The President enjoys judicial immunity as detailed below :
No criminal proceedings can be initiated against him during his term in office. Only civil proceedings claiming compensation can be initiated by giving a notice to this effect to his office.
Further, he is not answerable in any Court of Law for the exercise of his duties.
The President is the formal Head of the Union and as such, all executive functions of the Union are expressed to be taken in his name. Further, all officers of the Union shall be subordinate to him and
“He will have a right to be informed of the affairs of the Union”. (Art 78)
Put simply, it means that he can ask for any file / document or information relating to the affairs of the government.
The administrative powers include the power to appoint and remove certain high dignitaries of the State. The President enjoys the power to appoint
1. The Prime Minister
2. Other Central Ministers on Prime Minister’s advice
3. The Attorney-General of India
4. The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India
5. Supreme Court Judges including the Chief Justice of India
6. High Court Judges including the Chief Justice of the High Courts
7. The Governor of a State
8. The Finance Commission
9. The Union Public Service Commission and Joint Commission for a group of States
10. A special officer for the Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes
11. A Commission on the Scheduled Areas
12. A Commission on Official Languages
13. A special officer for Linguistic Minorities
14. The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners
15. A Commission for Backward Classes
He is competent to remove
1. the Union Ministers (on the advice of the Prime Minister)
2. the Attorney-General of India
3. the Chairman or a member of the Union Public Service Commission on the report of the Supreme Court.
4. a Supreme Court / High Court Judge/Election Commissioner, on an address of Parliament.
The President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and has the right to declare war or peace with any country. However, such powers are subject to parliamentary control.
The task of negotiating international treaties and agreements belongs to the President, who acts according to ministerial advice in such matters. This again is subject to ratification by the Parliament.
The President is a component part of the Union Parliament (though not a member of either House) and enjoys the following legislative powers:
1. Summoning, Prorogation, Dissolution: The President has the power to summon (call) or prorogue (end the session) the Houses of Parliament and to dissolve the Lok Sabha.
2. He also has the right to call a Joint Sitting of both the Houses to resolve a deadlock over any bill. (Art 108)
3. He addresses the first session of parliament after each general election and the first session of each year.
4. He can nominate 12 members to the Rajya Sabha from a pool of persons with special achievements / experience in literature, science, art, social service and sports. Similarly, he can nominate 2 Anglo-Indians to the Lok Sabha, if he feels that their representation is inadequate.
It is essential to obtain the presidential sanction beforehand in case of certain bills like
1. a bill for forming a new state / change of state boundaries
2. a Money Bill
3. a bill affecting taxation in which states are also interested
A Bill becomes an Act only after getting the presidential assent. The President is competent to do any of the following if a Bill comes to him for assent:
A. He may give assent to the Bill enabling it to become a law
B. He may withhold his assent
C. He may return the Bill for reconsideration (except Money Bills) to the Parliament. If the Bill is re-presented to him in this case after reconsideration, it is obligatory for him to give his assent to it.
The above is true of ordinary bills (bills except Money and Amendment Bills).
The President cannot refuse to sign a bill. At the most, he can withhold his assent, which is the equivalent of not approving a Bill. Also, there is no time-limit prescribed for him to give his assent. Theoretically speaking, he may keep the Bill in his pocket for an indefinite time. An example in this regard is that of Mr. Zail Singh, who had kept the Postal Amendment Bill with him and it lapsed without his approval once he retired from the office. This type of veto power is known as “Pocket Veto”. In case of sending back the Bill for re-consideration, if the Bill again comes back to him, the only effect of sending back the bill is suspending the process of assent for some days. This is referred to as “Suspensive Veto”
ORDINANCE - MAKING POWERS
The President enjoys the power to issue an ordinance when the Parliament is not in session. An ordinance has the effect of a normal law passed by the Parliament. This power is exercised by him on Cabinet advice. The ordinance issued by the President must be passed by the Parliament within 6 weeks of re-assembly otherwise it will cease to operate. (Art 123)
He can grant
Pardon: Completely absolving the guilt of the offender
Reprieve: Temporarily suspending the sentence
Respite: Awarding a lesser sentence on special grounds
Remission: Reducing the amount of sentence without changing its character
Commutation: Substituting one form of punishment for another, lighter form
in cases of death sentence awarded by the Courts (even by a Court-Martial). Under our system, only he has the power to pardon a death sentence.
1. Power to notify the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for each state and UT separately
2. To refer any matter to the Supreme Court for its advice
EMERGENCY POWERS (PART XVIII)
Three types of emergency have been prescribed under the Constitution to deal with exigencies.
The President can
A. declare a “Proclamation of Emergency” in case of a threat to the security of India or any part of it. It can be imposed even in anticipation of such a threat. The proclamation must be passed by both Houses with special majority within one month of its issuance. It can last for six months by passing each such resolution with the requisite majority.
Such an emergency can be applied only on grounds of war, external attack or armed rebellion (Art.352). An example is the infamous emergency imposed in 1975 by Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Please note that whenever the word “Emergency” alone is used, it refers to the National Emergency.
During such an Emergency, the Union can direct the States to perform their Executive functions in the manner specified, thereby bringing the States under the complete control of the Union (without suspending them). During such times, the Parliament can make laws in respect of the State List also (which it normally does not do). Whenever such a proclamation is issued, the rights granted by Art. 19 are immediately suspended. Consequently, censorship can be imposed on the Press, which is free from any such restrictions in normal times.
Any other Fundamental Right can be suspended depending on a special presidential order except the Right To Life. But since the emergency order has to be ultimately approved by the Parliament and it can disapprove it, the final authority to suspend any Fundamental Right remains the Parliament.
B. proclaim a state emergency (Art 356) due to breakdown of governmental machinery in any state if he is satisfied that the government there cannot be carried out according to Constitutional provisions. Such breakdown may occur due to a political deadlock (e.g. U.P. where no government could be formed even after election owing to a hung assembly) or the failure of the state government to comply with directions of the Union.
In such cases, the President suspends the assembly of that state and rules it through the Governor, who is his nominee. That is why this is popularly known as the “President’s Rule”. It has been applied more than 106 times till date. The President may assume to himself any or all of the powers of the State Legislature. Normally, it is imposed for two months initially, and is to be approved by the Parliament. This duration can be extended, however, by six months each upto maximum of three years by passing resolutions in the Parliament.
C. declare a Financial Emergency under Art. 360 if he feels that the creditworthiness of India or any part of it is in danger. The objective of such an emergency is to maintain financial stability of India by controlling the expenditures and by reducing the salaries of all government servants. Such an emergency has never been imposed so far.