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Is President a Rubber stamp?

Introduction


There shall be a President of India—Article 52, Constitution of India. Despite being vested with tremendous power, it is well known that the President of India cannot act except in accordance with the advice of the council of minister.


The President of the Republic of India is the head of state of India and the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces. He is nominal head.


The President of India is indirectly elected by the elected members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, and the legislative assemblies of the states and union territories of India. The President of India has been granted the responsibility and authority to protect the Constitution.


A significant distinction between the President of India and the British Monarch is that the former is subject to impeachment by the two houses of Parliament for "violation of the Constitution," a circumstance that is inconceivable in the UK.


Rubber Stamp?


The President was the subject of much discussion in the Constituent Assembly. The primary topic of discussion was whether India should have a directly or indirectly elected president. The Assembly chose for a President elected indirectly. Professor K.T. Shah argued that an indirectly elected President will be a “sort of mere gramophone of the Prime Minister.” Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said “Our President is merely a nominal figurehead. He has no discretion; he has no powers of administration at all.” He felt that since he is just a nominal head no elaborate procedure of direct election is needed.


India’s President merely “reigns, and does not rule”. This was the opinion of B N Rau, a crucial figure in the framing of the Constitution.

But K M Munshi, a member of the Constituent Assembly, and former Presidents Rajendra Prasad, Zail Singh and K R Narayanan challenged this interpretation. In his book The ‘President under the Indian Constitution’, K. M. Munshi, a prominent member of the Constituent Assembly, developed a theory of "Independent Presidency" and  The president is not only the biggest dignitary of our realm, but the embodiment of the unity of our country principal role of the president is to prevent a parliamentary government from becoming a parliamentary anarchy and it is the presidential authority that keeps the country and the people bound together (Kumar, 2015).


Article 79 of the Constitution states, “There shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of States and the House of the People”. Making the President part of Parliament was essentially to integrate an effective inter-organ control device to check the powers of a strong Parliament.


Discretion of the President


The fact that the President enjoys certain discretionary powers, but what these powers are and under what circumstances they are to be exercised were neither thoroughly debated in the Constituent Assembly nor specified in the Constitution.


The president has the discretion in appointing the Prime Minister in case of hung parliament or when no party secures majority, fails to prove confidence of the house.


The President has to act in accordance with the advise of the Council of Minister, 42nd amendment made the advise binding on the President. 44th amendment stated that President can ask the Council to reconsider the advise whereas if same is tendered again, President is bound by it.


The term pleasure of president means pleasure of Council of ministers.


President enjoys various vetos ( substantive veto, pocket veto and absolute veto), pocket veto being the most crucial among all. Under this President can keep the bill pending for an indefinite time period. This requires neither rejection nor acceptance. President Zail Singh in 1986 made efficient use of this tool.


Conclusion


Presidents to come must know how to be assertive and must follow the tracks of Rajendra Prasad, Zail Singh and K R Narayanan, who refused to be mere rubber stamps. Presidency is not just a superficial jewel to be admired, it can prove to be a bulwark of Parliamentary Democracy if leaders play their part with utmost honesty and integrity . Through the intelligent use of the power to seek reconsideration of the Cabinet’s advice (as Narayanan did) and the use of ‘pocket pocket veto’ and right to be informed, as Zail Singh did, Presidents to come can fulfil the oath and enhance the stature of of office. As Machiavelli’s saying goes that titles don’t honour men, it’s men who honour titles.

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