VICE PRESIDENT OF INDIA
The Constitution provides for a Vice-President whose role in the Government is comparatively insignificant. Going through the provisions dealing with his office, one can easily see a striking similarity between the role of the Vice-President of India and that of his counter part in the United States. The American Vice-President is sometimes called “His Superfluous Highness” to characterize his comparative insignificance in the administration. But, there is a provision in the American Constitution which makes the Vice-President potentially important. According to this, if the President dies in office, or is removed from office, the Vice-President takes over the President’s office and continues in that capacity for the full length of the unexpired term. But, under the India Constitution, if the President dies or resigned or is otherwise incapacitated and, as a result, the Presidential office become vacant, the Vice-President will act as President only for a maximum period of six months.
The main function of the Vice-President like that of his American prototype is to preside over the Council of States. He is its ex-officio Chairman. The Vice-President takes over the office of the President normally, under four situations: death of the President, resignation of the President, removal of the President from his office through impeachment or otherwise, and finally, when the President is unable to discharge his functions owing to absence, illness or any other cause,. The last of these clearly provides for any temporary period of incapacity which makes the President incapable of discharging his responsibilities.
During the period, when the Vice-President is acting for the President, he will have all the powers and immunities of the President. He is also entitled for such salary and allowances and privileges as may be determined by Parliament by law for the purpose. At present, according to the Second Schedule of the Constitution, the Vice-President is entitled to the same emoluments, allowances and privileges as the President while he discharges the functions of, or is acting as the President.
HOW THE VICE PRESIDENT IS ELECTED? WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED?
The Vice-President is elected by the members of both Houses of Parliament at joint meeting. The election is conducted in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. The voting is by secret ballot.
Any Indian citizen who has completed the age of 35 years and who is qualified for election as a member of the Council of States is eligible for election as Vice- President. But no person who holds an office of profit under the Government of India or any State or local or other authority in India is eligible for the purpose. The Vice-President cannot be a member of either House of Parliament or a member of any State Legislature.
Removal of the Vice-President
The Vice-President can be removed from office by a resolution of the Council of States passed by a majority of all the then members of the Council and agreed to by the House of the People. But, this procedure does not seem to be sufficient, if at the time such removal is sought, the Vice- President is acting for the President. If he is to be removed from office while he acts in the latter capacity, the provisions ought to be exactly the same as are applicable to the impeachment of the President.
Functions of the Vice-President
The Vice-President is the highest dignitary of India, coming next after the President. No functions are, however, attached to the office of the Vice-President as such. The normal function of the Vice-President is to act as the ex-officio Chairman of the Council of States. But if there occurs any vacancy in the office of the President by reason of his death, resignation, removal or otherwise, the Vice-President shall act as President until a new President is elected and enters upon his office [Art. 65(1)].
The Vice-President shall discharge the function of the President during the temporary absence of the President, illness or any other cause by reason of which he is unable to discharge his functions [Art. 65(2)]. No machinery having been prescribed by the Constitution to determine when the President is unable to discharge his duties owing to absence from India or a like cause, it becomes a somewhat delicate matter as to who should move in the matter on any particular occasion. It is to be noted that this provision of the Constitution has not been put into use prior to 20th June, 1960, though President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad had been absent from India for a considerable period during his foreign tour in the year 1958. It was during the 15-days visit of Dr. Rajendra Prasad to the Soviet Union in June 1960, that for the first time, the Vice-President, Dr. Radhakrishnan was given the opportunity of acting as the President owing to the ‘inability’ of the President to discharge his duties.
The second occasion took place in May, 1961, when President Rajendra Prasad became seriously ill and incapable of discharging his functions. After a few days of crisis, the President himself suggested that the Vice-President should discharge the functions of the President until he resumed his duties. It appears that the power to determine when the President is unable to discharge his duties or when he should resume his duties has been understood to belong to the President himself. In the even of occurrence of vacancy in the office of both the President and the Vice – President by reason of death, resignation, removal etc. the Chief justice of India or in his absence the senior most judge of the Supreme Court available shall discharge the functions until a new President is elected. In 1969 when on the death of Dr. Zakir Hussain, the Vice-President Shri V.V. Giri resigned; the Chief Justice Shri Hidayatullah discharged the functions.
When the Vice-President acts as, or discharges the functions of the President, he shall cease to perform the duties of the Chairman of the council of States and then the Deputy Chairman of the Council of States shall act as its chairman and he (Deputy Chairman) will get the salary of the Chairman of the Council of States.
Doubts and disputes relating to or connected with the election of President or Vice- President
Determination of doubts and disputes relating to the election of a President or Vice- President is dealt with in Art 71, as follows:
(a) Such disputes shall be decided by the Supreme Court whose jurisdiction shall be exclusive and final.
(b) No such dispute can be raised on the ground of any vacancy in the Electoral College which elected the President or Vice-President.
(c) If the election of a President or the Vice- President is declared void by the Supreme Court, acts done buy him prior to the date of such decision of the Supreme Court shall not be invalidated.
(d) Barring the decision of such disputes, other matters relating to the election of President or Vice-President may be regulated by law made by Parliament.