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Satya Ranjan Swain

B.A.LL.B (Hons.) 2nd sem.
KIIT Law School,
KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India


Please don‟t frown at the title. The first women president of India Mrs. P. Patil, has assured that
she won‟t be a merely figure head. A serious doubt raised in my mind, whether the President of
this country is a real head or a mere figure head?

The preamble of our Constitution clearly articulates India as a republic. Being a republic there is
no hereditary monarch but the President, as the head of the State. The President is not directly
elected but indirectly. The president is elected by an electoral college, consisting of the elected
members of both Houses of Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies, in accordance with
the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote by secret ballot.
The office of the President of India is created by Article 52 of the Constitution. The Indian
Constitution has only two vesting clause i.e. Article 53 and Article 154. This paper is concerned
about Article 53 which clearly states that “the executive power of the Union shall be vested in
the President…” 1 That means the Parliament has power to confer only the functions of the
President on any other authorities and not the powers.

The Un ion Constitution Co mmittee in its report of 4 July, 1947 reco mmended it in clause 7 sub clause 1. The same


was also said by N. Gopalswami Ayyangar on 25th July, 1947 in the Constituent Assembly.

Concentration of powers leads to loss of individual freedom. Power corrupts and absolute power
corrupts absolutely unless there is check on it. The theory has its root in Aristotle‟s philosophy
which found an elaboration in the writings of Lord Montesquieu in the 18 th century. Aristotle
divided the governmental function into deliberative, magisterial and judicial although he did not
consider any need for separation of personnel. Jean Bodin sees the importance of separating the
executive and judicial powers. John Locke was one of the eighteenth century philosophers to pay
greater attention to the problem of concentration of governmental power. He argued that the
executive and legislative powers should be separate for the sake of liberty. Libert y suffers when
the same human being makes the law and executes them. Lord Montesquieu in his famous work
“The spirit of the Laws” (1748) gave the idea of separation of powers. 2 The Spirit of Laws in
French, “De l'esprit des lois” is a thesis on political theory, the law, sociology, and anthropology
first published anonymously by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu with the help of
Claudine Guérin de Tencin. 3 Montesquieu‟s theory was refined and developed by Blackstone
and Madison. Montesquieu quoted in his book that,

“When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same
body of magistrates, there can be no liberty. . . . Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary
power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the
legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for
the judge would then be the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge
might behave with violence and oppression. There would be an end to everything, where
the same man, or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those
three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying
the causes of individuals.” 4

Biswa Ranjan Mohapatra etal, Foundations of Politics & Govern ment, Orissa State Bureau of Textbook
Preparation and Production. Reprinted, First edition 2003
3 accessed on 23.10. 2008



M.J.C. Vile, FOUR: Montesquieu - M.J.C. Vile, Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers , 1967, The online
lib rary of liberty at

Before going further let‟s see what made Lord Montesquieu to go for this novel idea. During his
days the Bouborne monarch in France had established despotism and the people enjoyed no
freedom. The monarch was the chief law giver, executor and adjudicator. The statement by Louis
XIV that „I am the State‟ clearly outlined the character and nature of monarchial authority. Lord
Montesquieu, a great advocate of human dignity, developed this theory as the weapon to uphold
the liberty of the people. He believed that the application of this theory would prevent the
overgrowth of a particular organ which spells danger for political liberty. 5


There are two models of the separation of power theory. The first one is the Water tight model.
This model says that there should be three branches of government and they should be free in
their own sphere. But it is as one of the writers rightly said, theoretically absurdity and
practically impossibility. Then comes the Check and balance model. The main objective of the
latter model is to check the exercise of power, maintain balance of power and the last but not the
least to restore the power, if it is abused.

Unity of power is just the anti thesis of political liberty. So, there is the need for the separation of
power. Moderate government is a free government. Thus separation of power is a check against
royal despotism and legislative despotism. The crux of the problem of modern government is to
find a synthesis combining the answer to two needs, the need for the welfare of the State and the
need for the freedom of the people. The welfare State assumes concentration of power on the
executive level and consequently supremacy of the executive over the legislative branch.



