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The Indian Presidential Election 2017
Jul 21, 2017

[GS Paper II: Structure, Organization and Functioning of Executive]

On July 20, Ram Nath Kovind was elected as India’s 14th President. He won 65.6% of the votes polled, defeating the Opposition’s candidate, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who secured 34% of the vote. The present Presidential polls that took place on 17th July recorded the highest ever turnout of over 99%. 

Relevant Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 52 states that there shall be a President of India.
  • As per Article 53, the executive power of the Union shall be vested in President and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with the Constitution.
  • Article 54 provides for the election of President and the constitution of Electoral College.
  • Article 74 states that there shall be a council of ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President who ‘shall’, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice. 
  • The 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 made the advice of the council of ministers binding on President. Later, the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1978 endorsed the President to require the council of ministers to reconsider such advice. In other words, the President may return a matter once for reconsideration of council of ministers, but the reconsidered advice shall be binding.

How is the Indian President elected?

  • The President is not directly elected. The Electoral College consists of only the elected members of both the Houses of Parliament, elected members of the legislative assemblies of the states and elected members of the legislative assemblies of the Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry.
  • Thus, the nominated members of both Houses of Parliament, state legislative assemblies and legislative assemblies of Delhi and Puducherry do not participate in the election of the President. 
  • The voting to the President’s election is done by secret ballot through the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. 
  • To ensure uniformity in representation of different states as well as parity between the states as a whole and the Union, the Constitution provides for the value of each vote of an MP and an MLA.
  • The value of an MLA’s vote depends on the population of the state he or she represents. But the value of the vote of an MP is fixed at 708.
  • While MPs use a green ballot, MLAs use pink ones. The colour makes counting of votes easier.

Value of Vote of an MLA & MP

vote

Why Indirect Elections?

  • In harmony with the parliamentary system of government: Under this system, the President is the head of the executive, while the prime minister aided by council of ministers is the head of government. Having a directly elected president would have been contradictory. 
  • Considering the vast size of the electorate, direct election of the President would have been very costly, and time and energy consuming, which is unwarranted. 


Right to vote or not to vote in Presidential Election

  • Every elector at the Presidential election has the freedom of making a choice to vote for any of the candidates or not to vote at the election, as per his free will and choice.
  • The voting or not voting as per his/her own free will at the Presidential election will not come within the ambit of disqualification under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution of India.
  • The political parties cannot issue any direction or whip to their members to vote in a particular manner or not to vote at the election leaving them with no choice, as that would tantamount to the offence of undue influence within the meaning of section 171C of the IPC. 


Criticism of the office of the President

  • Presidents have been criticized for 1) being a rubber stamp for the government and 2) exploiting constitutional ambiguities to exercise greater influence than their position warrants.
  • The most egregious example of the first trait was President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (1974-77) signing Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Proclamation of Emergency on the night of 25 June 1975 and the sycophancy of President Zail Singh (1982-87).
  • Frequent use and misuse of power under article 356 to impose President’s rule in states has further eroded the confidence and impartial nature of the President’s office.
  • The role of presidents has also come under scrutiny at times of transition between governments. President Zail Singh’s decision to invite Rajiv Gandhi to take over as Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy’s (1977-82) call for fresh elections on the advice of Charan Singh, a Prime Minister who had himself not won the trust vote in the Lok Sabha are some of the such instances.
  • It must be noted that the office of the President was not conceived as merely a ceremonial post. The discretionary powers granted under the constitution demand a delicate balance without slipping into being either an unthinking rubber stamp or an overzealous interventionist.

Why Indian President is not a rubber stamp?

  • The President can be far from being a pushover, if he so chooses. He is the first citizen of the country and the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces.
  • The President authorizes the presentation of the union Budget, a money bill can be introduced in Lok Sabha only after his consent and a bill passed by both Houses becomes an Act after the President’s assent.
  • Pardoning powers are vested with the President as per Article 72. He can promulgate Ordinances when Parliament is not in session and impose emergency (National, State and Financial) after advice from the council of ministers. 

PT Facts

  • Article 52 states that there shall be a President of India. Article 53 vests executive power of Union in President.
  • Article 72 vests pardoning powers with the President.
  • Voting in presidential election is through secret ballot with different value of votes of MPs and MLAs. It does not attract any parliamentary whip or disqualification under the Tenth Schedule. 


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