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Role and power of India's President
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July 25, 2012
First Published: 12:46 IST(25/7/2012)
Last Updated: 12:48 IST(25/7/2012)

India's President is the titular head of the state, enjoys certain powers and performs a variety of ceremonial functions. A lowdown on the Indian first citizen's roles and powers as the nation's 13th President, Pranab Mukherjee, assumed office on Wednesday:

Executive powers

The executive powers of the Indian Union, under Article 53 of the Constitution, vest in the President. The President has a right to be informed of all of the nation's affairs, enjoys powers to appoint and remove high Constitutional authorities, including the prime minister and the council of ministers. All appointments of the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, the state governors, the attorney general, the comptroller and auditor general (CAG), and the chief commissioner and members of the election commission are made in his name.

Legislative powers

The budget session of Parliament always begins with the President's address and if there is a deadlock in legislation process between the two houses of Parliament, the President summons a joint session to break the impasse. Under the Indian Constitution, the government needs prior Presidential sanction before introducing legislation such as for creating a new state or changes in the boundary of existing states or even a change in its name. Also, legislation dealing with fundamental rights under the Constitution require the President's consent, similar to money bills introduced in the Lok Sabha. Besides, all bills passed by Parliament need the President's nod before becoming law.

The President also promulgates ordinances or emergent legislation during Parliament's recess. The President also nominates members to both the Houses. However, his powers are limited to the extent that he can ask the council of ministers to reconsider a bill they have sent him for signing, such as invoking of Article 356. But if the council of ministers sends back the bill, the President has no choice but to accept it.

Military powers

The President is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces and all officers' appointments are made by him or her, including that of the chiefs. The country declares war in the name of the President and also concludes peace, all from the control and authority over Parliament that the President enjoys.

Diplomatic roles

India's President has wide-ranging roles to play when it comes to diplomacy for maintaining relations with other countries. The country's ambassadors and high commissioners are his representatives in foreign land. He also receives the credentials of diplomatic representatives of foreign countries. The President also negotiates treaties and agreements with other nations prior to ratification by Parliament.

Judicial powers

The President enjoys judicial powers, primarily to rectify judicial errors, grant pardons and reprieves from punishment. The President can also seek the opinion of the supreme court on legal and Constitutional matters and on matters of national and people's interest.

Financial roles

The President causes the presentation of audit reports before Parliament and is to receive the report of the finance commission and to act on its recommendations. The Contingency Fund of India is also at the President's disposal.

Emergency powers

Three kinds of emergencies are envisaged by the Constitution. Under national emergency powers, the President can declare a state of emergency after satisfying that the country's security is at peril, either from external aggression or armed rebellion within. The national emergency is declared only after the Prime Minister and the cabinet recommends it in writing.

The state emergency is basically political emergency, resulting in President's rule or governor's rule, if there is a Constitutional or law and order breakdown, under Article 356 of the Constitution.

The financial emergency occurs when the financial stability of the country or any part of the country is seriously affected. The President can direct a state government to observe prudence in public expenditure. The financial emergency powers of the President have never been put to test ever in the last six decades.


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