Supra note 4

Our main concern is not only to study the separation of powers as a whole but to go to the micro
level of it (only Executive). The executive is the primary and prominent organ of the government
in terms of its importance. Executive has been the manifestation of government. It has been
performing its functions of executing the laws made by the legislature and also implementing the
policies of the state. The efficiency of the government depends on the effective implementation
of its policies by the executive. It is the pivot round which actual administration of the state
resolves and includes all officials engaged in administration. However it is customary to use the
term executive in its narrow sense which refers only to the chief executive head of the state and
his advisors and ministers. 6


Before independence, the functions of the head of the State in India were performed by the
Governor General, who represented the Crown and ruled in the name of His/Her Majesty. The
Government of India Act, 1935 also laid down that the executive authority of the centre would
vest in the Governor-General. 7

But after independence, the question arises in this rapidly moving world of the mid twentieth
century, to whom the leadership task is to be given? What type of executive would be stable,
strong, effective and quick, yet withal, democratic? becomes the moot question, because the aim
was to build a new India overnight and create a new unity by breaking down the old loyalties that
had fragmented and compartmentalized Indian life….the Indian Constitution. 8 The Constituent
Assembly looked for 3 models viz. the American Presidential system, the Swiss elected
executive and British cabinet government and came up with the Advanced Presidential model
un/consciously. The whole idea was to provide „a sort of Privy Council whose advise shall be

Supra note 4
Dr. Subhash C. Kashyap, Constitutional law of India, vol. 1, 2008 publication



Granville Austin, Corner of a nation
available to the resident whenever he chooses to obtain it in all matters of national importance in
which he is required to act in his discretion‟ 9

Article 74(1) of our 1950 Constitution had provided that “there shall be a Council of Ministers
with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advice the President in the exercise of his
functions.” In the context of the Hindu Code Bill, President Rajendra Prasad contended that he
could withhold assent from Bills that did not meet with his approval. But Attorney General
Motilal Setalvad advised Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that “by Article 74(1) the President is
required to Act in all matters with the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers.” India‟s first
President shook his head and grumbled (as he gave in) saying: “this is not the way we framed the

But 25 years later, during the Internal Emergency of June 1975, the language of Article 74(1)
was altered and made even more absolute. There was a debate on whether the President should act in
accordance with the advice of the Council of ministers. The Supreme Court and Pt. Nehru were in
support. On the other hand those who opposed were, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, K.N.Munshi, P.B.Mukherjee J.
of Calcutta High Court and K. Subha Rao CJ. But finally in 1976, it was decided that the President has to
act in accordance with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. The Constitution 42nd
Amendment Act, 1976 provided 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.”

That‟s how the rubber stamp-theory gained currency. But then, in the euphoric post-Emergency
period when the Janata Government was in power, Parliament inserted a proviso to Article 74(1)
which read: “provided that the President may require the Council of Ministers to reconsider such
advice, either generally or otherwise and the President shall act in accordance with the advice
tendered after such reconsideration”. This proviso has given the President of India more
elbowroom to intervene in affairs of State — the power which the British Monarch, a
Constitutional head of State, also exercises, and that is the power to caution and to warn. The



B.N.Rau, India‟s Constitution , p. 72
Constitution of India 1950 as it now stands (post 1978) no longer envisages a mere cipher or
figurehead as President. 10

Many times in the past there arise the controversies regarding the president‟s constitutional
position, but each time it ended in confirming the position of the president is a constitutional
head. The first controversies was within a few month of Constitution of India coming into
operation, when President Dr. Rajendra Prasad, expressed the desire to act solely on his own
judgment, independently of the Council of ministers in the matters of giving assent to the Bill
and sending massages to the Parliament, in a note to Prime Minister Nehru. This view was not a
mere desire but it was based on the literal reading of the Constitution of India. 11 Pt. Nehru
consulted Attorney General then Mr. Setalvad and Ayyar, a member of the Drefting Committee
of the Constituent Assembly, on the relationship of President and Prime Minister. Mr. Setalvad
chooses to please Pt. Nehru and held that President is a big zero.

The disagreement raised again in 1960, on November 28, while laying the foundation stone of
the Indian law Institute, President Prasad said that it was generally believed that like the
sovereign of Great Britain, the President of India was also a Constitutional head and had to act
only according to the advice of the Council of Ministers.

