In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Qualifications for Office of the President 2. Election and Removal of the President 3. Tenth Presidential Elections in India 4. Election Disputes 5. Significance of Presidential Election 6. Resentments of Presidents 7. Doctrine of PM’s President 8. Removal of President 9. Salary and Allowances of President 10. Re-Election of President.
- Qualifications for Office of the President
- Election and Removal of the President
- Tenth Presidential Elections in India
- Election Disputes
- Significance of Presidential Election
- Resentments of Presidents
- Doctrine of PM’s President
- Removal of President
- Salary and Allowances of President
- Re-Election of President
1. Qualifications for Office of the President:
A person who offers himself as candidate for the high Office of President of India should be:
(i) A natural citizen of India.
(ii) Should have completed 35 years of age.
(iii) Should hold such other qualifications as are essential for eligibility as member of the Lok Sabha.
(iv) Should not hold any office of profit in India or abroad i.e., he should not receive any salary from the Consolidated Fund of India.
(v) Should not be a member of any state legislature or Parliament. If he is so at the time of his election, it will be presumed that he has vacated his seat as a parliamentarian/legislator after his assuming charge as the President of the Republic of India.
2. Election and Removal of the President:
The Constitution of India has provided that India shall be a Republic with parliamentary form of government. Accordingly, the President of the Republic, as the head of the state, is elected by the representatives of the people returned to Parliament and the State legislatures. His normal term of office is five years, though he can be removed earlier by impeachment process.
He also can seek re-election for one more term. He is aided and advised by the Council of Ministers, headed by Prime Minister. Being head of parliamentary form of government, the President who is head of the state, is supposed to be only dejure head, whereas real power and authority is vested in the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers.
In India, the President enjoys certain powers during normal times, whereas he has a different set of powers during emergency, both internal and external, which far more increase than what these are during normal times.
The Constitution fathers had various alternatives before them for electing the President of the Republic. However, methods of direct and indirect election focused their attention. They preferred the latter over the former because it was felt that since the President was going to be nominal head of the state, in case he was directly elected by the people, he will not be satisfied by remaining merely as nominal head of the State.
It was also felt that India being a vast country with vast majority of illiterate citizens, it will not be proper to burden them with the responsibility of electing a person for such a high office. Another argument advanced was that election will mean much of hustle and bustle and mud slinging on the candidate for Presidency which was most undesirable and likely to bring the President low in the eyes of the people.
Moreover, there could be the possibility of clashes between directly elected President and Prime Minister for supremacy, which nation could ill afford.
3. Tenth Presidential Elections in India:
Tenth Presidential election in India were held on 13th July, 1992. Real contest was between Congress candidate Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, who was also supported by both the Communist parties, Samajwadi Janata Dal and some others and Prof. G.G. Swell who was supported party, Janata Dal, Telugu Desham Party and some others. Another Candidate for Presidency Ram Jethamalani an eminent jurist, who however, withdraw from the contest before the date of election.
There was split in Janata Front and B.J.P. raised the issue of Conscience vote and so also some members of Janata Dal. Dr. Shankar Dayal who got 64.78% of total valid votes polled was declared elected as against 33.21% of the total valid votes polled by opposition supported (BJP & National Front) candidate Prof. G.G. Swell. Ram Jethamalani who had withdrew his name from the contest secured votes of two MPs and 11 MLAs and lost his security deposit.
Another candidate Joginder Singh Dhartipakar secured only four votes including that of one M.P. and three MLAs. He too lost his security deposit. It was for the first time that 21 members of Parliament and many MLAs from different states cross voted in favour of Congress candidate Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma.
The Table below shows voting pattern and number of votes polled by the candidates during tenth Presidential elections held in 1972.
As a result of elections Dr. S.D. Sharma polled 64.7% ; Sh. G.G. Swell polled 33.21% ; J.S. Dhartipakar 0.11% and Ram Jethamalani polled 0.26% votes.
4. Election Disputes:
Since the Constitution has provided for elected President, therefore, election disputes are bound to arise and courts of law are likely to be approached for taking a decision. The election of President V.V. Giri was challenged in the Supreme Court and the President himself decided to appear before the court.
Thirty-Ninth Constitution Amendment Act, however, deprived the courts of law to listen to election disputes of the President and the Vice-President.
The new Article 71 of the Constitution as the amendment provided was that the Parliament by law would regulate any matter relating to or connected with the election of the President or the Vice-President including the ground on which such election might be questioned.
It also further provided that the election of a person as President or Vice-President shall not be called in question on the ground of the existence of any vacancy for whatsoever reason among the members of electoral college electing him.
If, however, there are any disputes about the election of the President or Vice-President these shall be enquired into and decided by such authority or body and in such manner as may be provided for by or under any law which may be made by the Parliament and the validity of such decision shall not be questioned in any court. But the need of setting up such a body or authority did not arise.
In 1977, Janata party came into power and with that this provision of the constitution was again amended. Forty-Fourth Constitution Amendment Act of course still provided that the election of a person as President or Vice-President shall not be called in question on the ground of existence of any vacancy for whatsoever reason among the members of electoral college electing him but it provided that all doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with the election of a President or Vice-President shall be enquired into and decided by the Supreme Court whose decision shall be final.
