Q. “India has president but not presidential form of government”. Critically evaluate the position of president in Indian constitution.
The President is the head of the Indian State. He is the first citizen of India and acts as a symbol of unity, integrity and solidarity of the nation. He is an integral part of the Parliament though he is not a member of either House. As an integral part of Parliament, the President has been assigned certain powers and functions such as:
1. Executive powers
- All executive actions of the Government of India are formally taken in his name.
- He appoints, the Prime Minister and the other ministers, Attorney General of India and Comptroller and Auditor General of India etc.
2. Legislative powers
- Summoning or prorogue the Parliament and dissolve the Lok Sabha.
- He nominates 12 members to the Rajya Sabha.
- He decides on questions as to disqualifications of members of the Parliament.
- He can promulgate ordinances.
3. Financial powers
- Money bills can be introduced in the Parliament only with his prior recommendation.
- He constitutes a finance commission after every five years to recommend the distribution of revenues between the Centre and the states.
4. Judicial powers
- He appoints the Chief Justice and the judges of the Supreme Court and high Courts.
- He can grant pardon, reprieve, respite and remission of punishment, or suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence.
5. Military powers
- He is the supreme commander of the defence forces of India. In that capacity, he appoints the chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
6. Emergency powers
- The Constitution confers extraordinary powers on the President to deal with the following three types of emergencies.
- National Emergency (Article 352)
- President’s Rule (Article 356 & 365)
- Financial Emergency (Article 360)
It has been seen that the Constitution vests all executive powers in the President. He/She also has extensive emergency powers but in reality he is a nominal executive or a constitutional Head of State with no constitutional discretion but situational discretion.
- According to the Indian Constitution, the President has to exercise his/her powers on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister and is binding on him. This indicates that the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers are the real rulers in the government.
- The Constitution, 42ndAmendment Act has made it obligatory for the President to act only on the advice of the Council of Ministers. The President cannot act independently.
- If the President tries to act against the wishes of ministers, the President may create a constitutional crisis.
- The President may even face impeachment and may have to quit. Thus, the President has no alternative but to act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.
- Power of the President is also not absolute. President can only declare a state of emergency only on the written advice of Cabinet.
- In accordance with the 44thAmendment Act of the Constitution, the President can send back a bill passed by the Parliament for reconsideration only once and if the bill is passed by the Parliament, the President has to give his assent to the bill.
- Ordinance issued by the president has to be approved by the parliament in 6 weeks failing which the ordinance becomes null and void.
One can describe the position of the President in the words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. According to him/her, the President is the Head of State but not the executive. The President represents the nation but does not rule over the nation. The President is the symbol of nation. His/her place in the administration is that of a ceremonial head.