Veto Power of President of India

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Veto Power of President of India
Veto Power of President of India

The Veto Power of President of India stands as a cornerstone of the nation’s legislative framework. Along with allowing the President of India to perform its legislative functions, it offers a crucial mechanism for upholding constitutional integrity and ensuring the alignment of enacted laws with the broader interests of the nation. This article of NEXT IAS aims to study in detail the Veto Power of the President of India, its meaning, objectives, types, and other related concepts.

In the context of legislation, “Veto Power” refers to the authority granted to an individual or body, typically the Executive Head, such as a President or Governor, to unilaterally refuse or reject a bill passed by the legislature. It acts as a critical safeguard against unilateral legislative actions, giving the executive branch the ability to review and potentially reject laws passed by the legislature. Thus, it acts as a mechanism for checks and balances between the executive and the legislature.

The veto power enjoyed by the Executive can be classified into 4 categories:

  • Absolute Veto– It means withholding assent to the bill passed by the legislature.
  • Qualified Veto– It can be overridden by the legislature with a higher majority.
  • Suspensive Veto– It can be overridden by the legislature with an ordinary majority.
  • Pocket Veto– It means taking no action on the bill passed by the legislature.

The President of India, as the head of the state, has been assigned a vital role in the nation’s legislative process. To enable him to perform this role effectively, the Constitution of India has vested the President of India with veto powers.

Veto Power of the President of India refers to the constitutional authority given to the President to withhold or reject legislation passed by the Parliament or State Legislatures.

The constitutional provisions regarding the Veto Power of the President of India are as follows:

  • Article 111: deals with the President’s veto power over a bill passed by the Parliament.
  • Article 201: deals with the President’s veto power over bills passed by the State Legislatures and which are reserved for the consideration of the President.

The objectives of the Veto power of the President of India are as follows:

  • To prevent hasty and ill-conceived legislation by Parliament,
  • To prevent the legislation that may be unconstitutional,
  • To act as a safeguard for the Rule of Law by ensuring all legislation adheres to the constitutional framework,
  • To provide a check against legislative errors that may have occurred during the law-making process.
  • To encourage more comprehensive deliberation and revision of bills within Parliament.

The President of India is vested with three types of Veto Power:

  • Absolute Veto,
  • Suspensive Veto, and
  • Pocket Veto.
Note: The President of India does not possess a Qualified Veto. However, the American President possesses a Qualified Veto.

The three types of Veto Power of the President of India are discussed in detail in the sections that follow.

  • The Absolute Veto refers to the power of the President to withhold his assent to a bill passed by the Parliament. In this case, the bill ends and does not become an Act.
  • The Absolute Veto is exercised in the following two cases-
    • in the case of a Private Member’s Bill (i.e. a bill introduced by any member of the Parliament who is not a minister)
    • in the case of a Government Bill when the Cabinet, that got the bill passed, resigns, and the new Cabinet advises the President not to give his assent to the bill.
  • The Suspensive Veto refers to the power of the President to return a bill for reconsideration by the Parliament.
    • If the bill is passed again by Parliament with or without amendments and again presented to the President, it is obligatory for the President to give his assent to the bill.
    • In other words, the Presidential veto is overridden by the re-passage of the bill by the same ordinary majority, and not a higher majority as required in the USA.
  • It is to be noted that the Suspensive veto is not available in the case of Money Bills.
    • The President has to either give his assent or withhold his assent to a Money bill, but cannot return it for the reconsideration of the Parliament.
    • Normally, the President gives his assent to a Money bill as it is introduced in Parliament with the previous permission of the President.
  • The Pocket Veto refers to the power of the President to neither ratify nor reject nor return the bill but simply keep the bill pending for an indefinite period.
  • The Constitution of India does not prescribe any time limit within which the President of India has to make the decision w.r.t. a bill presented to him/her for his/her assent. In the USA, on the other hand, the President has to return the bill for reconsideration within 10 days.
    • Thus, it is said that the pocket of the Indian President is bigger than that of the American President.
Note: The President has no Veto Power in respect of a Constitutional Amendment Bill. The 24th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1971 made it obligatory for the President to give his assent to a Constitutional Amendment Bill.

If a bill passed by a State Legislature has been reserved by the Governor for the consideration of the President, the bill can become an act only if it receives the assent of the President. Thus, the President has been given veto power w.r.t. State Legislation as well.

As per Article 201 of the Indian Constitution, when a bill is reserved by the Governor for consideration by the President, the President has three alternatives before him:

  • First To give his assent to the bill,
  • Second – To withhold his assent to the bill,
    • This gives the President the power of Absolute Veto over the State Legislation.
  • Third – To direct the Governor to return the bill (if it is not a Money Bill) for reconsideration by the State Legislature.
    • This gives the President the power of Suspensive Veto over the State Legislation.
    • In this case, if the bill is passed again by the State Legislature with or without amendments and presented again to the President, the President is not bound to give his/her assent to the bill.
    • Thus, the State Legislature cannot override the Veto Power of the President.

The Indian Constitution has not prescribed any time limit within which the President has to make a decision with respect to a bill reserved by the Governor for his consideration. Thus, the President can exercise a Pocket Veto in respect of State Legislation as well.

Central LegislationState Legislation
With Regard To Ordinary Bills
Can be ratified.Can be ratified.
Can be rejected (Absolute Veto)Can be rejected (Absolute Veto)
Can be returned (Suspensive Veto)Can be returned (Suspensive Veto)
Can be kept pending (Pocket Veto)Can be kept pending (Pocket Veto)
With Regard To Money Bills
Can be ratified Can be ratified
Can be rejected (Absolute Veto)Can be rejected (Absolute Veto)
Can NOT be returned (NO Suspensive Veto w.r.t. Money Bill)Can NOT be returned (NO Suspensive Veto w.r.t. Money Bill)
Can NOT be kept pending (NO Pocket Veto w.r.t. Money Bill)Can NOT be kept pending (NO Pocket Veto w.r.t. Money Bill)
With Regard To Constitutional Amendment Bills
Can only be ratified, and can NOT be rejected or returned (NO Veto Power w.r.t. Constitutional Amendment Bill)Not Applicable as Constitutional Amendment Bills cannot be introduced in the State Legislature.

In conclusion, the Veto Power of the President of India is a significant tool for the head of the state to play a role in shaping legislation and safeguarding the Constitution. It fosters a deliberative process within Parliament, encourages thorough scrutiny and debate on proposed legislation, and ensures that laws passed by Parliament align with principles of justice, equity, and the rule of law. Thus, it underscores the importance of accountability and scrutiny in lawmaking, ultimately contributing to the strength and resilience of India’s democratic institutions.

What is the Role of Veto Power?

The role of veto power, typically vested in the executive branch of government, is to provide a check on the legislative process by allowing the executive to reject or block legislation proposed by the legislative branch.

Which President used Pocket Veto in India?

In 1986, President Zail Singh exercised the pocket veto with respect to the Indian Post Office (Amendment) Bill. This bill imposed certain restrictions on the freedom of the press.

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