Thus, by this amendment the courts got back their lost powers. Not only this, but no citizen of India will now knock the doors of the courts of law on the plea that electoral college was incomplete or a particular state Assembly was not represented because it stood dissolved .
In 1974 when a question was referred to the Supreme Court for advice as to whether the election to the office of the President could be held notwithstanding that a State Legislative Assembly had been dissolved the Supreme Court was of the view that election to the office of the President or Vice-President must be filled before the expiration of the term and there was no provision for extension of time.
It also said that elected members of dissolved legislative assembly were no longer the members of the electoral college and thus not entitled to cast votes at the Presidential election. The court however refrained from expressing any opinion as to the effect of the dissolution of a substantial number of state legislative assemblies before the Presidential election.
In India there was a problem which needed immediate attention namely the number of persons who could contest Presidential election. Each a.id every citizen of India who holds some minimum qualifications is entitled to contest election for the office of the President. But this office is so high that its dignity must be preserved and less the contestants more dignified that is.
In order to check the increasing number of candidates the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election (Amendment) Acts 1974 and 1977 provide that a candidate who wants to contest election for the office of the President should get his name sponsored by at least 10 electors and another ten electors should second his name.
He is also required to pay at least Rs.2500/- as a security deposit. It is hoped that these provisions will help reducing the number of candidates for this high office.
The election of a candidate can now be declared as null and void on the ground that there has been undue influence on the electors by the returned candidate or that they have been bribed or that the results have been materially affected by improper reception or refusal of votes or due to non-compliance of the provision of the constitution or any Act in force or that the nomination of any candidate has been wrongly accepted or rejected.
In 1969 a member of Parliament raised a very interesting question on the floor of the House when the office of the President fell vacant due to the sudden death of President Zakir Hussain. He said that under Article 65 (1) of the Constitution it has been provided that when a vacancy in the office of the President occurs Vice-President shall act as President until a new President is elected.
This provision according to him is mandatory and no person other than the Vice-President can act as President of India in such an event. According to him who will act as the President of India if due to one reason or the other, the Vice-President is not in a position to discharge duties of the office of the President.
In order to avoid his lacuna the Presidents (Discharge of Functions) Act has been passed by the Parliament which provides that in such a situation the Chief Justice of India or senior most Judge of the Supreme Court shall discharge the duties of office of the President.
Under the constitution the President is to be sworn in before Chief Justice or senior most judge of the Supreme Court before the assumption of his office. There is no provision like the one in the Constitution of the USA that the President can be also swornl in before a local available judge, if need be.
Though the situation has as yet not arisen yet what will happen if the President elect is not in a position to come before the Chief Justice or senior most judge of the Supreme Court for taking oath for few hours or even for a day. In such a case office of the President will be vacant for that period which is constitutionally not correct.
5. Significance of Presidential Election:
Election of the President of India has now assumed considerable significance. In the beginning when there was monolithic party system in the country; with towering personality of Jawaharlal Nehru at the head there was not much of a problem because Congress party nominee was always elected to this high office.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was twice elected to this office without much heat and furore anywhere and this is what happened when Dr. Radhakrishnan was elected to this office. But election of the President assumed a special significance in 1967. Fourth General Elections had then been held in the country and Congress party came back to power at the Centre with much reduced strength.
In some states it was not even in power and instead SVD and UF governments were in power. The Congress party then nominated Dr. Zakir Hussain whereas opposition parties decided to back K. Subba Rao as its candidate.
Dr. Zakir Hussain of course won the election but his election was challenged in the Supreme Court on the plea that some of the Ministers of the central government had exercised undue influence on the members of the electoral college. But this plea was rejected by the court.
But this election raised many important issues. As already pointed out, at that time in seven states there were non-Congress Ministries. These states pleaded that a person who had long association with any political party should not be nominated for the office of the President of India and Dr. Zakir Hussain was one whose association with ruling congress party was well known.
According to them, a person with political biases and winning with the support of a political party would normally not be impartial.
He was likely to be used by the central government as an instrument for toppling state governments and the President might oblige the party in power after his having been elevated to the high office. They pleaded that under the constitution, the President was a separate organ. He had been empowered to dismiss even the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers.
Not only this, but he could issue ordinances and thus enact laws. He was Supreme Commander of the armed forces of the country and could declare emergency in the country at a time which he considered appropriate.
They, therefore, pleaded that under the changed circumstances when supremacy of Congress party in the country has been challenged, it is most essential that only such a person who had nothing to do with politics should be elected to this highest office. They pleaded that only such a person could win the confidence of the whole country and all political parties.
Justice Subba Rao, in their opinion, was the most suitable person for the office, having legal background and sense of impartiality which judiciary brings with it.
On the other hand, the supporters of Dr. Zakir Hussain argued that the opposition parties were preaching a wrong doctrine which was dangerous for the country. It was never the intention of constitution makers that the President should be an independent organ.
They wanted him only to be a constitutional head of the state. He was to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers. Therefore, the question of his becoming partial or impartial did not arise.