The same controversy again arose in 1967 and 1969. In 1976, the position was quite clear, in the
42nd Amendment of the Constitution. Act. 74(1) was amended so as to state explicitly that the
President shall act in accordance with the advice of the ministers in the exercise of his
functions. 12

Fali S Nariman, Not a rubber stamp, m/report.asp?newsid=1105328 accessed on
Article 111 and Article 86 of the Constitution of India.
M.P.Jain, Indian Constitutional Law, 5th edition, 2003, vol.1



The real position of the President of India is clouded with different suspects. Some of the
constitutionalists demanded the president as mere figure head or titular head or rubber stamp or
golden zero. There are many causes to call the President such which are as follows:

The first cause may be that the President is the head of the State, not of the Government.
Secondly India does not have Presidential form of Government. Thirdly, British tradition still
prevails in our constitution. The last but not the least the president works on the advice of the

The President of India does not have the only power to sign o n the dotted lines but also has the
following powers, which clearly shows the position of the President. First of all these are the
powers, which the President possesses, clearly shows the position of the President of India.


The president is the chief of the union executive. Under Article 53(1), all executive power of
the union is vested on him. The power is exercised either directly or indirectly through
officers subordinated to him.
a) Appointment-The laws passed by the Parliament are executed by him. Appointment of
the executives- The President appoints the Prime minister. The Judges of both the
Supreme Court, High Court, and the high officials like C.A.G., Election Commissioners,
Member of U.P.S.C, Governors of different states etc. are appointed by the President.
b) Removal of executives- The President can remove any minister from the Governors and
the Council of ministers of the Parliament, the judges of the Supreme Court, High Court,
Election Commissioners, the members of the U.P.S.C.
c) Determination of the national policy- The executive powers are exercised by the
Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister directly but the decisions are
intimated to the President by the Prime Minister. If the President is not satisfied with the
decision of the Council of Ministers then he may return the proposal for the
reconsideration in the Cabinet.



The president is the supreme commander- in chief of the defense force. It is his duty to refrain the
state from foreign aggression. He is authorized to extend the foreign relationship and to sign the
treaties with different Sovereign States.


The president is the head to maintain foreign relations. The negotiation of all treaties and
agreements are made in the name of the President. He accredits the ambassadors and envoys to
foreign States and accepts the letters of credence of the foreign diplomatic representatives.


The president is the constituent part of the parliament and wields exte nsive legislative power. He
has the following legislative powers: Power to summon the session of the Parliament, 13 Power to
prorogue/end the sessions, Sending message to the Parliament, Power to nominate the members
of the Parliament, 14 Power to assent bills. 15

The President has Power to proclaim ordinance.16 Ordinance is an Act of legislation in the
absence of the Legislature promulgated by the President, to meet the emergency. An ordinance
has the same force as an Act of Parliament. Its life span is 6 months and 6 weeks. If it gets the
approval of the Parliament it becomes an Act. It can be withdrawn by the President.

Article 85 of the Constitution of India
Article 80 of the Constitution of India
The President has the power under Article 111, either to give the assent, or to withhold the assent, or to return the

bill to the Parliament for reconsideration and he can also suggest modifications


Art 123 of the Constitution of India

Introduction of the budget, levy of taxes, power to assent the financial bills, power to constitute
financial commission, presentation of audit report etc. are some of the financial power of the
president. The president has at his disposal the contingency fund 17 also.


The president enjoys some of the judicial powers which include power to pardon, reprieve,
respite, remit, suspend and commute sentences of convicted persons. 18 The Supreme Court in
Keher Singh v. Union of India, said that, pardoning power is an act which is done under
Constitutional scheme, it further said that, it should be compared with the American President
who acts on his own and not with the crown in United Kingdom, where it acts on the ministerial
advice 19 . The President has also the power to consult the judges of the Supreme Court. 20 He can
exercise this power in relation to any matter which of public importance or which according to
him is of public importance. This is just to enable the President to seek the opinion regarding the
validity of any act of the Government and the aid or advice tendered to him by them.


The president attends the Republic day. He receives the ambassadors and extends the foreign
relationship through negotitation.

Apart from normal powers, financial powers, emergency powers, Ceremonial powers and
judicial powers the president enjoys the Discretionary powers also. 21 The authority and status of
the President depends upon the powers he can exercise and the functions he can perform under
and within the express provisions of the Constitution and not by what is now practiced by the
President. We can‟t tell that President is the figure head.

The contingency fund is the fund from which the President can sanction advances to meet the expenditures of the
unseen future
Article 72 of the Constitution of India
AIR 1989 SC 653.


