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What are the powers and functions of the President of India?

The powers and functions of the President of India may be studied under the following heads;

  1. Executive power,
  2. Military and diplomatic power
  3. Legislative powers
  4. Financial powers,
  5. Judicial powers, and
  6. Emergency powers

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1. Executive Power:

i) The constitution says that the “Executive Power of the Union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this constitution. There is a Council of Ministers to aid and advice the President according to the Article 74 of the constitution. The Prime Minister is the head of the council. The President appoints the Prime Minister and other Ministers are appointed by him on the advice of the Prime Minister. The choice of the Prime Minister is not the personal choice of the President. The leader of the majority party in the Lok Sabha is appointed the Prime Minister by the President. He makes rules for the convenient transaction of business of the Government of India and. allocates business among Ministers.

ii) Although the President is not the real head of the administration, all officers of the Union are his subordinates and he has the right to be informed of the affairs of the union.

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iii) The administrative power includes the power to appoint and remove the high dignitaries of the State. Under the constitution the President has the power to appoint, besides the Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Union the Attorney General of India, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, the judges of the Supreme Court, the judges of the High Courts of the states, the Governor of a state, a commission to investigate interference with water supplies, the Finance Commission, the Union Public Service Commission, and Joint Commission for a group of states, the Chief Election Commissioner and other members of the Election Commission, a Special Officer for scheduled castes and tribes, commission to report on the administration of scheduled areas, a commission to investigate into the condition of backward classes, a commission on official language, special officer for linguistic minorities.

iv) In making some appointments the President is required by the constitution to consult persons other than his ministers as well, for example, in appointing the judges of the Supreme Court he has to consult the Chief Justice of India arid other judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court’s as he may I deem necessary.

v) The President has the power to remove his ministers individually, the Attorney-General of India, the Governor of a state, the Chairman or a member of the Public Service Commission of the Union or of a state on the report of the Supreme Court, a judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court or the Election Commissioner on an address of Parliament.

vi) The Indian President does not have any administrative control or supervision over the departments of the Government. The various departments of the government of the Union are carried on under the control and supervision of the respective minister in charge, but the President remains the formal head of the administration, and as such all executive actions of the Union Government are taken in the name of the President. All contracts and assurances of property made on behalf of the government I of India must be expressed to be made by the President and I executed in such manner as the President may direct or authorize.

2. Military and Diplomatic Powers:

i) The constitution vests the supreme command of the Defense Forces in the. President, but he is required to exercise that power in accordance with law Parliament has exclusive Legislative Power relating to defense forces. It means that though the President may have the power to take action as to declaration of war or peace or the employment of the defense forces. It is Parliament that is to regulate or control the exercise of such powers.

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ii) The executive power relating to foreign and diplomatic affairs is exercised by the Union Government, and all diplomatic business is conducted in the name of the President. Diplomatic envoys and consular agents are accredited to him, and he sends diplomatic envoys and consular agents are accredited to him and he sends diplomatic envoys to foreign countries. All treaties and international agreements are negotiated and concluded in the name of the President.

3. Legislative Powers:

The Legislative powers of the President are indicated by Article 79 of the constitution which states that Parliament consists of the President and two Houses to be known as the Council of States and the House of the People. The Legislative Powers of the President are as follows:

i) The President has the power to summon and prorogue the two Houses and dissolve the House of the People. However, Article 85 of the constitution enjoins that the President must summon Parliament within six months of the last sitting of any session. In dissolving the House of the people the President has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. He has no discretion in the matter.

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The President also has the power to summon a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament in case of a deadlock between them.

ii) The President addresses both Houses of Parliament after each general election of the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session each year and informs Parliament of the causes of its summons. This power of the President also is formal. The address that he delivers is prepared by the Cabinet.

Besides the right to address a joint sitting of both Houses at the commencement of the First Session, the President has the right to address each House of Parliament or both Houses assembled together and for that purpose to require the attendance of members.

iii) Apart from the right to address, the President has the right to send messages to either House of Parliament, whether with respect to a Bill then pending in Parliament or otherwise and the House to which any message is so sent shall with all convenient dispatch consider any matter required by the message to be taken into consideration.

iv) The President has the power to nominate 12 members to the Council of States. These members are to consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.