Then they also argued out that it was for the first time in the history of India that a member of minority community in India had been sponsored for the office of the President of India. In case he was defeated that would cause great resentment among the members of this community, which in no way was in the national interest.
It was also said by the supporters of Dr. Zakir Hussain that his victory would fully well establish Indias secular character. Even late Jaya Prakash Narayan said, “I cannot imagine how anyone in this country, who had anything to do with Indian freedom movement”, can prefer anyone else at the moment to Dr. Zakir Hussain.
But a new dimension was added to this controversy by M.C. Setalvad. He said that it was absolutely wrong for Justice Subba Rao to have negotiated with political parties, for his candidature as President of India. Judiciary has nothing to do with politics. Independence of judiciary is a well established principle of Indias political system.
In case judges, while in office, look towards political parties and seek their support for holding politically elected offices, then the very independence of judiciary will be lost.
He, therefore, argued that if at all Justice Rao wanted to contest election, it would have been much better, had he resigned before he made up his mind to contest election or started negotiations with political parties. Of course, Setalvad had his own point of view but in actual practice in India members of the judiciary have been given diplomatic assignments and executive offices while serving as judges of the courts.
But controversy for the time being subsided when Dr. Zakir Hussain was elected as the President of India with a big margin securing 471,244 votes against his rival K. Subba Rao, who polled 363,971 votes.
Dr. Zakir Hussain, however, died on 3rd May, 1969, while in office and V.V. Giri succeeded him, being Vice-President in office. This again raised a controversy. It was a peculiar time. Congress party had lost much hold and control over the electorates. It was very much doubtful whether in the next general elections the party would regain its lost prestige.
But ill luck for the Congress would have been that in 1969 at its Bangalore session it got divided. On the one hand was the then Congress President S. Nijahngappa who had a very powerful group in the party, whereas the other group was headed by Prime Minister Mrs. Gandhi.
She felt that the group headed by the Party President might try to out her from power and for this President might also be used for the purpose, if the person of his choice was installed in office.
In addition, it was also felt that in the days to come when there was every likelihood of no political party gaining absolute majority at the centre and many parties combining together to form coalitions, the role of the President was likely to very much increase. There were, therefore, three interested parties to see their own candidates in office.
One party consisted of opposition parties. These parties felt that in the days to come there was every likelihood of frequent constitutional breakdowns. In case they had their own candidate in office, then these could be benefitted.
Then another interested party was the Congress party, which had all along been returning its own candidate. Being the most influential and old party in the country, it was quite keen to have its own candidate as President. Prime Minister’s group was also interested to have its own candidate installed in the highest office in the country.
When election time approached, there were three main contestants. N. Sanjiva Reddy was backed by the Congress party and was official Congress party candidate, whereas V.V. Giri was supported by the Communist, Socialist, D.M.K. and other small groups. Parties like Jan Sangh, Swatantra and Lok Dal supported C.D. Deshmukh.
Though each candidate was supported by one or more political parties, yet every candidate tried to make the nation believe that he was above party politics and for him nation was much above the party.
If elected to office of the President he will prove his impartiality. All the three were very strong candidates. Congress party directed Prime Minister to issue a directive to members of Parliament and others to vote for the official candidate.
But suspecting that if official candidate was elected he might try to dislodge her from power, she decided that in the Presidential election every member of the electoral college was free to vote according to his/her conscience and thus not obliged to vote for the official candidate.
This provided an opportunity to her supporters to even vote against official candidate. By and large, they voted in favour of V.V. Giri, who was elected to the highest office of the state, defeating for the first time in the history of the Congress, an official nominee.
But the election of the President elect, V.V. Giri was challenged in the Supreme Court on several grounds. It was petitioned by the petitioners that Ministers of the central cabinet had visited state capitals to influence the members of the electoral college. In addition these members were also influenced in the name of the religion and one of the candidates had been misrepresented.
It was also petitioned that even nomination paper of the President elect had been wrongly accepted, whereas of two other candidates were wrongly rejected. Another point which was raised was that election was invalid because representatives of the Union Territories were not included in the electoral college. One serious charge made was that official machinery was used in favour of V.V. Giri. The Supreme Court, however, rejected the petition and V.V. Giri continued to hold the office of the President of India.
President V.V. Giri decided to be constitutional head of the state. He acted on the advice of the Council of Ministers. He signed dissolution notification about dissolving of U.P. legislative Assembly while he was away in Russia, in spite of the fact that the then Chief Minister of U.P., Charan Singh requested him to assess the situation personally on his return from abroad.
In March, 1973 he dissolved Orissa Legislative Assembly, which was equally a controversial issue. On the advice of Prime Minister he also dissolved the Lok Sabha and ordered mid-term polls in the country.
But Legislative Assembly in Gujarat State which was passing through a crisis, was not dissolved and had to wait till ex-Prime Minister Morarji Desai decided to go on fast to focus the attention of the nation towards what was happening in Gujarat.
The way in which Assemblies in U.P. and Orissa were dissolved in 1970 and 1973 respectively created a lot of controversy. In fact, in both the cases High Courts of the respective states were approached challenging the decision of the President on the plea that the decision was motivated and unconstitutional.
