What kind of President does India need?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 53

Mains level : Paper 2- Role of the President as envisage by the Indian Constitution

Context

India is going to elect its new President on July 18. The new President will be sworn in on July 25. Choosing the presidential candidate is an intensely political exercise.

Election of the President

  • Direct or indirect election: The main question debated therein was whether India should have a directly elected President or an indirectly elected one.
  • The Assembly opted for an indirectly elected President.
  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said: “Our President is merely a nominal figurehead. He has no discretion; he has no powers of administration at all.”
  • Article 53 of 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.”
  • It means the President exercises these powers only on the aid and the advice of the Council of Ministers.

People’s presence in the election of the President

  • It is an indirect election in the sense that the people do not directly elect the President.
  • Under Article 54, the President is elected by an electoral college consisting of only the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the State and Union Territory Assemblies.
  • A matter of importance in this context is the vote value of Members of the Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) and the formula for its computation.
  •  The vote of an MLA, though one, is assigned a certain higher value.
  • This value is calculated by first dividing the total population of the State (as per the 1971 Census) by the total strength of the Assembly, and then the quotient is divided by one thousand.
  •  In the computation of the value, the population of the State figures in a significant way.
  •  In other words, the population of the country is a crucial factor in the election of the President, which means the people’s presence in the process of electing the President is very much visible.

Moral authority of the President

  • Wider base: The people’s presence in the election of the President gives a wider base to the President than a mere vote by the legislators on the basis of one member, one vote.
  • This also gives the President a greater moral authority.
  • So, the Indian President is not and cannot be a mere rubber stamp.
  • Reconsideration of decision: He does not directly exercise the executive authority of the Union, but he can disagree with the decision of the Council of Ministers, caution them, counsel them, and so on.
  • The President can ask the Cabinet to reconsider its decisions.
  • However, the Cabinet, after such reconsideration, sends the same proposal back without any change, the President will have to sign it.

Role of the President as envisage by the Constitution

  • Broader view of the things: The Constitution of India wants the President to be vigilant and responsive, and gives the freedom to him or her to take a broader view of things uninfluenced by the narrow political view of the executive.
  • Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution: The above point becomes clearer when we take a look at the oath the President takes before entering office.
  • The oath contains two solemn promises.
  • First, the President shall preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.
  • Second, the President shall devote himself or herself to the service and the well-being of the people of India.
  • Thus, it is possible for a President to disagree with the government or intervene on behalf of the citizenry against the tyranny of the executive and persuade it to give up its ways.

Conclusion

The method adopted for the election of the President and the promises made in the oath makes it clear that the President cannot act as a gramophone of the Prime Minister as mentioned by professor K.T. Shah.

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