The President is also empowered to nominate not more than two members to the House of the People from the Anglo-Indian Community, if in his opinion the Anglo-Indian Community is not adequately represented in that House.

v) The President is required to lay before Parliament the Annual Budget and Supplementary Budget, if any, the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India relating to the accounts of the Government of India, the recommendations of the Finance Commission, the report of the Union Public Service Commission, the report of the special officers for scheduled castes and tribes, the report of the commission on backward classes, the report of the special officer for linguistic minorities.

vi) The constitution requires the previous sanction or recommendation of the President for re-introducing legislation on some matters. These matters are a Bill for the formation of new states or alteration of boundaries etc. of existing states, a Money Bill, a Bill which should involve expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India, a Bill affecting taxation in which states are interested, State Bills imposing restrictions upon the freedom of trade.

vii) When a Bill has been passed by the two Houses of Parliament, it is presented to the President, and the President may give his assent to the Bill or withhold his assent. He may also return the Bill, if it is not a Money Bill to the Houses with a message requesting that they will consider the Bill or any specified provision thereof and, in particular, consider the desirability of introducing any such amendment as he may recommend in his message. However, if the Bill is passed with or without amendments as contained in the Presidential message the President must give his assent.

viii) There is a prevision on the constitution that the Governor of a state may reserve a Bill for the consideration of the President. If a Bill is so reserved, the President may give his assent to it or withhold his assent there from. It is further provided that where the Bill is not a Money Bill, the President may direct the Governor to return the Bill to the Legislature of the state together with a message that the Legislature shall reconsider it accordingly within a period of six months from the date of receipt of such message, and if it is again passed by the Legislature with or without amendment, it shall be presented again to the President for his consideration. But if he refers his assent, the Bill fails. So there is no means of overriding the President’s Veto, in the case of state legislation.

ix) The President has far reaching Legislative powers when Parliament is not in session. Art 123 of the constitution provides if at any time except when both Houses of Parliament are in session the President is satisfied, that circumstances exist which render if necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such ordinance as circumstances appear to him to require such ordinance shall have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament. But such ordinance has to be laid before both Houses of Parliament shall come to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the reassembly of Parliament & before the, expiration of that period, if resolutions disapproving it are passed by both Houses. .

4. Financial Powers:

Art-112 assigns some role to the President at the financial sphere. He should in respect of every financial year causes to be laid before Houses of Parliament the annual Budget of the Government of India for that year & a supplementary Budget if any. The financial procedure lies down that no demand for a grant should be made except on the recommendation of the President.

5. Judicial Powers:

The President has the power to grant pardon reprieves, respites & remission of punishment or to suspend remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence.

i) In all cases where the punishment & sentence is by court martial.

ii) In all cases where the punishment or sentence j$ for an offence against a law relating to a matter to which the, executive power of the Union extends.

iii) In all cases where the sentence is a death sentence.

6. Emergency Powers:

(i) Besides the powers enumerated above the President exercises vast emergency powers. Emergency Powers may be divided into three heads : i) If the President is satisfied that a grave emergency exists where by India or any part of the territory thereof is threatened whether by war or external aggression or armed rebellion, he may issue a proclamation to that effect. The effects of such a proclamation may be (a) suspension of the autonomy of the states & (b) suspension of Fundamental Rights.

ii) If the President on receipt of a report from the Governor of a state or otherwise is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the constitution he may make a proclamation to the effect. The effects of such a proclamation may be (a) the President may assume to himself all or any of the functions of the Government of the state (b) the powers of the Legislature of the state may be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament.

iii) The President is empowered to declare that a situation has arisen whereby the financial stability or credit of India or any part thereof is threatened. During the period when as such proclamation is in operation the executive authority of the Union shall extend to the giving of directions to any state to observe such canons of financial prosperity as may be specified in the direction. Any such direction may include (a) a provision require the reduction of salaries & allowances of all or any class of person solving in connection with the affairs of a state (b) a provision requiring all money Bills or other Bills to be reserved for the consideration of the President after they are passed by the Legislature of the State.

During the period of proclamation the President can remove direction for the reduction of salaries of all or any class of persons serving in connection with the affairs of the Union including the Supreme Court & the High Courts.

The constitutional position of the President is more & less like that of the British Monarch. He is only nominal head of the executive. The real head of the Government is the Prime Minister. We should therefore note the constitutional limitation under which the President is to exercise his powers.

I) He has to exercise the executive power of the Union vested in him in accordance with the constitution. Thus Art. 75 require that other minister shall be appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is clear that the President has no choice in the appointment of other ministers. There will be a violation of the constitution if the President appoints a person as minister from outside the list submitted by the Prime Minister.

II) Art 74 explicitly lays down that the President shall in the exercise of his function act in accordance with the advice of his Council of Ministers.

The position after the 44th Amendment Act is that the President has no power except in certain marginal cases to act in his discretion. He must act in accordance with the advice tendered by the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.

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