But in both the cases the courts held that Article 356 of the Constitution was not subject to judicial review and that the President was the best judge to decide whether a situation existed or not under which constitutional machinery in the state could function or had broken down.
But at political level there was much cry in the opposition. Memoranda were submitted to the President criticising his action. Opposition leaders demanded that a special session of the Parliament should be convened to discuss the action of the President.
It was alleged that the President was not acting in an impartial manner and helping the ruling party. The propriety of his signing emergency proclamation in the case of U.P. on a foreign soil was also questioned. Some leaders even suggested that he should be impeached.
These leaders were of the view that the role of the President of India, where now instead of one-party rule, both at the centre and in the states, several opposition parties were in authority in the states, was altogether different.
He should not merely act as a rubber stamp signing whatever was put before him He should ensure that interests of non-Congress ruling parties were fully well protected and that the Congress governments in the states did not in any way get preferential treatment simply because Congress party was ruling at the centre.
This raised a very important question of far-reaching significance. Whereas the government at the centre maintained that President of India was a Constitutional head of the state and he must act on the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers, many opposition leaders held a different view in the context of changed political situation in the country.
In the case of UNR Rao vs. Indira Gandhi, Supreme Court held that Article 74(1) was mandatory and the President could not exercise executive powers without the aid and advise of the Council of Ministers. This controversy was set right when Constitution Forty-Second Amendment Act was passed.
The amendment provided that the President was bound to act on the advise of Council of Ministers and that there was no option to that.
But the difficulty again arose about the role of the President in 1977, when Janata Party came to power. President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed had died by the time and B.D. Jatti, the Vice-President of India, was acting as head of the state. The Janata Government at the centre decided that nine state Legislative Assemblies hi which Congress party was in power should be dissolved.
Their main arguments being that the results of the Lok Sabha elections had showed that these governments had lost contacts with the masses and also that these were living on borrowed time; their normal term of five years having been already expired. It was also felt that with Congress party in power in nine states it will be difficult to implement new socio-economic programmes, which Janata party wanted to start.
The state governments to be dissolved approached the Supreme Court to forbid the centre from dissolving the assemblies, but the court opined that there was nothing unconstitutional in the dissolution of the assemblies.
As soon as this view of the court was made known to the government, the cabinet met and advised the President to issue a Proclamation dissolving nine state assemblies. The President instead of acting on the advice of Council of Ministers, with-held his decision.
There was impatience in the party and the government and many rumours spread in the capital and all over the country about what the President was going to do with the advise rendered to him by the new government.
This assumed greater significance because Congress leaders had been regularly meeting the President, impressing upon him not to dissolve the Assemblies. It was also subsequently known that the Acting President also, mA the Chief Justice of India at his residence, when the judgment in this case was yet to be delivered.
It was interpreted to mean that he tried to influence the decision of the court, though subsequently Chief Justice Beg clarified that the Acting President came to his residence to invite him for the marriage of his son.
As the Proclamation was delayed, the cabinet met again and prepared a strongly, worded note reminding the head of the state of his constitutional obligations and responsibilities. This note was personally taken by the Cabinet Secretary to the President. It was then that a Proclamation was issued dissolving nine state Legislative Assemblies.
N. Sanjiva Reddy who succeeded B .D. Jatti, as the President of India in 1977, acted as constitutional head. Similar situation which developed in 1977 also developed in 1980. In January 1980, Lok Sabha mid-term polls were held in the country and Congress (I) headed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came to power. The party was of the view that the Janata and opposition parties in nine states had lost confidence of the people and these should be dissolved.
The party was of the view that the Precedent had already been set by the Janata government. The cabinet, therefore, decided to dissolve these nine state assemblies namely Bihar, Orissa, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The decision of the cabinet was conveyed to President Reddy, who signed the Proclamation without any reservations.
Elections for the office of the ninth President of India were held under peculiar circumstances. At that time Giani Zail Singh was the President of India. He had a grudge against the then Prime Minister because he was not keeping him informed about state matters. He also felt that foreign invitations extended to him were not being matured and news about him were being blackened.
The opposition was active and some opposition parties were playing with the idea of sponsoring him as official candidate. There were also rumours that he was going to dismiss Rajiv Government. The President even wrote to the Prime Minister, expressing his grievances. He claimed absolute right to information, which meant showing him every document which he wanted to see.
On the other hand, the government claimed that Rashtrapathi Bhawan had become centre of anti-state activities and the President has to act on the advice of Council of Ministers. He was more inclined toward the opposition and thus had lowered the dignity of the high office of the President .The Prime Minister was thus keen to have a person in Rashtrapathi Bhawan who could be depended without any reservation.
The combined opposition sponsored Justice V.R.K. Iyer as its candidate for Presidential election, whereas Congress (I) put Vice-President R. Venkatraman for this office. The latter came out victorious.
But a new dimension was added to the Presidential election when after the election former President said that some people were interested in spending Rs.40 crore on his election. This raised many problems i.e., who was ready to spend, from where did the money was to come, role of money power in Presidential elections and so on.
The elections are over but the knotty questions still remains i.e., how to check the role of money in Presidential election and whether right to information under Article 78 is absolute or merely a foot note of Article 74 of the Constitution.
Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma was elected as President of India as a result of elections held in July 1992. He was opposed by Dr. G.G. Swell, who had active support of some of the major political parties like Bhartiya Janata Party, Janata Dal and T.D.P. of N.T. Rama Rao. He had comfortable win and has decided to act as constitutional head of the state.
He has so far very cordial relations with Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao. This has provided relief to the nation from the tensions which had been created because of Zail Singh and Rajiv Gandhi strained relations.
The President of India from the very beginning was, of course, desired to be a constitutional head of the state and Constitution Forty-Second Amendment Act made it obligatory on him to accept the advice of the Council of Ministers.
On several occasions when the Presidents did not feel like going with the decision of the cabinet, they restrained themselves and handled the situation in such a way that there was no controversy about their role as head of the state.
It is said that the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad did not appreciate government’s decision on Hindu Code Bill, but he abided by the decision of the cabinet. Similarly as trade union leader, President Giri suggested the Railway Minister Mishra to handle the striking railway workers leniently.
Though his advice was not heeded, yet he did not give vent to his grievances against the governments handling the situation against his wishes.
In several cases opposition leaders paraded their MLAs before the heads of the state to convince them of their ability to form the government but the latter have so far never obliged them by revoking proclamation of emergency, thereby enabling them to form their government against the decision of the central cabinet.
Even the Presidents have hesitated to institute cases of enquiry against any Minister even when necessary documents establishing prima facie cases were produced to them.
The Presidents have been acting as constitutional heads in India due to several reasons. In the very early days when healthy traditions were to be Lad down, the Congress party headed by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was in power both at the centre and in the states.
There were no differences of any magnitude in the party and thus the Presidents had not much to meddle with or interfere in the affairs of the party or the government. Therefore, what – was decided by the government was accepted at all levels.
Then was the towering personality of the Pt. Nehru, who was a true democrat and architect of parliamentary system. He spared no pains to see that in India healthy parliamentary system of government was established and as such if at all the head of the state did not agree with the view point of the government he could successfully convince him but as constitutional head of the state he was bound to accept the decisions of the cabinet.
Another important reason being that the Prime Ministers have been very careful while selecting candidates for this high office. They have taken pains to see that only those dignitaries glorify this high office who command national respect, are honoured all over for their integrity and impartiality, but at the same time are not politically ambitious and do not try to become the centre of power thereby creating a situation of confrontation in any way.
In India, so far no person has been in office who had no long political career behind him. Though after his elevation as President of India be is required to give up his political outlook and biases and live in Ra iitrapati Bhawan as symbol of national unity, yet it appears that such in adjustment in many cases has been difficult. Pandit Nehru preferred Rajaji over Dr. Rajendra Prasad, as the first President of India.
Subsequently in 1957, he was more in favour of Dr. Radhakrishnan to succeed him rather than to give him second term. But as a broad minded person, ready to listen to the advice of his colleagues, he agreed to his nomination as a party candidate on both the occasions, because he was politically not ambitious.
In spite of the fact that Pt. Nehru did not like his going to die temples and touching the feet of Brahmins, etc., he was continued in office. But the same Dr. Rajendra Prasad at the end of his second term while inaugurating the building of Indian Law- Institute, said that the powers of the President should be reviewed.
It is said that Pt. Nehru got so much disturbed by the speech of the President that he ordered the authorities of the Institute, not to distribute the copies of the speech and everyone who demanded it was politely refused. It is believed that hereafter he decided that henceforth he will not like to have a person as President of India who even least tried to upset the status quo in the balance of power under the constitution.
Next President Dr. Radhakrishnan also had his own bitterness. On several occasions he criticised governmental policies and expressed his agony over growing corruption in the government offices. He also had open differences with Pt. Nehru, when the question of attending funeral procession of Dr. Rajendra Prasad arose.
Nehru suggested the President not to attend the same, whereas the latter felt that it was least that could be done for the departed President and suggested the Prime Minister to accompany him. It is also believed that President Radhakrishnan had some plans with the then Congress President K. Kamaraj to oust him as Prime Minister of the country.
On May 7, 1967, while giving his farewell speech, he criticised the politicians, which a President was not expected to do. He said on that occasion, “Politicians do not mean people of twisting tongues and cold hearts, but those who are of warm feelings and compassion for suffering humanity.”
Earlier on the Republic Day in 1967, the President in his message did not read some parts of the speech prepared by the government, but Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi avoided expressing her resentment against the head of the state who was soon retiring.
But in the words of H.N. Pandit, she decided that in future, while selecting a candidate for the office of the President, “It would not be essential to find a man who would never disagree but to ensure that he should by character, by temperament or calibre be incapable of working for Prime Ministers downfall.”
Dr. Zakir Hussain who came next in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, was Prime Minister’s choice. He died in office and one does not know what would have been his attitude at the time of his leaving Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Dr. Zakir Hussain was succeeded by V. V. Giri as the President of India. As already pointed out, the Prime Minister decided to support him under certain peculiar circumstances. For some time relations between the Prime Minister and the President were cordial, but as the time passed the President became critical of the government and began to give vent to his ideas openly.
He openly criticised die politicians and said that in spite of majority which she got from the electorates the results were not tangible.
