The issue dealt with here is the difference between the President of a nation and the legislative members. It is seen with respect to differences in the respective posts, powers they possess and the functions performed by them herein under.
President: The President of India is the head of the executive, legislature and judiciary of the country and also the commander in chief of the Indian armed forces. He is the formal head of the state of Republic of India. The real powers rest with the Prime Minister.
Legislative Members: Similar to governor the term legislative member does not have an explicit definition but a person who is a member of the legislative assembly in a constituency could be called a legislative member.
According to the provisions laid down under the Indian Constitution, the President possesses formal powers with respect to the functioning of the country. Art.53 talks about the powers of the President. The article is as under:
(1) The executive power of the Union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision, the supreme command of the Defence Forces of the Union shall be vested in the President and the exercise thereof shall be regulated by law.
(3) Nothing in this article shall—
(a) be deemed to transfer to the President any functions conferred by any existing law on the Government of any State or other authority; or
(b) prevent Parliament from conferring by law functions on authorities other than the President. [iii]
Indian system of governance is a three-tiered federal structure possessing executive functions. As per the Constitution of India, the Central Government is the highest executive body in India. It represents some of its powers to its constituent political elements that contains the State Governments in each state. This is the second tier of the federal structure. Every state is entrusted with complete executive powers, managed by the ruling governments of each state. The third tier in the federal structure is the local-level governance of the Panchayats and the Municipalities.
The executive powers of the Union are vested in the President. He exercises them in accordance with the Constitution of India. Appointment of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers is done by the President. He also has the power to appoint the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts of the states, except the appointment of the Attorney General and Comptroller and Auditor General of India. The President enjoys the power to pardon, among other critical powers whereby he can pardon the death sentence awarded to a convict.
The President holds the powers to dissolve the Lok Sabha and end sessions of the Parliament. He also addresses the Parliament in its first session every year. He nominates 12 members to the Rajya Sabha. These members are chosen on the basis of their accomplishments in the fields of science, art, literature and social service. He holds the power to nominate 2 members to the Lok Sabha from the Anglo-Indian Community. When a bill is passed by the Parliament, the President can give or withhold his assent to it or return it to the Parliament, unless it’s a Money Bill or a Constitutional Amendment Bill.
The President is also the formal head of administration possessing various administrative powers. The different departments in the government are under the responsibility and control of the respective Ministers who are in charge. All contracts and assurances of property entered into for the Government of India are made in the name of the President. However, the President also has the right to be informed about the matters of the Union government.
The President has the powers to appoint and remove high dignitaries of the state. This includes the Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Union Cabinet. In cases where the Prime Minister is appointed by an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha without the party’s approval, the President can qualify the appointment of the Prime Minister with a proviso that he shall prove his majority in the Lok Sabha within the given specific period.
Prior Sanction to Legislation:
The Constitution states that the prior sanction or recommendation of the President is required for the following:
- Bills for formation of new States, alteration of boundaries and Money Bills.
- Bills that would have expenditure from Consolidated Funds of India. Bills affecting taxation in which various States are interested.
Assent to Legislation:
Every Bill passed by the Houses of the Parliament is presented before the President in order to obtain his assent. He may declare his assent or return the Bill for reconsideration (Money Bills cannot be returned). If a Bill sent for reconsideration is passed by the Houses without any amendment and resubmitted for President’s assent again, President is obligated to give his assent to it.
There is no time limit specified in relation to how long the President can keep with him a Bill passed in both Houses and sent to him for his assent. He may also hold it with him for an indefinite period. A Bill which has been reserved for the consent of the President contains no legal effect unless and until the President has clarified his assent for the same and the provisions of it have been notified in the Government Gazette.
Ordinance making power:
The President possesses the power to legislate by Ordinance when it is not quite possible to have a parliamentary enactment on that subject immediately. However an ordinance that contravenes the Fundamental Rights cannot be passed.
This power is exercised by the President only on the advice of the Council of Ministers. The Ordinance must be laid before Parliament first when it re-assembles and will automatically cease to have any effect at the expiry of six weeks from the date of such reassembly.
