A Bill will not be an Act of the Indian Parliament unless and until it receives the assent of the President. When a Bill is presented to the President, after its passage in both Houses of Parliament, the President shall be entitled to take any of the following three steps.
- He may declare his assent to the Bill; or
- He may declare that he withholds his assent to the Bill; or
- He may, in the case of Bills other than Money Bills, return the Bill for reconsideration of the Houses, with or without a message suggesting amendments. A Money Bill cannot be returned for reconsideration. In case of (iii), if the Bill is passed again by both Houses of Parliament with or without amendment and again presented to the President, it would be obligatory upon him to declare his assent to it [Art. 111]
Nature of the Veto Power
Generally speaking, the object of arming the Executive with this power is to prevent hasty and ill-considered action by the Legislature. But the necessity for such power is removed or at least lessened when the Executive itself initiates and conducts legislation or is responsible for legislation, as under the Parliamentary or Cabinet system of Government. As a matter of fact, though a theoretical power of veto is possessed by the Crown in England, it has never been used since the time of Queen Anne.
Where, however, the Executive and the Legislature are separate and independent from each other, the Executive, not being itself responsible for the legislation, should properly have some control to prevent undesirable legislation. Thus, in the United States, the President’s power of veto has been supported on various grounds, such as (a) to enable the President to protect his own office from aggressive legislation; (b) to prevent a particular legislation from being placed on the statue book which the President considers to be unconstitutional (for thought the Supreme Court possesses the power to nullify a statue on the ground of unconstitutionally, it can exercise that power only in the case of clear violation of the Constitution, regardless of any question of policy, and only if a proper proceeding is brought before it after the statue comes into effect); (c) to check legislation which he deems to be practically inexpedient or, which he thinks does not represent the will of the American people.
From the standpoint of effect on the legislation, executive vetos have been classified as absolute, qualified, suspeasive and pocket vetos.
Absolute Veto: The English Crown possesses the prerogative of absolute veto, and if it refuses assent to any bill, it cannot become law, notwithstanding any vote of Parliament. But this veto power of the Crown, has become obsolete since 1700, owing to the development of the Cabinet system, under which all public legislation is initiated and conducted in the legislature by the Cabinet, judged by practice and usage, thus, there is at present no executive power of veto in England.
Qualified Veto: A veto is ‘qualified’ when it can be overridden by an extraordinary majority of the Legislature and the Bill can be enacted as law with such majority vote, overriding the executive veto. The veto of the American President is of this class. When a Bill is presented to the President, he may, if he does not assent to it, return the Bill within 10 days with a statement o of this objection, to that branch of Congress in which it originated. Each House of Congress then reconsiders the Bill and if it is adopted again in each House, by a two-thirds vote of the members present, – the Bill becomes a law, notwithstanding the absence of the President’s signature. The qualified veto is then overridden. But, if it fails to obtain that two-thirds majority, the veto stands and the Bill fails to become law. In the result, the qualified veto serves as a means to the Executive to point out the defects of the legislation and to obtain a reconsideration by the Legislation but ultimately the extraordinary majority of the Legislature prevails. The qualified veto is thus a useful device in the United States where the Executive has no power of control over the Legislature, by prorogation, dissolution or otherwise.
Suspensive Veto: A veto is suspensive when the executive veto can be overridden by the Legislature by an ordinary majority. To this type belongs the veto power of the French President. If, upon reconsideration, Parliament passes the Bill again by a simple majority, the President has no option but to promulgate it.
Pocket Veto: There is a fourth type of veto called the ‘pocket veto’ which is possessed by the American President. When a Bill is presented to him. He may neither sign the Bill nor return the Bill for reconsideration within 10 days. He may simply let the Bill lie on his desk until the ten-day limit has expired. But, if in the meantime, Congress has adjourned (i.e., before expiry of the period of ten days from presentation of the Bill to the President), the Bill fails to become a law. This method is known as the ‘pocket veto’, for, by simply withholding a Bill presented to the President during the last few days of the session of Congress the President can prevent the Bill to become law.