Article 143 of the Constitution of India


Infra. p. 12
Secondly, the position of the President is clearly reflected from the oath and affirmation by the
President. Every president and every person acting as President or discharging the functions of
the President shall, before entering upon his office, make and subscribe in the presence of the
Chief Justice of India or, in his absence, the senior most of the Supreme Court available, say, “I,
[name], do swear in the name of God (or solemnly affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office
of President (or discharge the functions of the President) of the Republic of India, and will to the
best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law, and that I will
devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Republic of India.”

The words “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law” stated in the oath clearly
define the position of the President. The preserver, protector and defender the Constitution
cannot be a mere figure head.

Further it is stated that “I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of
Republic of India”. But how can a person, who is dependent upon the Council of Ministers can
devote himself?

Thirdly, according to Article 53 (1) of the Constitution of India, the executive power of the
Union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him either directly or through
officers subordinates to him in accordance with this Constitution. In other words, the President
can exercise his functions directly without the advice of the council of ministers or others, which
is otherwise known as the discretionary powe r. The President can appoint any one as Prime
Minister and he can dissolve the Lok Sabha without the suggestion of the Prime Minister 22 in the
following four cases viz. a) When the Prime-minister loses his majority in the house,
b) When he is unable to prove his majority,
c) When the vote of no-confidence is passed against him,
d) When he is not facing the Parliament, but the Parliament has a proof that the ruling party has
no majority in the house. 23

Sir B.N.Rau, a member of the Drafting Committee, in his book has rightly stated that- “Even if in
any particular instance the President acts otherwise than on the ministerial advice the validity of


Art.85 does not require the aid and advice of the Prime -minister to dissolve the house.


Prof. M. P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law,5th Edition, (Wadhwa Publications, Nagpur, 2005), p.387.
the act cannot be questioned in any Court on any ground”. 24 It makes clear that, even the advice
in performing functions is unconstitutional, then it is not binding on the President.

Therefore it is clear that the President is independent in performing his functions. Further going
ahead according to the constitution the cabinet will hold office only “during the pleasure of the
office” Moreover, the court also Dinesh Chandra v. Choudhari Charan Singh 25 , held that, to
argue pleasure could be interpreted in Art.75(2) to mean the President can dismiss any minister
at any time, at his will. Further, the Supreme Court in S.P.Anand v. H.D.Devegowda, held that, it
could then be said that, since ministers also include Prime- minister, the President can dismiss
Prime- minister at his will. So, the President can‟t be called as a mere head.

Fourthly, the president is empowered to declare e mergency, which is very important and unique
in nature. During the debates in the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Ambedkar argued on 4th
November, 1948, in normal times it is framed to work as a federal system. But in times of war it
is so designed as to make its work, as though it was a unitary system. Part XVIII of the
Constitution defines the emergency power of the Indian President. He can declare emergency in
the following 3 conditions: According to Article 352, emergency can be declared due to war,
external; aggression or armed rebellion. Article 356 states on the account of the failure of the
constitutional machinery in a state, the President can issue a proclamation of emergency and
according to Article 360, on the account of a treat to financial stability or credit of India and any
other part thereof, emergency can be declared. In Article 356, it is clearly stated that if the
President is “satisfied” that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the state cannot be
carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, he can proclaim emergency. In
the case of Sardarilal vs. Union of India case the court said that it is the satisfaction of the
President. But in Samsersingh vs. State of Bihar, Iyer J. said personal satisfaction of the Council
of India and declared we adopted a British model. But it is not the correct proportion of law. In
Britian the King is the hereditary head but the President of India is an elected head.

Fifthly, as per Article 74 the aid and advice is limited only to the exercise of functions by the
President. “Powe r” means the ability to affect others and “function” means the things to be


K.M.Munshi,The President Under Indian Constitution,. 2nd Edition, (Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan Mumbai,1997), p.39.