He also said that there was corruption, nepotism and communalism on the increase in the country. In 1975, while laying the foundation stone of an auditorium at Chandigarh, he said about Indian society that, “There was politics without principles, wealth without work, knowledge without character, pleasure without conscience, commerce without morality, science without humanity and worship without sacrifice.”
He also openly did not agree with the government on its handling of railwaymens strike. On one occasion he even said that, “I feel we talk too much. Every project seems to be on paper. Our great leaders should not talk much but instead do some constructive work for the less proviledged people.”
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed died while in office and as such it is only a matter of opinion what would have been his expressions at the time of laying down the reign of his office.
President N. Sanjiva Reddy did not give vent to his feelings about the working of government though during the time of Janata regime he uttered some words which were not liked by some of the members of the party and government.
President Zail Singh during the last few months of his office also gave vent to his grievances. He even wrote to the Prime Minister about his resentments. He felt humiliated that he was not being informed about state’ matters of state and that some reports of enquiry commissions and other papers, which he wanted to see were not shown to him.
He was so much annoyed that he even consulted some jurists about his powers to dismiss Rajiv Government which enjoyed absolute majority and also his right to allow the opposition to start arrest proceedings on alleged “charges of corruption against Prime Minister. In fact, the relations between the Prime Minister and President were very strained when election were held for the office of ninth President of the Republic.
These became very strained when a Minister of Rajiv Government made certain unpleasant comments about the President, who went to the extent of telling the Prime Minister to either drop him from the Council of Minister or he would himself take action against the offending Minister.
The crisis were averted when the Prime Minister decided to drop the Minister concerned. The Government of Rajiv Gandhi did not like President seeking full information about controversial Bofor Gun deal which opposition parties were playing against Prime Minister and levying charges against him of receiving some kick back from the Swedish Company which had supplied the guns.
R. Venkataraman did not raise much controversy after assuming charge of Presidency in 1987, after Giani Zail Singh left Rashtarpati Bhavan. The situation was very tense at that time. But the nation felt a sense of relief when he declared that he would act as constitutional head of the state and function strictly within frame work of the constitution.
It was during his Presidency that Government headed V.P. Singh bowed out of power after remaining in office for less than a year. In the elections held in 1990 Congress party came to power. The President then asked the Governors who had been appointed by V.P. Singh government to voluntarily resign from their positions. This, action of the President was, however, much criticised by opposition parties.
But he came in controversy after he had left the Rashtrapati Bhawan and wrote My Presidential Years. In it he adversely commented on late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, which was very much disliked by his followers in the Congress party. But after some early reaction, agitators mood subsided.
So far President Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma has been acting as constitutional head of the state and has raised no controversy. He is maintaining very happy and cordial relations with the Prime Minister.
Loopholes of Presidential Election System : In spite of the fact that about 46 years have lapsed since the constitution was inaugurated, still there are certain loopholes in the electoral system of the President. These are:
1. Our constitution provides for the system of proportional representation but this system cannot be put in operation unless there are two seats to be called. Correctly the system may be called preferential or alternate vote system.
2. The constitution does not specify as to what shall happen if electoral college is to be constituted in a lame duck situation.
3. The constitution places no limits on the number of candidates for the Presidential candidates. Efforts have been made to check the number of candidates by Presidential Election Act of 1974 which provides that the name of Presidential candidates should be proposed by ten electors and seconded by another ten electors and the candidate should be deposit a security of Rs. 2500/-.
4. In the present system there is practically no provision for the winning of a non-political candidate. Only that candidate can hope to win who has support of electoral college which consists of politicians. With the passage of time it has become clear that politic s is a determining factor in Presidential election because so far the practice of elevating Vice-President to this high office has not been followed.
7. Doctrine of PM’s President:
In India each Prime Minister has always been keen that only such a person should be in Rashtrapati Bhawan who is of his liking. Nehru did not like Dr. Rajendra Prasad, but he had to bow to pressure of his colleagues both in 1952 and 1957. Dr. Radhakrishnan was his choice but subsequently both did not remain on same wave-length.
Mrs. Gandhi found in Dr. Zakir Hussain the type of the President she liked. After his death she supported shri. V.V. Giri not because she liked him but because exigencies of the situation so required. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was elevated to this office because he was absolutely loyal to the Prime Minister. But the doctrine of PM’s man was fully reflected when Giani Zail Singh was got elected as President of India.
He was elected to this high office because the Prime Minister wanted him to be the President of the country. In this the character and public image or the like over shadowed by the support of the Prime Minister.
But issues raised are as to what will happen to this doctrine of PM’s man if there is no political party in absolute majority in the electoral college and Prime Ministers go on changing. Similarly what will happen if the President tries to be most inconvenient partner to the Parliament.
The situation can also arise when many small parties combined together may create a situation in which Prime Minister can be defeated. Similarly a light weight President at the time of election may prove a strong weight President after assuming office. He may not remain P.M. man but create problems for him. Even in normal times P.M. man may not remain so after there is political change in government.
8. Removal of President:
It is provided in the Constitution that for the purpose of election of the President, Election Commission shall fix a date and also nominate a returning officer. The President elect is required to take an oath affirming his loyalty to the Constitution of India, before occupying this high office.
