Thursday, January 26, 2012

The President is coming

With a cup of coffee in one hand and other hand ruffling his hair, he stared blankly at the documents kept in front of him. Just when he was about to give up on it, he saw his enlightened 'boss' coming in, seizing the opportunity, he went up to him.

"Sir, What do I do about this clause?" He asked, keeping the documents on his table.

"Which clause?" The boss replied sheepishly, while checking out the show timings for the newly released movie 'Andaz' starring some new comers like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Nargis.

"This clause, sir, In the British constitution, we have the monarchical head, What do we do about it here, in India?" He asked with a sense of hurry.

"We will have a monarchical head as well then" The boss replied in a "Don't-you-know-it-tone".

"Sir, however, our nation has decided to do away with Monarchy, and if anyway we were to select one monarch, who would we select, we have so many kings and emperors." He said, now becoming restless.

"Yes, that is a valid point, we cannot have monarchy" The boss said, now a bit alert.

"Exactly my point, then can we have a president?" He asked curiously.

"Yes, yes, absolutely, let us have a president then" Boss added, impressed by his subordinate

"So then, the people of India will elect the president?" He added, to extract more from his boss.

"No, how can that be? We have made so many drafts incorporating the British constitution, according to which Prime Minister is the head of the country, it will be a lot of rework, if we were to change this." The boss added with authority and already regretting why he ever got impressed by this chap!

"However, the President is supposed to be the commander of armed forces and some other powers like passing the bill etc., What will the PM do, and what if there is a conflict" He added, still trying to keep his point.

"We will give him all the power a president is supposed to have" The boss said, "However, let us have a clause that he can use all these powers only in consultation with the PM" The boss added after seeing the blank look on his subordinate's face.

"This solves it then, thank you sir" He came out, satisfied with the answer and impressed by the solution given by his boss.

The above scenario, to those familiar with the world of IT, may resemble a coder catching up with a team lead with a problem and the team lead providing a work around for it. The above conversation is as fictional in nature as India overtaking China in terms of economy and military might. However, the outcome of the conversation is exactly what happened to India, creation of a ceremonial post.
On 26th January 1950, India became a Republic. A Republic means , a form of government  in which the people or a significant portion of them have supreme control over the government and where offices of the state are chosen by people. In a nutshell, a state which is not headed by a monarch. But, our constitution makers somehow ended up adding a president as the head of the state, to keep intact, the inspiration.

The president is the Supreme commander of Armed forces, he can dissolve the lok sabha, he can remove the Judges of Supreme courts. He appoints the governor of states, he declares wars on countries and all the diplomatic treaties are signed by him. The President with all these powers may really be the superman of India, however to spoil the party, there is a small rider to it. A president can dissolve the Lok Sabha only on the 'advice' of council of ministers. He can remove the judges of Supreme court, only if a motion has been passed for impeachment in both the houses. He appoints the governor, who can at best be described as a miniature of president at state level. President declares the war against countries, but who decides when to go at war? All the diplomatic treaties are signed by him, but who negotiates the terms of these treaties? No prizes for guessing all of it.

The boundaries of power and advise by counsil for president can easily be said to be thin .Powers, which are diminished by a single sentence in the constitution which says that a president be advised by council of ministers, can still be easily rendered if a President knows how to play 'Politics'(Quoting a former minister Jagjivan Ram here). There have been presidents who haven't taken too kindly too the advise by council of ministers. So we had our very first president Dr. Rajendra Prasad openly opposing the Hindu code bill by Nehru. Giani Zail Singh used pocket of veto in 1986 for Postal bill, whereby, a president can delay his assent to a bill by indefinite time by not actually reviewing it, thus eventually pushing the bill into dustbin. And more recently we had APJ Abdul Kalam sending the modifications to office of profit bill back for reconsideration. And here came one more catch, the president can only send back a bill once. The second time it comes to him, he has to sign it. Smart UPA, ignoring the reconsideration request by Mr. Kalam, sent back the original bill to him.

The above facts and observations raise uneasy and probably blasphemous questions about the creators of our constitution. I have absolutely no doubt over the abilities of the drafting committee, however certain aspects of our constitution , like the ceremonial head of the country, which are lifted directly from the British constitution, make for an shabby copy and paste. Even if we had to have a head of the state, why wasn't a clear demarcation done about the powers he possesses and the powers he can actually wield? Why were the clauses kept  so ambiguous? We have a President, who has a remuneration of Rs 150,000 a month, along with the Rs 220 million spent from annual budget on the activities of the president, who stays in one of the biggest palace in India(Rashtrapati Bhavan), the maintenance of which again is a costly affair. All this, for him to be a dummy in hands of the government,to be used like a rubber stamp, to be the face of the nation, probably the way Shahrukh Khan is the face of the N number of brands he never even uses.

The President will keep coming, irrespective of we needing him or not.


John Anderton said...

The Indian president (at the moment) is female. Not sure if you should always refer to the president as "him" :P

Abhishek said...

@Karun aka John
The much celebrated female president is virtually non-existent,so we can still liberally use 'him' for a president.
Besides, I think, the title of 'President' is male, irrespective of the gender of the person holding it. :p

Hariharan Valady said...

I think the denigration of President's office started after Indra Gandhi. Framers of the constitution would not have thought that the political parties would make a mockery out of the office.

Abhishek said...

Well it may be true to an extent, but the president was given a lot of power without allowing him to wield it. This really doesnt make a lot of sense to me. Look at Pakistan, they have the same problems too, obviously a bit more magnified, for they dunno if president should have more powers or PM. The American system ,i think makes a lot of sense.

Shivani Shastri said...

That really was a nice read Abhushek, but. quite contrary to what is being said in this oh-so-factually written post, i truly blieve that the beauty of democracy lies in seperation of of power and not in its concentration in one institution.isnt it?

Abhishek said...

I agree with u,however,my point is,why have a position which is only a dummy in hands of PM. I am actually in favor of delegation of power.

Rohit said...

thought provoking...

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