In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Role of the Vice-President of India 2. Qualifications for Vice-Presidentship 3. Procedure for the Election of the Vice-President 4. Term of Office 5. Oath of Office 6. Election Disputes 7. Functions of the Vice-President.
Role of the Vice-President of India:
The Constitution of India provides for the office of the Vice-President of India, who shall also be ex-officio the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, which is Upper House of Indian Parliament. He is to be elected by an electoral college consisting of members of both the Houses of Parliament. The election will be held by secret ballot on the basis of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.
Election procedure of the Vice-President of India is significantly different in some ways than that of the President of India. Firstly, in the election of the President only elected members of the Parliament participate, whereas in that of the Vice-President, both the elected as well as nominated ones both take part.
Then another difference between the two is that whereas in the election of the President, members of state legislature are equal participants and enjoy parity of votes with the members of Parliament in the electoral college, for the election of the Vice-President the members of state legislatures do not participate in spite of the fact that the Rajya Sabha represents the states.
Then whereas for the election of the President each member of Parliament has vote values in hundred, in the case of the election of the Vice-President each member has only one vote. It is the responsibility of the Election Commission of India to conduct election of the Vice-President.
Qualifications for Vice-Presidentship:
Any citizen of India can be a candidate for the office of Vice-President of India provided he is not a member of either House of Parliament or state legislature-and if he is so, as soon as he is elected as Vice-President, he will be deemed to have vacated his seat in that House, on the date on which he enters the office of the Vice- President.
Such a person should also be citizen of India and should have completed 35 years of age. He must also possess such qualifications which entitle him to become a member of the Rajya Sabha.
He should also not hold any office of profit under the Government of India or any state legislature. But for this purpose a person who occupies the office of the President, Governor or holds a Ministerial post either in the centre or in the state, shall not be deemed to be a holder of office of profit. The candidate should not be of unsound mind. He should also not be insolvent.
Procedure for the Election of the Vice-President:
A question, however, arises as to why a different procedure has been adopted for election for the office of the Vice-President as compared with that of the President of India. This was explained by Dr. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly.
He said, “The President is the head of the state and his power extends both to the administration by the centre as well at the states. Consequently it is necessary in his election, that not only members of Parliament should play their part, but members of state legislature should have a voice; but when we come the Vice- President his normal functions are to preside over the meetings of Council of States. It is on a rare occasion and that too for a temporary period, that he may be called upon to assume the duties of the President. That being so it does not seem necessary that the members of state legislature should be invited to take part in the election of the Vice-President.”
Term of Office:
The Vice-President of India shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he joins his office but he can resign earlier, if he so likes. He can also be removed earlier, provided the Rajya Sabha by a majority of votes of the members present and voting decides to remove him from his office. Such a resolution should also be agreed by the Lok Sabha.
It is, however, clearly provided that for such a resolution a clear fourteen days notice should be given by the members who intend to move such a resolution. The Vice-President shall continue to remain in his office even after the expiry of his term, unless his successor has joined.
Since the Vice-President can be removed by a resolution of the House, there is no system of impeachment as provided in the case of removal of the President.
In the constitution there is no mention whether Vice-President can immediately be re-elected after the expiry of his term or not. But Dr. Radha Krishnan held this office for two terms. This in practice means that the Vice-President of India can hold office for two terms.
Since then no Vice-President has held office more than full one term. It implies that in India a convention is developing that the Vice-President shall at the most be re-elected for one more term and not beyond that.
In India also there is no convention that the Vice-President will automatically become the President of India, as soon as that high office falls vacant. Thus, office of the Vice-President is not a stepping stone for the office of the President.
Of course, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Zakir Hussain and R. Venkataraman were Vice- Presidents before they became the Presidents and so was the case with V.V. Giri. But G.S. Pathak and B.D. Jatti, though Vice-Presidents were not stepped into Rashtrapati Bhawan. Similarly Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Giani Zail Singh were not the Vice-Presidents, before they adorned the office of the President.
By an Act of Parliament passed in May, 1990 entitled “Salaries and Allowances of officers of Parliament.” Salary and allowances of Vice- President of India have been equated with those of the Speaker of Lok Sabha.
Oath of Office:
If the office of the Vice-President falls vacant due to any reason, his successor will not remain in office for the unexpired term of the President. If however he is elected for that high office he will remain in office for a full term of 5 years from the date on which he enters upon the office.
