The powers and functions that have been vested in the President of India may be classified under the following heads. The Executive powers, Legislative powers, Military powers, Diplomatic powers, judicial powers, financial powers and Emergency powers.
1. The Executive powers
Art 53 of the constitution lays down that the executive power of the union shall be vested in the President. Thus making him the head of the executive. All executive actions of the union must be expressed to be taken in the name of the President and as such he shall have a right to be informed of the affairs of the union. The executive power includes the power to appoint and remove the high constitutional authority of the country. Under this power he appoints the Prime Minister and other members of the Council of Ministers and distributes portfolios among them. He also appoints the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts in the states.
The Governor of the states, the Attorney General and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Chief Commissioner and other members of the Election Commission, the Chairman and members of the Union Public Service Commission, the Finance Commission. Besides he also gives appointments to many other statutory Commissions, like Language Commission and Commission on Advise and Harriman. He also enjoys the power to remove the Prime Minister and other ministers and all of those whom he gives appointment on an address of the Parliament.
2. Legislative powers
The President of India is an integral part of the Union Parliament. The Parliament cannot function without involving him. Because he alone can summon and prorogue the Houses of Parliament. If there is a deadlock in the process of legislation between both the Houses of Parliament, the President has the power to summon a joint session to do away with the impasse. He addresses both the Houses on the inaugural session after each general election and presents the agenda of the government. Apart from this he can send messages to either House of Parliament on any important matter of national, constitutional or public interest. The constitution requires the previous sanction of the President for introducing certain legislations for example a bill which seeks to create a new state or change the boundary of an existing state or change the name of a state or dealing with certain matters relating to Fundamental Rights. Money bills also require the previous sanction of the President before its introduction in the Lower House. Besides all bills after they are passed in the Parliament need his consent to become Acts.
The President can also promulgate ordinances during the recess of the Parliament. Ordinance is an emergent legislation. If a legislation is warranted at a time when the legislature is not in session, the President on the request of the executive can issue an ordinance having the force and effect of an Act. However every such ordinance must be laid before both the Houses of Parliament and shall cease to operate, on the expiry of six weeks from the date of is reassembly, unless approved by the Parliament. The ordinance also becomes in operative if before the expiry of six weeks a resolution is passed by Parliament against it.
The ordinance may be withdrawn by the President at any time. Over and above the President of India has the powers to constitute the Parliament partially by virtue of his powers to nominate members to both the Houses of the Parliament. He can nominate two members from Anglo Indian Community to the Lok Sabha, if he is satisfied that the Community is not adequately represented in the House. Besides, he can nominate twelve members to the Rajya Sabha from among persons having special knowledge and practical experience of science, art, literature and social service. Further he causes some important reports to be submitted on the floor of the Lok Sabha. The reports of Comptroller and Auditor General, Finance Commission, Union Public Service Commission, Language Commission are some of the many reports caused by the President to be laid before the Parliament.
3. Military Powers
The constitution vests the Supreme Command of the Defence Force in the President of India. As such he makes all important appointments in the Defence Force including the Chief of the three wings the Armed Force, the Air Force and the Naval Force. He can declare war and conclude peace. However the President cannot do so himself. Under the Constitution he is required to do so under the control and authority of the Parliament.
4. Diplomatic Powers
The President enjoys wide diplomatic powers or powers over foreign or external affairs. For the purpose of maintaining ties with the other countries he appoints diplomatic representatives like Ambassadors or the High Commissioners to those countries. The diplomatic representatives of other foreign countries also present their credentials to him before taking up their assignments in this country. He also takes up the task of negotiating treaties and agreements with other countries subject to ratification by Parliament. As head of the state he represents India in International affairs.
5. Judicial Powers
The President of India as head of the executive enjoys some judicial powers like most other heads of democratic countries the world over. The purpose of granting such powers to the President is to rectify the possible judicial errors. No human system of judicial administration can ever be foolproof. The President of India can grant pardons, reprieves or respites or remission of punishment. He can suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence in cases where the punishment is by a court martial or death sentence.
Besides the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts are appointed by him. He is also empowered to transfer the judges of the High Courts or can remove any judge of Supreme Court or High Courts or an address by the Parliament. A very significant power with the President is that he can seek the opinion of the Supreme Court or any matter of legal or constitutional importance involving the interest of the State and the people. However it is up to the Supreme Court whether to render any advice to the President and on the other hand it is for the President either to accept or reject such advice if tendered.
6. Financial Powers
With regard to his powers in the field of finance the constitution provides that all money bills will need his consent to be initialed in the Lower House of Parliament. He causes the budget to be laid on the floors of Lok Sabha every financial year. He is empowered to order for the presentation of the report of the Auditor General of India relating to the accounts of the Government of India. The Finance Commission submits its report containing its recommendations and actions taken for his placement in the legislature.
The Contingency Fund of India is at his disposal. He can make advances out of it to meet the unforeseen expenditure.
The powers discussed above are discharged by the President during normal period. But normalcy may not be a permanent feature in the life of a nation. Sometimes some awkward situations may demand very tough action or the part of the chief executive. The President of India has been given some extraordinary powers to deal with such emergent situation.