(B) Disallowance of State Legislation: Besides the power to veto Union Legislation, the President of India shall also have the power of disallowance or return for reconsideration of a Bill of the State Legislature, which may have been reserved for his consideration by the Governor of the State [Art. 201]. Reservation of a State Bill for the assent of the
HOW MANY TYPES OF ‘VETO POWER’ ARE THERE?
From the standpoint of effect on the legislation, executive vetoes have been classified as absolute, qualified, suspensive and pocket veto. Absolute Veto: Refusal of assent to any bill. The bill cannot become law, notwithstanding any vote of Parliament
Qualified Veto: A veto is ‘qualified’ when it can be overridden by a higher majority of the Legislature and the Bill can be enacted as law with such majority vote, overriding the executive veto.
Suspensive Veto: A veto is suspensive when the executive veto can be overridden by the Legislature by an ordinary majority.
Pocket Veto: By simply withholding a Bill during the last few days of the session of the Legislature, the Executive can prevent the Bill to become law.
President is a discretionary power of the Governor of a State. In the case of any Bill presented to the Governor for his assent after it has been passed by both Houses of the Legislature of the State, the Governor may, instead of giving his assent or withholding his assent, reserve the Bill for the Consideration of the President.
- Power of Issuing Ordinance (Art -123): The President has a very strong position in the sense that he has the power of issuing ordinance. In case there is a matter of urgency and a law is needed for a particular situation, the President can issue ordinance. The 38th Amendment in this regard is a mile stone in the sense that his assent is important. The 38th Amendment passed in July 1975 put beyond judicial scrutiny the “satisfaction” of the President in declaring emergency. The ordinance can be promulgated by the President when the Houses of Parliament are not in session. The ordinance will have the same effect of the law of the land.
- Judicial Powers: The President enjoys judicial powers as well. He has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, suspension, remission or condonation of a punishment or sentence by court martial. The power of pardon of the President pertains to such offences that relate to violation of acts under the Union List. The President’s pardon could be sought for any death sentence.
- Emergency Powers: The President also enjoy emergency power. This is important because in a federal structure the grip of the Union on the State is not so tight and hence the Constitution framers did provide for the exigencies which may require a tight grip of the Union on the State. Emergency can be declared due to external aggression or armed rebellion or internal disturbance. President of India enjoys nominal power as he basically acts on the advices of the Council of Minister. Article 356 is much in controversy because it gives powers to the President for the extension of his rule in the State. “If the President on receipt of report form the Governor of a State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on….; the President may extend his rule to the State. Article 360 deals with financial emergency “If the President is satisfied that a situation has arisen whereby the financial stability or credit of India or of any part of the territory is threatened … the President can declare financial emergency. The 38th Amendment (clause 5) has furthered the strength of the President in this regard as his decision is final and cannot be challenged in the Court of law.
The extraordinary powers of the President are of three kinds:
(a) Firstly, the President is given the power to make a “Proclamation of Emergency” on the ground of threat to the security of India or any part thereof, by war, external aggression or armed rebellion. The Object of this Proclamation is to maintain the security of India and its effect is, inter alia, assumption of wider control by the Union over the affairs of the States or any of them as may be affected by armed rebellion or external aggression.
(b) Secondly, the President is empowered to make a Proclamation that the Government of a Sate cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The break-down of the constitutional machinery may take place either as a result of a political deadlock or the failure by a State to carry out the directions of the Union [Arts. 356, 365]. By means of a Proclamation of this kind, the president may assume to himself any of the governmental powers of the State and to Parliament the powers of the Legislature of the State.
(c) Thirdly, the president is empowered to declare that a situation has arisen whereby “the financial stability or credit of India or of any part thereof is threatened” [Art. 360]. The object of such Proclamation is to maintain the financial stability of India by controlling the expenditure of the States and by reducing the salaries of the public servants, and by giving directions to the States to observe canons of financial propriety, as may be necessary.
- Other Powers: The President also enjoys the power of appointment and removal of high dignitaries of the State including Prime Minister. The President is the Commander -in-Chief of Armed Forces and appoints Service Chiefs of Army, Navy and Airforce. The exercise of his military powers, however, is regulated by laws made by Parliament. The President also has diplomatic powers as he appoints and receives ambassadors. The treaties with other countries are also signed in his name.