Veto power


Veto refers to the power which is normally given to the executive branch of government. It refers to the power to stop or the ability of the organization to reject any legislation taken by legislative branch or passed by a majority in the legislative branch of government. Although in many countries this system follows but some countries like United State’s legislative assembly has the power to override this veto power of the executive branch. They can do so if Congress is able to override the veto by getting a two-thirds vote in its favor.

However, in modern days, most of the executive branches of the governments of the world enjoy four types of veto powers. Out of these four, the Indian President has been vested with three powers which are namely Absolute Veto, Suspensive Veto and Pocket Veto. The Indian President does not enjoy the power of Qualified Veto. It is, however, possessed by the American president. In this article, we will discuss the three veto powers of the President of India. When the President of our country has been forwarded a bill which was introduced and passed by both houses of the Parliament, he can do one of three things which are mentioned in Article 111 of the Constitution of India. These three alternatives are as follows:

  • The President may give his approval to the bill.
  • The President may withhold his approval to the bill.
  • The President may return the bill for reconsideration of the Parliament if he is not satisfied with any one or more of its characteristics.

But if the same bill is passed by the Parliament again, with or without any amendments then, in that case, the President must give his approval to the bill. However, in the case of money bills, the President cannot return the bill to the parliament for reconsideration. He can either accept the money bill or reject it. This means that in case of money bill no Suspensive Veto power is available with the President. He can exercise Absolute Veto in case of Money bills. The main aim to vest this kind of power with the Indian President is to prevent hasty legislation by the Parliament and to prevent any such bills or policies which are in violation of the constitution. The three types of veto powers that the President of India enjoys, they are:

Absolute Veto

Absolute Veto means that by using this power the President of India can withhold his approval to any bill which has been passed by the parliament. Once the President withholds his assent to the bill, it dies and does not become an actor. Generally, absolute Veto is used in two cases:

  • The bills which are introduced by any member of the Parliament, who is not a Minister known as the private bills.
  • The bills which are passed by the government but before the President could give his assent, the cabinet has resigned and the new cabinet advises the president not to follow through by giving his assent to those bills.

For example, in 1954 during the PEPSU appropriation bill, the then president Dr. Rajendra Prasad withheld his assent. The PEPSU appropriation bill was passed by the Parliament during the President’s rule in the state of PEPSU ( Patiala and East Punjab States Union). When the President was presented with this, he withheld held his assent and removed the President’s rule.
Once more in the year 1991, when R Venkataraman was President of India he also withheld his assent to the salary, allowances, and pension of members of Parliament bill. This bill was passed on the last day before the Lok Sabha was dissolved and introduced without seeking a prior recommendation from the President of India.

Suspensive Veto

As the name suggests Suspensive Veto is a power of the President by which the President can suspend the passing of a bill by returning it to the parliament for reconsideration. If the bill is again passed by the Parliament either with or without any amendment or changes and then again presented to the President, this time the President has to give his assent.

In a way, the veto power of the President is overridden when the Parliament passes the bill again by the same simple majority. However, in the United States of America, a higher majority is required to override the president Veto on a bill. If it is a money bill, then the President cannot exercise Suspensive Veto on it. In that case, the President can either approve the bill and make it an act or withhold his approval, but cannot return the money bill to the Parliament for reconsideration. Usually, the President is most likely to give his assent to a money bill as every money bill requires a prior approval from the president before it is introduced in the parliament.

Pocket Veto

Pocket Veto is the power of the President in which he neither approves a bill nor does he return it for reconsideration. The president simply keeps the bill pending for as long as he likes. By doing this the President does not take any positive or negative action on the bill. This is possible because the Indian Constitution does not provide for any specific period of time in which the President has to take action on a bill presented to him for his assent. However, in the United States of America, the President is mandated to return the bill within 10 days of submission for reconsideration. The pocket Veto of the Indian President is bigger than that of the American President.
However, the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1971 provided that the President cannot use his veto power whenever a Constitutional Amendment Bill is presented to him for his assent.

Presidential Veto over state legislation

The President also has veto power on legislative bills. Whenever a Bill is passed by a state legislature, it can only become an act or law after the approval of the Governor. In case the Governor of the state reserves the bill for the approval of the President the said bill cannot become an act without the approval of the President.

According to Article 200 of the Indian Constitution, whenever a bill which has been passed by the state legislature is presented to the governor of the state, he has four alternatives:-

  • The Governor may give his approval to the bill.
  • The Governor may hold his assent to the bill.
  • The Governor may return the bill to the state legislature for their reconsideration. This can only be done if the bill is not a money bill.
  • The Governor also has an option to the reserve the bill for the consideration of the President

When the Governor decides for the consideration of the President, in that case, under Article 201 of the Indian Constitution the president also has three choices:-

  • President can give his approval to the bill
  • The President can withhold his assent to the bill. The President can ask the Governor to return the bill to the state legislature so that the state legislature can reconsider it. If the state legislature passes the bill again with or without any amendments or changes, then it again presents the bill to the President. In this case, also, the President is not bound to give his approval to the bill as he was in case of the Parliamentary bills.

In other words, the legislature cannot override the veto power of the President unlike the Parliament which has the power to override the president Suspensive Veto by passing the bill again. Moreover, there is no provision in the Indian Constitution that provides for a duration of time in which the President has to take a decision regarding this bill. Therefore the President can also use his pocket veto power with respect to the state legislature.

Edited by Ankita Jha

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is veto power of president discretionary?

President doesn’t have full discretionary over any decision, however, president has discretionary power over veto only in case of pocket veto and suspensive veto, but in these too president has option either to refer legal experts or constitutional expert however he I not bound to accept the advice it is on his discretion, but normally is bounds himself to the advice so given. 

2. What veto do powers refer to?

Veto powers in simple terms refer to the powers granted to the president by the constitution either to pass any bill or to keep it with himself or resend it with some considerations back to the parliament for amendment, in order to ensure the public welfare. There are 4 types of veto powers pocket veto; suspensive veto; absolute veto and qualified veto. Out of this four qualified veto is the power which I not granted to the Indian President. 

3. Why this special power vests with the president?

President has vested with this special power, as he is the highest authority working for the welfare of the public and he acts as a watchdog over the working of parliament, therefore while taking any decision by parliament if anything which is considered too important is missed then the president can review it and can make necessary amendments. Therefore being the highest authority the president has final; say over decisions so made and also have the power to reconsider it if necessary.