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Is The President Of India A Figurehead

Posted by Admin on June 10, 2014 | Comment

The President of India is the head of the state and the first citizen of the nation. Apart from being the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, a wide variety of Executive, Legislative, Diplomatic, and Emergency powers are vested in the President.

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Powers of the President of India

Executive Administration

The President appoints all important public officers of the country including the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers, the Governors of the states, the Attorney General of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, the Members of the Union Public Service Commission etc. All executive functions of the central government are carried out in the name of the President.

It is, however, the firm conviction of the constitution framers of India and their faith in the country’s democracy that prevents the President from assuming dictatorial shades. Most of the appointments made by the president are upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is himself appointed based on the outcome of elections (based on universal adult suffrage). The country’s executive and administrative decisions are ultimately carried out by the ministries and departments of the Government of India. Thus though the real executive powers of the central administration lie with the Prime Minister and his cabinet, the President exercises immense influence in the framing of policy matters. Standoffs between the President and the Prime Minister or other ministers are virtually unheard off in India.

Legislative Administration

The Members of Parliament wield the real legislative powers of the nation. Bills are introduced in the Lower House, the Lok Sabha, analyzed and debated extensively by both houses and sent to the President for his approval which will pass the bill as a law. At this point of time, the President may straight away accord it his assent, withhold it, or send it back to the parliament for a renewed negotiation and suggest amendments. A parliamentary bill cannot become an Act without the assent of the President. It becomes incumbent on the President, though, to approve the bill within a fortnight if it is sent back intact after reconsideration. Some other bills such as those dealing with the reorganization of states and/or alteration of boundaries are introduced in the houses following Presidential recommendation.

The President may nominate two members to the Lok Sabha from the Anglo-Indian Community if it is under represented. He may also nominate and appoint 12 Rajya Sabha members – prominent people from different walks of life. The President holds the powers to summon and prorogue each of the two houses of the Parliament, and to dissolve the Lok Sabha. When there is a deadlock between the two houses, the President may summon a joint session of both the Houses. The President may address his discretion and address the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha either jointly or separately.

The President enjoys a great deal of legislative powers when it comes to promulgating ordinances. An ordinance may be made by the President only when the Parliament is not in session and when the circumstances require immediate action. An ordinance is the same as an Act of Parliament and must be whetted by both the Houses of Parliament within six weeks of their re-assembly.

What is important to note here that while the Indian system upholds the principle of separation of powers in most cases, the President who heads the Executive is also an integral part of the nation’s Legislature. The requirements of the President to sanction bills and act upon the advice of the elected members of parliament must not be regarded as curbs on his authority. Instead, it is the way the framers of our politico-administrative system choose to uphold the prestige of the directly elected members of the legislature.

Military, Diplomatic, And Judicial Administration

The President is the Supreme Commander of the Indian armed forces and hence has the discretion to declare war and peace. He has a say in the deployment of the armed forces where necessary. This power may, however, be exercised only when advised by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet and within the bounds of constitutional authority.

The President wields a number of diplomatic powers as well. This includes appointment of ambassadors and High Commissioner. He himself undertakes diplomatic visits from other countries too and receives visitors from other countries. All international agreements and treaties are undertaken and signed in the name of the President.

The President may grant judicial pardons and remit or suspend punishments. Any sentence handed out by any Indian court may be commuted by him/her.

Emergency Administration

The President enjoys the right to proclaim a national emergency when the country’s security is threatened due to a war or external aggression or due to an armed rebellion. When the nation’s financial stability is threatened, again the President may declare a financial emergency. When a state governance falls into disarray and peaceful administration cannot be carried out, the President may assume the functions of the state government following a proclamation.

While the office of the President of India has often been criticized for its lack of any real authority in peace times, the head of the country enjoys a number of discretionary powers that uphold the highest office of the country. One of the most important instances where the President of India may use hid wisdom and counsel is in case of a hung parliament or when none of the political parties are capable of achieving a clear cut majority in the Lok Sabha polls. The president may then invite the leader of the party he deems capable of proving its majority to form the government.

In India, the tradition of nominating illustrious and distinguished people to the office of the President has been an unbroken one. From Rajendra Prasad, and S Radhakrishnan of olden days to R Venkataraman, APJ Abdul Kalam, and Pranab Mukherjee, the Presidents of India have fulfilled greater roles in shaping the nation and have not remained mere figureheads. In a country marked by immense diversity of language, culture, preferences, and leadership, the Indian Presidents have served to remain a strong unifying factor and symbol of the nation’s prestige.