The President is elected for a period of five years, unless removed earlier by way of impeachment. He can, however, seek re-election immediately after the expiry of his term.
The President can be removed only by an impeachment process. His impeachment is to be approved by both the Houses of Parliament separately specifying the charges for his removal. According to the procedure laid down in the constitution 1/4 of the total members of House can give at least 14 days notice in advance of their intention to impeach the President.
The charges, if approved by 2/3 majority will be referred to the other House for investigation. If the investigating House also approves the charges, with 2/3 majority, the President shall stand impeached and will vacate his office, on the date on which such a resolution is passed. It will thus be observed that the procedure for the removal of the President has been deliberately kept complicated.
So far no President in India has been impeached. It was, however, in 1979 that there was a threat to impeach the President. In that year Janata Party headed by Morarji Desai was in power, when defections took place in the party.
Prime Minister Desai finding his party in minority tendered resignation of his Council of Ministers. Subsequently he also resigned fromthe leadership of Parliamentary party. The party elected Jagjiwan Ram as his successor.
Meanwhile President invited leader of the opposition, Y.B.Chavan to form government. He, however, regretted his inability and promised his party’s support to Chaudhary Charan Singh, whom President invited to form government. Chaudhary Charan Singh formed his government with the help of Congress (I).
But on the opening day of the Lok Sabha session Congress (I) withdrew its support and the Prime Minister resigned without facing the Lok Sabha. Janata Party leader, Jagjivan Ram staked his claim to form government, but in his best judgment the President decided to dissolve the Lok Sabha and to hold fresh elections in the country.
This was resented by the party, whose leadership threatened that if returned to power, the President would be impeached though this was not made an election issue. Since the party did not come to power, therefore, the matter ended there.
At one point of time when Giani Zail Singh threatened to dismiss Rajiv Government, when the Prime Minister still enjoyed confidence of the majority party in the Lok Sabha, some Congress men also threatened of impeaching him, but the situation did not arise.
Problems of Impeachment Procedure: But procedure for impeachment as laid down in the constitution has its problems. The constitution provides that the President can be removed on charges of violation of the constitution. A question arises as to which kind or type of ‘violation of the constitution’. Does it mean not summoning the Parliament or not accepting the advice of a Minister or Prime Minister or Council of Ministers or what? All this has been kept vague.
In the Constituent Assembly a proposal was made that in addition to violation of constitution, treason and acceptance of bribery should be made two other causes responsible for the impeachment of the President. But general feeling was that term violation of constitution was in itself quite wide and comprehensive and needed no elaboration. But in the process this term itself has not been defined.
Then another point of criticism is that India is a federal polity in which both the centre and states are equal partners. This principle has been adopted in the election of the President where principle of parity has been observed and the state legislatures have been given equal number of votes with the members of Parliament. But the principle has been completely ignored in the removal process.
The members of state legislatures have been given no hand in the removal of President i.e., in the process of impeachment, which can be started and processed only in the Parliament without involving state legislature.
Under the Constitution of India, the President is fully empowered to dissolve the Lok Sabha and adjourn the Rajya Sabha sine die. If the President finds that the winds are against him and he is likely to be impeached, he may dissolve the Lok Sabha and thus take the risk of facing the new House.
This will provide him an opportunity to delay proceedings against him and the new House may not be as hostile to him as the dissolved one. In addition, he may also use his personal position and prestige for influencing the voters and try to arrive at some agreement with some political parties, whom be may lie to favour, if saved from impeachment process.
Not only this, but in such a situation impeachment of President will become an election issue and the problem will shift from Parliament House to the streets of the country, which is not good and healthy. Electorates can be influenced by the personality and office of the President.
In fact, this single factor is fraught with many problems. The very personality of the President will be discussed in the streets, which the constitution makers wanted to avoid by providing indirect system of his election. He will be compelled to hobnob with political parties which will make him a party man rather than symbol of national unity, which constitution fathers wanted him to be.
Moreover, in case a political party which wants to remove him from office is returned to power, but not with 2/3 majority needed for his removal, will find a hostile President and this situation can result in many political problems of far-reaching constitutional significance.
In addition, he will be favourably inclined to favour those parties which saved him from impeachment and thus the President can create a situation of political instability for the party in power. He will obviously be interested to install a person of his own liking as Prime Minister.
The President is to be removed only when an impeachment motion against him is to be carried by two-thirds majority. It is very difficult to believe that President will take a bold step of violating any provision of the constitution without enjoying the support of even one-third MPs.
Then another interesting feature of the impeachment process is that in our constitution it is provided that in the election of the President only elected. members of the Parliament are entitled to participate. In that there is no provision for nominated members. But in the removal process i.e., impeachment of the President both the elected as well as nominated members are entitled to participate.
It is not clear how in one process nominated members are allowed to participate, while in other they are not. In all fairness to them it can be said that when they are full-fledged members of Parliament they should have been allowed to participate in both the processes i.e., election and removal.
A President who takes a bold step of violating any provision of constitution, takes that in a calculated manner. Being the head of the state and holding such an important position if he takes risk obviously he has certain motives. His successful impeachment will mean his failure in his ambitions and removal from the high office of the President.