AIR1980 Del 114.
done. Power comes with the discretion. But so far as the function is concerned there is no such
question of discretion. The aid and advice given by the council can‟t go to the extent to decide
the way the President is going to exercise his powers. He is only bound by the mandates of the
Constitution. And no advice of the Council shall be binding on the President which is

At last but not the least, the President can only be impeached on one ground i.e. when he acts
unconstitutionally. The Procedure for it is also very difficult. 26 Two third majorities of both
houses of total membership of Parliament are required to impeach him. Investigation is also
conducted. Fourteen days notice is also given to him it is a feature of Indian Constit ution which
is unique in nature. It shows that the President cannot act unconstitutionally and arbitrary. The
question here is if the President has no role to play then why should he be impeached? If the
President is not responsible to preserve protect and defend the Constitution and his only job is to
sign the bill, how come he be impeached for signing an illegal Bill, which is send by the


It is often said that the Prime Minister is the real and the President is the constitutional head.
Some argues that the Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party in the lower house of the
Parliament or leader of the coalition govt. So, he is more powerful than the President. But it is at
the same time true that the President is the representative of both the house and the State
legislatures. So, Constitutionally the President is more powerful due to his large representative



Art.61 Indian Constitution.
The President enjoys the power to return a bill unsigned but the constitution limits the power to
send it back only once for reconsideration. If the Parliament sends back the bill with or without
changes, the President has to sign it. However, deliberately or inadvertently, the constitution
does not set a time- limit in which the President is obliged to approve the bill, so he may withhold
assent indefinitely. This has come to be known in legal and constitutional circles as the "Pocket
Veto", and has been used on a number of occasions against controversial Bills.

Former President Giani Zail Singh withheld assent to a Bill passed by Parliament that gave
sweeping powers to the State to intercept mail. This was considered by the President to be an
encroachment on citizens' freedom of speech and liberty as guaranteed by the Constitution. 27 He
was about to dismiss the government of Mr.Rajiv Gandhi because of the reason that the Prime-
minister of that government had failed to give the information to the President.

Former President Venkataraman withheld assent to a Bill passed by the outgoing Parliament that
gave pension benefits to themselves. This was interpreted by the President to be self-
aggrandizement. 28

In 1997 in Utter Pradesh, one of the coalition parties had withdrawn its support from the
government. Then, some other members of Assembly who were not supporters of the
government supported it. The Chief- minister claimed majority. After some violent incidents the
Chief- minister proved the majority. But the Governor sent a report stating the government of the
state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and requested for
application of Art.356. The Council of ministers also gave advice to the President to dismiss the
government, but the President refused to do so, stating that the government is constitutionally


27 accessed on 24.10.08


Former President K. Narayanan introduced the important practice of explaining to the nation the
thinking that led to the various decisions he took while exercising his discretionary powers; this
has led to openness and transparency in the functioning of the President. 29

Former President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam sent back a controversial bill regarding enlarging the scope of the
offices of profit, which disqualify a person from being a member of parliament. 30

The Parliamentary elections, since the nineties, have generally not resulted in a single party or
group of parties having a distinct majority. In such cases, Presidents have used his discretionary
power and invited the Prime Ministerial aspirants to form the government.



In this chapter we are going to discuss and compare the Indian President‟s status with President
of America and the Crown of England.


In America there is a Presidential form of government. All executive powers are vested in the
President. 31 He is indirectly elected by the people for four years. But he can‟t hold the office for
more than eight years. He is free to appoint the secretaries o f different departments; he can
remove them also on his own at any time without consulting any one.

In America there is also the separation of power between executive, legislature and judiciary.
The power is enjoyed in their own spheres with check and bala nces. The legislature can bring
indirect pressure on the executive through its power to levy taxes, to make appropriation of
governmental expenses, to enact legislations, to investigate executive works and polices through
its committees and the senate‟s power is to confirm treaties and appointments. But it does not
mean that the President has no powers or has less power. He can withhold his assent from a bill





Art. II sec.1 A merican Constitution.
passed by the legislature. In America the President has no power to dissolve the legislature i.e.
the congress. 32 Constitution of America provides for two years fixed term for it. Before that, the
President cannot dissolve it. So, if the legislature passes a bill and sent for Presidential assent and
if the President returns it back for reconsideration using the veto, the legislature has a power to
pass it by 2/3 majority in both houses and it becomes law. The President is powerless in this
regard. However the judiciary can interfere in it if it is unconstitutional.