On his election as Vice-President, like the President, of India, he will be required to take the following oath:
Since the Vice-President of India is elected, therefore, there can be every chance of his election being challenged. Article 71 of the constitution provided that all such election disputes will be decided by the Supreme Court of India. Constitution Eleventh Amendment Act provided that his election shall not be challenged on the ground that there is a vacancy in the electoral college.
But a declaration that an election was void shall not invalidate acts done by the Vice-President in the exercise of powers and duties of his office before the decision of the Supreme Court.
The Parliament is fully competent to decide the grounds on which election of the Vice-President can be invalidated by the courts. The Supreme Court can, however, exercise his powers only when the election has actually been held void and not before that.
Thirty-Ninth Amendment Act passed on 10th August, 1975, however, provided that election disputes shall not be decided by the Supreme Court but shall be enquired into and decided by such authority and body and in such manner as may be provided for by and under the law to be passed by the Parliament Validity of law and decision of the authority or body which took the decision shall not be called in question in any court of law.
Forty-Fourth Constitution Amendment Act again brought a change and it was provided that the Supreme Court was competent to listen to all disputes arising out of the election of the President and Vice-President of India and its decision shall be final.
The election of the Vice-President of India has twice been challenged. In September 1969, H.V. Kamath a Member of Parliament, challenged the election of Vice-President, G.S. Pathak on the plea that nomination papers of Dr. Shakheja, which were received by the Returning Officer by post, were wrongly rejected.
Justice S.M. Sikri, then held the election of the Vice- President as valid saying that all such nomination papers should be presented in person either by the proposer or seconder, because otherwise many anomalies were likely to arise.
In December 1969, election of Vice-President, V.V. Giri was challenged by a group of Members of Parliament on the plea that nomination papers of some of the candidates were wrongly rejected whereas those of V.V. Giri were wrongly accepted. It was also alleged that bribery and corrupt means, including undue influence was exerted during the election by the candidate and also by his workers.
Other issues which came up were whether Section 21 of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Act was in any way ultra- vires of the constitution and whether Rule 4 and Rule 6 (3) (e) of the Rules infringed the constitution.
In other words, whether by these rules the government had or had not exceeded its rule making power. The arguments went on for about 9 months, but ultimately the court upheld the election of the Vice-President and petition made on this behalf was rejected.
Functions of the Vice-President:
The Vice-President of India is ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha and in that capacity he performs all such functions which a Presiding Officer of the House is required to perform. He is to see that there is perfect decorum in the House and all business in the House is conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. As Presiding Officer of the House he has no right to vote.
The members in the House can speak only with his permission and he is to see that no member of the House unnecessarily holds the House to ransom. All Bills Resolutions etc., in the House can be moved only with his approval. He allocates time for debate and like the Speaker of the Lok Sabha he protects rights and privileges of members of his House. He is spokesman of his House and represent his House on every occasion.
As soon as office of the President of India falls vacant due to any reason, Vice-President steps in and performs such duties and undertakes such responsibilities as are of the President of India. Under the constitution it is provided that such a vacancy should be filled in within a period of 6 months.
If the Vice-President is elected as the President of India, then he shall hold office for a full term of 5 years and not for the unexpired period of the term of the President, whose vacancy has fallen vacant. In the warrant of Precedence he enjoys rank next only to President.
Since no money bill can originate in the Rajya Sabha, therefore, it is not his problem to decide whether a particular bill is money bill or not. In this connection it may be mentioned that the constitution has no-where laid criteria to decide or find out whether the President is unable to discharge his duties or not and accordingly President himself is to decide about his inability.
There have been several occasions when Vice-Presidents have performed the duties of the President. Dr. Radhakrishnan performed the duties of President in the absence of its incumbent Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
Similarly Shri. B.D. Jatti performed the same duties when President Sanjiva Readdy went to the U.S.A. for medical treatment. Mr. Justice Hidayatullah who was Vice-President of India when Giani Zail Singh went to the U.S.A. for his medical treatment, performed the functions of President.
Vice-President V.V. Giri stepped into the office of President when Dr. Zakir Hussain died in office. Similarly B.D. Jatti acted as President when President Fakhuruddin Ah Ahmed died while still in office. It is worth noting here that when Vice President discharges duties and responsibilities of the President he ceases to be the Chairman of Rajya Sabha and does not perform duties connected with that office.