powers.

Executive Powers

The Constitution lays down the general principle that the executive power of the Union is co-extensive with its legislative power. Interpreting the scope of this power the Supreme Court held that it embraced not only matters upon which Parliament has already passed legislation but also those on which it is competent to pass legislation.


Since the President is the Head of the Union Executive, naturally his executive power embraces the entire field of activities of the Union. It has already been pointed out that he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces.

By making the President the Commander-in-Chief, the Constitution ensures the subordination of the entire Armed Forces to the civil authority at all times. In addition, the President has vast powers of appointment.

He appoints the Prime Minister and other members of the Council of Ministers and makes rules for the transaction of the business of the Government of India and for the allocation, among the Ministers, of that business.

He appoints the Attorney-General, the Chief Justice and justices of the Supreme Court and those of the High Courts, the members of the Union Public Service Commission, the Election Commission, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India.


Ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives of India abroad, the Commissioner for the Scheduled Castes, Tribes, Backward Classes and Minorities, the Governors, Chief Commissioners of Union Territories, member of the Finance Commission and of the Inter-State Council.

In fact, every appointment in the Union Government is made in the name of the President or under his authority. But in the above cases the appointments are made by the President “by warrant under his hand and seal”.

Under Article 72 the President is given the power to grant pardons. According to this, in all Court Martial cases as well as cases involving the breach of Union law where a punishment or sentence is inflicted on any person, the President may grant pardon or any other appropriate mercy such as reprieve, respite, remission, or suspension, or commutation of sentence.

Legislative Powers


In the legislative field too the President has important powers. In fact, the President forms an integral part of the legislative process in that without his assent, no Central Bill can become law. He summons the Houses of Parliament, prorogues the Houses and may dissolve the House of the People.

He may address either House of the Parliament or both Houses assembled together or send messages to them. He nominates 12 members to the Council of States and may nominate two members of the Anglo-Indian Community to the House of the People.

Every Bill passed by Parliament must be presented to the President for his assent. He may withhold his assent or return it to Parliament for reconsideration. He causes to be laid before Parliament the annual budget showing the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Union for each year. No demand for a financial grant can be made in Parliament except on his recommendation.

Perhaps, the most important legislative power of the President is his power to promulgate Ordinances under Article 123. According to this, the President is empowered to promulgate Ordinances, except when both the Houses of Parliament are in session, if he is satisfied that circumstances exit compelling him to take immediate action.


A Presidential Ordinance has the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament. However, every such Ordinance should be laid before both Houses of Parliament within six weeks from the re-assembly of Parliament.

Failure to comply with this condition, or Parliamentary disapproval within the six weeks’ period, will make the Ordinance invalid. The President may also withdraw the Ordinance at any time he likes.

Emergency Powers

The President is empowered to declare three different types of emergency. He may declare an emergency either in any part or the whole of India, if he is satisfied that there is a threat of war or external aggression or internal disturbance.


Further, he is empowered to declare an emergency in case of a breakdown of the constitutional machinery in any State of the Union. He may also declare, in case of a financial breakdown, a financial emergency. (As there is a separate chapter dealing with these powers and their implications, it is not proposed to deal with the subject in detail here.)