1. Executive Powers
Article 53 of the Constitution provides that “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 the Constitution”.
The President is expected to exercise his executive powers either directly or through officers subordinate to him. Article 74 of the Constitution provides for a Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister to “aid and advice” the President in exercising his functions.
It is expected that the President will exercise his functions on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. The Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 provided that the President shall be bound by such aid and advice.
The President appoints the Prime Minister and other Ministers are appointed by him on the advice of the Prime Minister. He also makes other important appointments. He appoints the Attorney-General, the Chief Justice and Other judges of Supreme Court and those of High Courts, the members of the Union Public Service Commission, the Election Commission, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, the Finance Commission, the Governors of States, the Chief Commissioners of Union Territories, etc. In fact every appointment in the Central Government is made in the name of the President or under his authority.
The President is the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces. By making the President the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, the Constitution ensures subordination of entire armed forces to the civil authority at all times. The President represents the nation in the eyes of the foreign countries.
Treaties with the foreign countries are negotiated in his name. He accredits and receives ambassadors; war and peace is declared in his name He can issue directives to the State Governors in certain execute matters for compliance with the Union laws. He has also a direct responsibility in the administration of Union Territories.
Under Article 72 of the Constitution the President has powers to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions for punishment or to remit or commute the sentences of any person convicted of any offence.
This power is to be exercised with limitations. In no case when the President grants pardon the judgment of a Court can be repealed. Such pardons are to be granted in all cases when the punishment is by a Court Martial and when the punishment or the sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends and in all cases where the sentence is one of death.
2. Legislative Powers
The President has important powers in the field of legislation. The President is an integral part of the legislative process and without his assent no bill passed by the Parliament can become law. He summons and prorogues both the Houses of the Parliament and may dissolve the House of the People. He may summon joint-sitting of both Houses of the Parliament.
It is customary for him to address each House, separately or jointly, when they meet in the first session of the year. He nominates 12 members to the Rajya Sabha from among the persons having special knowledge or practical experience in the field of Literature, Science, Art or Social Services and two members to the Lok Sabha from Anglo-Indian community, if it is not adequately represented.
Certain kinds of bills cannot be introduced in the Parliament and in the State Legislature without the prior sanction of the President. All bills passed by the Parliament must receive the assent of the President in order to be laws.
Article 111 of the Constitution provides that when a bill has been passed by the houses of Parliament it shall be presented to the President for assent. The President may, “as soon as possible” after the receipt the bill, give assent to the bill or return the bill for the reconsideration of the Parliament.
After the reconsideration, if the bill is passed with or without amendments, the President is bound to give his assent. Further, this is not applicable to Money Bills. Money Bills are introduced in the Lok Sabha with prior sanction of the President and the President cannot withhold his assent for such bills when presented to him.
The President has thus “suspensive veto” in case of ordinary bills. The Constitutional amendments passed by the Parliament are not subject to the Presidential veto as per the provision of the 24th Constitutional Amendment of 1971.
The President of India may promulgate ordinances according to Article 123 during the recess of Parliament. Such ordinances will have the force of Law. An ordinance is like emergency legislation proclaimed by the-Head of the Executive when the Parliament is not in session.
An ordinance ceases to operate after six weeks from the date of re-assembly of the Parliament. Before the expiration of six weeks the Parliament may, by resolution, either reject it or approve it. If it is approved by the Parliament it becomes law. The President may withdraw an ordinance at any time.
The President is the sole judge to decide whether an ordinance should be promulgated or not. According to the Constitutional provision, the Parliament of India may not meet for a maximum period of six months. In that case an ordinance may be valid for six months and six weeks-a period of seven and half month’s altogether.
Some members in the Constituent Assembly deplored the possibility of such a long life of an ordinance. They feared that the ordinance making power may be misused by the President. Further, a fear was expressed that the Parliament might be ignored and there might be undue delay in summoning the Parliament.
3. Financial Powers
The President has an important role to play in the fiscal administration of India. Without his recommendation no Money Bill can be introduced in the Parliament. No proposal for enhancement or reduction of taxation can be made without his concurrence. He causes the annual budget to be laid before the Parliament.
He has a Contingency Fund at his disposal to meet the unforeseen expenditure. Under the Constitution he is required to appoint a Finance Commission in every Fifth year to examine and make recommendations regarding the financial relations of the Union and States. He shall cause the report of Finance Commission to be laid before each House of Parliament.
4. Judicial Powers
Apart from granting the pardons and reprieves under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President also exercises a few judicial powers. He is above law. His action is not subject to the scrutiny of any Court. He appoints the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. Under Article 143 of the Constitution, the President of India may refer to the Supreme Court any question of law or fact of public importance for its opinion.
It means that even he can refer to the Supreme Court whether a proposed bill is constitutional or not. The advisory opinion given by the Supreme Court, of course, is not binding upon the President. The President’s approval is also necessary for the rules made by the Supreme Court for regulating practice and procedure of the Court.
5. Emergency Powers
Normal situation may not be a permanent feature in the life of a nation. Sometimes abnormal situations may occur and to meet such situations a Constitution should contain some emergency provisions. These provisions are provided to deal with unseen contingencies.
Part XVIII of the Constitution of India deals with Emergency Provisions. It envisages three types of Emergencies which the President may proclaim in different critical situations. These emergency powers of the President have been borrowed from the Weimar Constitution of Germany and from the relevant portions of Government of India Act, 1935.
The Constitution provides three different types of Emergency and in each case the president is empowered to declare the Emergency.
Emergency due to failure of Constitutional Machinery of States (Article 356) or President’s Rule
Financial Emergency (Article 360)