The President has powers to declare national, state and financial emergency when it is required. National emergency may be declared by him on the grounds of war, external aggression or armed rebellion in the country. This may be done by him on the written request of the Cabinet of Ministers after the proclamation is approved by the Parliament. State emergency may be imposed in a particular state if there failure of constitutional mechanism. Financial emergency can be proclaimed when there is a likelihood of financial instability in the country.
Only with the recommendation of the President a money bill can be introduced in the Parliament. He has the power to lay the Union budget before the Parliament and make advances out of the Contingency Fund.
Diplomatic, Military and Judicial powers:
The President holds the powers to appoint ambassadors and high commissioners to other countries. All international treaties signed are made on his behalf. He can declare war and conclude peace in virtue of his military powers. He is the one with the power to appoint the Chief of Army, Navy and Air Force. He also may dismiss the judges if two-third majority of the members present of the two Houses of the Parliament pass the resolution to such effect.
The Pardoning power:
The President, as the Head of Executive has the powers to grant pardon to those persons who have been tried and convicted of certain offences. Besides these powers, the President also has a number of other miscellaneous powers which may be called as residuary powers.
- The Governor being an integral part of the State Legislature, has the right to address and send messages, summon, defer and dissolve the State Legislature. Though the Governor has these formal powers, he is required to use the guidance of the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers in taking such decisions.
- The Governor has powers to lay the annual financial statement and also makes demands for grants and recommendation of ‘Money Bills’ before the State Legislature.
- The Governor constitutes the State Finance Commission. He also holds the power to make advances out of the Contingency Fund of the State in the case of any unforeseen circumstances.
- All bills passed by the Legislative Assembly become a law, only after the Governor approves them. The Governor has the power to promulgate an ordinance when the Legislative Assembly is not in session, and a law has to be brought into effect immediately.[iv]
- The Governor has powers to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remission for punishments to criminals and offenders. He also possesses the powers to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of a person convicted of an offence as under the law.
- While appointing the Chief Justice to the High Court of a particular state the Governor is always consulted.
- Where no political party has a majority in the assembly of a state, the Governor holds his discretion to select the Chief Minister.
- In cases of particular emergency in the state, the Governor holds the power to impose ‘President’s Rule’ on the President’s behalf. In such circumstances, the Governor’s powers override the advice or functions of the Council of Ministers and the nature of workings of the state.
The powers and functions of the Members of the Legislative Assembly may be classified in the following criterion:
The Members of the Legislative Assembly in every state exercise some governmental powers of executive nature. They manage the activities and actions taken by the Chief Minister including the Council of Ministers. The ruling government is answerable to the law-makers for all the choices and decisions taken on their behalf. A vote of no-confidence are often passed solely by the MLAs in any state, if passed by a majority, has the power to force the ruling government to resign. Question Hour, Cut Motions and Adjournment Motions are often exercised by the Members of the Legislative Assembly so as to limit the executive body of the state government machinery.
One organ of Government that holds absolute powers in relation to finance the state is the Legislative Assembly. Financial bills of different types, especially Money Bill can be originated only from within the Legislative Assembly and the consent of the Members of the Legislative Assembly is required to approve any kind of expenses made from the State Treasury. Further, in states with a bicameral legislature, the Legislative Council has powers to pass the Bill through or suggest changes to the Bill within a period of 14 days of its receipt although these members are not completely bound by the changes suggested. Further, all grants and tax-raising proposals must be authorised by the MLAs for them to be executed and implemented for the development of the state.
One of the most pivotal functions of a Member of the Legislative Assembly is the act of law-making. The Indian Constitution states that members of the Legislative Assembly may exercise their powers on matters of legislation where the Parliament cannot legislate. An MLA, a member of legislative assembly had the right to exercise this power of his on items of the State and Concurrent List. Even though a Member of the Legislative Assembly have predominant powers amongst the organs of the State government, their legislative powers are not outright.
All Members of the Legislative Assembly possess electoral powers as under:
1. Members of the Legislative Assembly who are elected includes the Electoral College that elects the President of India.
2. MLAs have the right of election of the members of the Rajya Sabha, who represent a particular state.
3. The Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly are elected by the MLAs.
4. In states with a bicameral legislature, one-third of the members of the Legislative Council are elected by the MLAs.
As it is evidently seen that the functions performed and the roles played by the President is entirely different from that of the Legislative Members though they function under the same wing of governance of the country.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] The Constitution of India