The President has also no ordinance making powers. He cannot perform any legislative
functions. The President can only use those powers which are either conferred by the
Constitution or any law. The executive and the legislative powers are limited in nature. For e.g.
the legislature can make laws regarding Foreign affairs, Security etc. the President cannot
exercise powers in relation to these matters. If the President signs treaties with another country it
also requires 2/3 majority of senate in order make it effective. 33


The England there is President as such but the Crown. He is not an elected one. It is a hereditary
rotation in nature. The crown in England is the head of executive. He enjoys privileges which are
inherent powers and powers conferred under any statute made by parliament. But at present he
does not enjoy any inherent power. He has power to appoint all high administrative and
executive officers, Judges, Bishops, officers of army, navy and air force. The crown has the
function to look after the enforcement of all national laws. He conducts Country‟s foreign
relations; it has supreme command over all armed forces. He has power to give pardons. He has
power to conclude treaties without consulting parliament. Hence we can say that it is the ultimate
executive authority and has extensive executive powers. Each minister is allotted with his
function. They are only the one who observes that, laws are followed or not, they conclude the
International treaties. If there is a war the issue of war is decided by them. The fund granted by
the parliament is spent by them only. The ministers give the advice to the crown; even the power
to give the pardons is exercised by the real minister under the name of the crown. The crown
prorogues the session of British parliament, dissolves the House of Commons, assents the bill.


Art. I of the A merican Constitution.


Art. II, sec.2 of the A merican Constitution.
the appointments are carried out by the cabinet under the name of the crown. All issues which
come before the judicial committee of Privy Council are decided by the crown. Even it is said
that, crown grants the mercy to a person who is convicted for the criminal act, but the actual job
is done by the judicial committee of Privy Council.


As in America the President is totally free to exercise his executive powers, but he can‟t make
laws i.e. legislative powe rs are not vested in him. Whereas the Indian President has the
legislative powers, as we have seen under Art.123. he can issue ordinances when the assembly is
not in session. The American President has no judicial powe rs i.e. he cannot grant pardons,
which the Indian President has under Art.72 provisions as to assent to bills are to some extent
similar. In America the President cannot hold office beyond the period of eight years, but there is
no such condition in Indian Constitution. A President can be reelected after second term in India.
The President of America has not given the power to dissolve the congress, but Art.85 (2) (b) of
Indian Constitution gives the power to Indian President to dissolve the house of people.

Dr.Ambedkar in this regard says that, “In draft Constitution there is placed at the head of the
Union a functionary who is called President the title of the functionary reminds one of the
President of the United States. But beyond identity of names there is nothing in common
between the form of the government prevalent in America and the form of government proposed
under the Draft Constitution.”34

Many a times it is interpreted that, the President of India is a titular head and resembles to the
Crown in England. English crown is the executive head of the state and exercises all its powers
through its ministers, in India Art.53(1) says that, President of India is the executive head of the
state and Art.74(1) says that, he performs his functions on the advice of his council of ministers.
So, if we go to the plain reading of the Articles and above discussions, it can be said that, Indian
President is a nominal head of the state like English Crown. Though Art.53 vests all executive
powers in him, Art.74 overrides it. In fact crown has no powers. The actual powers are in the
hands of the council. So, Sir Henry Maine rightly pointed out, “The king of England reigns but



Dr. J.N. Pandey, Constitutional Law of India , 35th Ed ition ,(Central Law Agency, Allahabad, 2000), p.372.
does not rule”. But this is foreign to our system. The President of India is adorned with more
power in comparison to these two countries.

In Samsher Singh v. state of Punjab the Supreme Court held that, the Governor and President
are only the formal heads of the state, and when they require satisfaction, required by the
Constitution, it is not their personal satisfaction but the satisfaction of the council of ministers on
whose aid and advice they exercise powers and functions. Thus, judiciary has consistently held
that, the President in practice has no powers at all. Further in Ram Jawaya Kapur v. state of
Punjab36 , the Supreme court held that, under Art.53 (1) executive powers of the Union are
vested in the President but, under Art.75 there is a council of ministers with Prime- minister at the
head to aid and advice the President in the exercise of his functio ns. The President has thus been
made a formal or constitutional head of the executive and real executive powers are vested in the
council of ministers

National Democratic Alliance-backed presidential nominee Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, 83-year-

old, whose term as Vice President ends on August 18, 2008, has said the nation should not have
a 'rubber stamp' President who signs every file without reading it and understanding its

The first women president of India Mrs. P. Patil, has assured that she won‟t be a merely figure

Starting from the period of Nehru to that of that Manmohan Singh, always there arises a question
regarding the position of the President. Theoretically we have seen that the President is not a
mere figure head. But we can‟t deny the reality, which is being practiced now.

