The President is the head of State, but not of the executive. He represents the nation, but does not rule the nation. The President of India is indirectly elected by an “Electoral College” composed of the elected members of both the houses of Parliament and through the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote, voting being by secret ballot.
The Constitution vests all executive authority of the Union in the President. All executive functions of the Government of India shall be carried on behalf of the President and all executive action shall be expressed to be taken in his name. He holds the supreme Command of the Defense forces of the Indian Union and has the power of declaring war and making peace. All important appointments are made by the President including those of Government of States, Ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives, Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme and the State High courts; the Attorney General of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Chairman and members of the Union Public Service Commission. Union territories are administered by chief Commissioner or Lieutenant Governor on behalf of the President.
The President also wields extensive legislative powers, he can summon and prorogue either House of Parliament and dissolve House of the People. He may summon a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament if they fail to agree in a Bill. The President also nominates 12 members of the Council of States. He may address either House separately or both of them together. He may also send messages to either House. At the commencement of the first session of the Parliament every year, he delivers and address.
Every Bill passed by Parliament must received the President’s assent before it can become an Act. The President may give his assent or withhold it for some time in case of other than a Money Bill. The constitution also confers upon the President is to promulgate an ordinance at any time when Parliament is not in session. An ordinance has the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament but it must be placed before the two Houses of Parliament as-soon-as it re-assembly and ceases to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the re-assembly of Parliament.
The President exercises important financial powers. At the beginning of every financial year, he causes to be laid before Parliament the “annual financial statement”. This statement shows the estimated revenues and expenditure of the Union for that year. No Money Bill can be introduced in Parliament except on the President’s recommendation. The Constitution empowers the President to distribute shares of Income Tax receipts between the Union and the States and to allocate to Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa grants-in-aid in lieu of their shares from the export duty on jute. The President can also appoint from time-to-time, a Finance Commission to make recommendations regarding the distribution of taxes between the Union and the States High Courts.
One of the most important and significant aspect of the new Constitution relates to the enormous emergency powers vested in the Union Executive. The President is authorized to exercise these extraordinary powers in order to deal with three kinds of situations, viz (i) emergencies caused by war or internal disturbance and threat thereof (ii) emergencies arising from the failure of constitutional machinery in the state and (iii) financial emergencies.
As in the case of the British King so in that of the President of the Indian Republic, there is a gap between the theory and practice. In theory, the powers described above belong to the President. But in reality they belong to him only in formal sense. In other words, his powers are nominal. The powers which in theory belong to the President are, in practice exercised by the Cabinet. The President is a titular head of the Union. Like the British King, he is only a constitutional ruler. The real executive of the Union is the Cabinet which is a responsible body, answerable for its policies and actions to the President.