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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: The President is not a mere rubber stamp

 Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: President-Election, power and privileges etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Role of President in India, power and privileges, mode of election etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • As the tenure of President Ram Nath Kovind comes to an end on July 24, 2022, an election to fill the position of the 16th President of India will be held on July 18.
  • The polls will witness 4,809 electors, including MPs and MLAs, voting to elect President Kovind’s successor.
  • In the last election in 2017, Ram Nath Kovind became the President after defeating joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar. Kovind polled 7,02,000 votes compared with Kumar’s 3,67,000, out of a total of 10,69,358 votes.
  • But once the President is elected, the excitement subsides and for the next five years not much attention is paid to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

President:

  • Part V of the Constitution (The Union) under Chapter I (The Executive) lists out the qualification, election and impeachment of the President of India.
  • The President of India is the head of state of the Republic of India.
  • The President is the formal head of the executive, legislature and judiciary of India and is also the commander-in-chief of the Indian Armed Forces.
  • Article 53 of the Constitution of India states that the President can exercise his or her powers directly or by subordinate authority, with few exceptions, all of the executive authority vested in the President are, in practice, exercised by the Council of Ministers (CoM).
  • Under Article 57, a person who holds, or who has held, office as President shall, subject to the other provisions of this Constitution be eligible for re-election to that office.

 

How is the President elected?

  • The Indian President is elected through an electoral college system, wherein the votes are cast by national and State-level lawmakers.
  • The elections are conducted and overseen by the Election Commission (EC) of India.
  • The electoral college is made up of:
  1. All the elected members of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs)
  2. Elected Members of the Legislative Assemblies of States and Union Territories (MLAs).

 

Related Constitutional Provisions:

 

 

Procedure:

 

Current Affairs

 

 

Current Affairs

 

Value of each vote and how is it calculated?

  • A vote cast by each MP or MLA is not calculated as one vote.
  • The fixed value of each vote by an MP of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha is 708.
  • Meanwhile, the vote value of each MLA differs from State to State based on a calculation that factors in its population vis-a-vis the number of members in its legislative Assembly.
  • Uttar Pradesh has the highest vote value for each of its MLAs, at 208.
  • The value of one MLAs vote in Maharashtra is 175, while that in Arunachal Pradesh is just 8.
  • The value of each MLAs vote is determined:

 

Current Affairs

 

Requirements to secure a victory in Presidential election:

  • A nominated candidate does not secure victory based on a simple majority but through a system of bagging a specific quota of votes.
  • While counting, the EC totals up all the valid votes cast by the electoral college through paper ballots and to win, the candidate must secure 50% of the total votes cast + 1.
  • Unlike general elections, where electors vote for a single party’s candidate, the voters of the electoral college write the names of candidates on the ballot paper in the order of preference.
  • The President’s election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote and the voting is by secret ballot.

 

Responsibilities of the President:

  • Role of population and responsibility towards them: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.
    • This 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.
  • Can disagree with the decisions of the Council of Ministers: 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.
  • Can ask for reconsideration of decision:The President can ask the Cabinet to reconsider its decisions.
  • He is not personally answerable: Under the Cabinet system of government, it is the Cabinet which is responsible for the government’s decisions. The President is in no way personally responsible for those decisions which he or she approves.
  • Constitutional discretion: 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 Un-influenced by the narrow political view of the executive.
  • Shall preserve and defend constitution along with wellbeing of people: The Oath contains two solemn promises:
    • The President shall preserve,protect and defend the Constitution
    • The President shall devote himself or herself to the service and the wellbeing of the people of India.

 

Impeachment of President:

Criticism of President’s role:

  • In Shamsher Singh State of Punjab, the Supreme Court held that, the Governor and President are only the former heads of the state
  • When they require satisfaction as required by the Constitution, it is not their personal satisfaction but the satisfaction of the Council of Ministers on whose aid and advice they exercise powers and functions
  • Apart from political cronyism, the appointment of Presidents has often smacked of tokenism.

 

 Way Forward

  • Can prevent the tyranny of the government:The 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 bond together.
  • President’s who set examples: There were Presidents such as Rajendra Prasad and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who openly differed with the government on certain policy issues and could exert tremendous influence on the government.
  • Disagreement with the government: 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. The solemn oath the President takes requires him or her to do it.
  • Use of discretionary powers: Under article 78 the President enjoys the right to seek information from the PM regarding the administration of the affairs of the union. Under the established convention, the President has the right to warn or encourage the Council of Minister (CoM) in the exercise of its power.

 

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

  1. Instances of the President’s delay in commuting death sentences has come under public debate as denial of justice. Should there be a time limit specified for the President to accept/reject such petitions? Analyze.(UPSC 2014)

 

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)