In the Constituent Assembly, Nehru said the President was not to have “any real power” but
neither was he to be “a mere figure head.” As Prime Minister, however he made clear he would


AIR 1974 SC 2192, 2226


AIR 1955 SC 549
brook no opposition from the President. Rajendra Prasad had said as president of the Constituent
Assembly that the Constitution did not “lay down that the president is bound to accept the advice
[of the cabinet].” But as President of India, he did whatever Nehru advised him to do. 37 He may
have done this either due to the charisma of Pt. Nehru, the doyen of the Prime minister of the
free world 38 or something else but after him all the Presidents follow his foot prints. As the
President becomes silent there begins an age of nastiest political era, where the national interest
is sacrificed for the narrow political interest. All the sacrifice of the freedom fighters and the
novel ideas of the Constituent Assembly were put aside. There started the rule unlike British. No
change in the rule and rulers, but in their skin colour….CPI in 1941. In this stage the politicians
do everything and the President has no option but to sign it. In this situation when Mrs. P. Patil
states she will “not be a rubber stamp,” how logical she is, is clearly remarkable. Prof. T.
Devidas, 39 criticized her as “not a rubber stamp” but “the handle of the rubber stamp.” Now
come to the most popular President Mr. Kalam. Is playing with the school children is only a duty
of a President? This is not any one‟s fault but that of our political system and the election
process. How come a scientist, who was confined within a laboratory can able to take the task of
a State. A good person is not only a criterion for everything. The Constitution requires of the
President a certain blend of qualities. He must be neither a political illiterate nor a political
professional who has run the party engine. He must have a clear understanding of the political
process and yet be above its turmoils; unaffected by the dust and din of the clashes of men and
policies. He is an umpire and umpires are supposed to know the rules of the game, appreciate the
state of the field and have an impartial eye on the play. 40 Similarly in the case of Mrs. Patil, who
doesn‟t possess any quality other than …the gender, which the politicians think the most
important one. Showing we believe in gender equality is not the whole idea. The task is
something else.

David Van Praagh, “The Greater Game : India's Race with Destiny and China, Published by McGill-Queen's Press -
MQUP, 2003”, P.100.
C.At lee, “With Malice To wards None” in R. Zakaria, id. 100 at 103. Cf. Rajeev Dhavan etal. Nehru and the
Constitution”, Indian Law Institute New Delhi, N.M.Tripathi pvt. Ltd. Bo mbay, 1992, p.II
Prof.of law, in Nat ional Law School o f India Un iversity, Bangalore.


A.G. Noorani, The Indian presidency, Half a century's experiences with the institution of the presidency provide
several lessons, Frontline Volu me 19 - Issue 13, Jun. 22 - Ju l. 5, 2002, Ind ia's National Magazine, fro m the


publishers of THE HINDU


The Indian Constitution has given many a provision, which clearly states that the President of
India is not merely a figure head. True the President has not done enough what he should have
done. But I could like to say here that we can‟t comment something just having a look on the
present situation of the country but we have to look for the provisions of the Constitution. The
President, like the King, has not merely been constitutionally romanticized but actually vested
with a pervasive and persuasive role. 41 Indian President lies somewhere between British Crown
and American President. K. M. Munshi42 in his book “The President under the Indian
Constitution” has said that the President is not only the biggest dignitary of our realm but the
embodiment of the unity of our country. The principal role of the president is to prevent a
parliamentary government from becoming a parliamentary anarchy and it is the Presidential
authority that keeps the country and the people bond together.

“…for the whole country his authority runs like a golden thread throughout the Constitution.”

-K. M. Munshi

V.R.Krishna Iyer, “Governor‟s Reign and President‟s Rule”, Constitutional Miscellany, Eastern Book Co mpany,
Lucknow, second edition.
He was an eminent lawyer, one of the framer's of the Indian Constitution, and a seasoned statesman. K M Munshi
was influenced by Sri Aurobindo and was an ardent freedom fighter, working with Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit
Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Tilak, Annie Besant, Jinnah and others. He was the Home M inister of Bo mbay,
India's Food Minister, Governor of Uttar Pradesh, India's Agent General at Hyderabad. at