7. Emergency powers
The makers of the Indian constitution were influenced by the relevant provisions of the Government India Act, 1935 and-the Constitution of Weimer Republic of Germany where such provisions had been incorporated. In the Constitution of India three kinds of emergencies have been envisaged such as National Emergency, State Emergency and Financial Emergency.
8. NATIONAL EMERGENCY
The emergency provisions in part XVIII of the constitution have been considerably amended by the 42nd (1976) and 44th (1978) amendment. The President of India under Article 352 can declare emergency at any time when he is satisfied that security of India or part thereof has been threatened by war, external aggression or armed rebellion. It may be declared even before such eventuality takes place. Such a proclamation, known as National emergency, is issued on the recommendation of the cabinet headed by Prime Minister, in writing to the President. This must be approved by resolutions of both houses of Parliament within one month from the date of its issue.
If the Lok Sabha stands dissolved at the time of the declaration of emergency then Rajya Sabha must approve of this and then within thirty days must be approved by the reconstituted Lok Sabha. If approved by both the Houses of the Parliament the proclamation of emergency continues for a period of six months. It may continue for indefinite period till normalcy is restored but it must be extended every six months through Parliamentary resolutions. All such resolutions must be passed by a majority of two thirds of members in both the Houses. The President can revoke it any time National emergency may be declared in respect of the whole of India on only a parts of it.
The declaration of National Emergency brings about a lot of change in the constitutional set up the country. The immediate effect of such declaration is that the federal structure of the country is folded to a unitary one for purposes of uniformity of administration. The law making power of Parliament is extended to the items in the state list. The President of India can issue directions on instructions to any state indicating the manner in which their executive power is to be exercised. He is also empowered to rearrange the distribution of revenues between the union and the states to ensure availability of sufficient funds to the central government. The fundamental rights granted to the citizens can be reasonably restricted in the greater interest of the country. However such restrictions are withdrawn immediately after the revocation of emergency. The life of the Parliament may be extended by a year.
Such an emergency under article 352 has been invoked thrice. First in October 1962 at the time of Chinese aggression this emergency was proclaimed for the first time and continued till January 1968. For the second time it was declared in December 1971 at the time of Indo-Pak war, that continued up to March 1977. For the third time the President declared it in June 1975 on account of internal political crisis and continued till March 1977.
9. State Emergency
The state emergency is also known as political emergency, President’s Rule and some others also refer to it as Governor’s rule. This kind of emergency arises when the constitutional machinery in any state becomes in-operative Art 356 provides that if the President of India on receipt of report from the Governor of a state or otherwise is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of a state cannot be carried or in accordance with the provisions of the constitution he may declare state emergency. Such a proclamation may be made by the President where any state has failed to implement any central directive. Any dislocation in state administration might just affect the national integrity. This provision has been incorporated as a safeguard against that.
The Parliament must approve of the proclamation within two months. Such an emergency can continue for a period of six months at a stretch and can be extended up to a maximum period of three years. However every six months the proclamation should be renewed by the Parliament.
The declaration of this emergency has its effects on the administration of the state. The immediate effect is that the President of India takes over the administration of the state, except the powers of the High Court. This is why it is called President’s Rule. He authorizes the Governor of the state to run its administration on his behalf. He may appoint advisors to assist the Governor in the discharge of his functions during this period. The Legislative Assembly of the state is either dissolved or kept suspended depending upon the situation. The powers of the State Legislature in that case is exercised by the Parliament. The Parliament may also delegate these powers to the President.
This type of emergency has been invoked on several occasions since 1951. The 44th Constitutional Amendment Act has provided that such a proclamation can be challenged by a court of law to check its misuse.
10. Financial Emergency
If the President of India feels satisfied that the financial stability of India or any of its part is seriously affected he may proclaim financial emergency under Art 360. The duration of such a proclamation ordinarily remains in force for a period of two months. Of course within that period it has to be approved by resolutions of both the chambers of the Parliament. If the Lok Sabha is dissolved within that period of two months, the proclamation has to be approved within thirty days of the newly constituted Lok Sabha. It can continue for indefinite period till it is revoked by the President.
The effects of financial emergency are significant. The President can direct State Government to observe economy measures in public expenditure. All Money Bills may be reserved for the consideration of the President. Salaries and perks of Gout, servants and high constitutional dignitaries may be drastically reduced including the judges of higher courts. The President of India may reconsider the allocation of revenues between the centre and the states.
Financial emergency has not been put to test so far since inception of the constitution. The President of India exercises these powers discussed above under constitutional limitations. The President exercises these powers under the advice of the Council of Ministers. The 44th amendments have made it clear that except in certain marginal cases, the President shall have no power to act in his discretion. His refusal to abide by the advice of the Council of Minister may lead to his impeachment on grounds of violation of constitution. The powers of the President are actually exercised by the Council of Ministers in the tradition of Parliamentary democracy. Under such a system of government the President has a very formal position and nominal role to play under the constitution. However he can always influence the decisions of the Council of Ministers by his advice and guide the Parliament through his speech and messages if he has a nonpartisan image, clarity of thinking, integrity of character and above all charismatic personality.