But beyond that the constitution does not provide as to what other disqualifications he will have as a citizen of India. It is not clear whether such a person can be voter, can again hold any elected position or office or can he again contest for Presidential office at the appropriate time favourable to him.
The constitution has provided that the President shall be given an opportunity to present his case before the Parliament, but again there is an ambiguity. There is no mention about the time which he will be given to explain his case and the notice which will be given to him to prepare his case.
A hostile House can create a situation in which though all formalities are completed, yet he is not given fair opportunity to present his case. Moreover, the President will be required to face a hostile House. In case he is not given sufficient time the very purpose of giving him the opportunity will be defeated.
When the House sits to try the President, and begins impeachment proceedings it sits as court of law. During the course of impeachment many legal complications are bound to arise and the House may find it difficult to solve these in the same manner as these are solved, appreciated and understood by the judiciary.
Moreover, what is the basic idea of providing the opportunity? Is it to provide an opportunity to the head of the state to clarify his stand? But in these days when everything is viewed from party viewpoint, in spite of President’s clarifying his stand the chances are that the M.P.s will vote on party lines unless there is floor crossing.
Even the sound arguments of the President under impeachment are not likely to cut ice in the face of party whip.
The constitution has given exclusive power to the President to summon the Lok Sabha. There is no other authority to exercise this power in the country. The President after sensing the mood of the Parliament may not summon it and delay that to the extent possible. Usually as the time passes, with that passions subside and calm and coolness comes.
The sympathies from the party to the President can shift. In case in the meantime the party interested in impeaching commits some political blunder or fails on any social, economic and political front, then the cause of the President against that of the party or parties interested in impeachment may become strong.
Still another important aspect to be taken into account is that in the constitution there is no provision that during the course of impeachment the President shall stand removed. He will be removed only when he has been successfully impeached. In other words, during impeachment he can use his position, office and power of patronage to win over and influence the members of Parliament.
It is another issue to which extent he succeeds; he can do and thus win favour of some MPs.
Since no President in India has so far been impeached, therefore, all these issues are of academic discussion and when a case of actual impeachment arises, many of these problems are bound to arise and get solved. The Parliament, however, may make an exercise to enact a law of impeachment before it is too late and complicated problems arise at the nick of time which may create a situation of crisis.
It may, however, not lead one to understand the President can be removed only by impeachment. He can resign on his own because of his ill health or he may leave his office if he feels that he cannot harmoniously work with his Council of Ministers or when he feels that a situation has arisen when an impeachment motion will be successfully carried against him.
The President is the first citizen of India and has been given certain privileges and immunities to enable him to discharge his constitutional obligations most efficiently and to the best of his capacity and ability. Till 1985, he was paid a monthly salary of Rs.10,000/- which has since been raised to Rs.15,000/-. He is also to be paid such other allowances which the Parliament may determine from time to time.
It is, however, provided that his emoluments and other privileges will not be changed to his disadvantage during his tenure as President. He will also be given a rent free, well furnished residence. Rashtrapati Bhawan is now the official residence of the President. Since it is desired that after retirement he should not serve anywhere, he is paid and provided other facilities essential for his smooth life and living a retired life. He is paid an annual pension of Rs.30,000/- and some amount for the maintenance of his office.
The constitution has provided that during the term of his office, his salary and allowances and other service conditions will not be changed to his disadvantage. It is, of course, open to him to voluntarily surrender any part of his salary. In fact, in India, several Presidents have been surrendered some part of their salary for some noble cause.
The salary , allowances, etc., to be paid to the President and retired President(s) are governed by Presidents Emoluments and Pension Act, 1951. The Act was further amended in December, 1993. The amending Bill clarified that at present a retired President is entitled to the use of a furnished residence without payment of rent, a telephone and a motor car free of charge and secretarial staff consisting of a Private Secretary, a Personal Assistant and a peon.
He is, however, not entitled to free travel except for travel undertaken by him for medical attendance. The Bill provided that a retired President may be provided the facility of free-travel. Accordingly the amended Act now provides that a retired President shall be entitled to travel free anywhere in India, accompanied by one person, by the highest class by air, rail or steamer.
The Constitution of India is silent about the number of times a person can be elected as President of India. All that the constitution provides is that a person shall be eligible to be re-elected. The Union Constitution Committee of the Constituent Assembly proposed that no person shall hold the office of President for more than two terms and Assembly accepted this recommendation.
On July 24, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru also opined that, “ten years should be the maximum period for any normal human being to bear the heavy burden of the office of the President.”
But when draft constitution came up for discussion, a point was raised as to what was the real objection if a healthy and efficient person held the office of President for more than two terms.
It was then accepted that the restriction on election should be removed and a person could hold the high office of President any number of times he was returned by his electors. In India, however, first President of India held this office for the second term. He, however, did not accept the offer of contesting for the third time. Since then no other President has even run second term of office.
The President of India, once in office enjoys great respect both in India and abroad. He has very many powers and his position is unique in every walk of life. Theoretically he enjoys even more powers than are enjoyed by the President of Presidential form of government. But in practice he cannot exercise these.