Before we examine the powers and position of the Indian president, it is necessary to know how he is elected.
Election of the President:
The President is to hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office. He may resign before the expiry of his term of office. The Constitution provides that the President may, by writing under his hand addressed to the Vice-President, resign from his office.
The Vice-President is required to communicate such resignation to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha immediately. The President may also be removed by the procedure of impeachment.
The President of India is indirectly elected by an electoral college consisting of (1) the elected members of both the Houses of the Parliament and (2) the elected members; of the State Legislative Assemblies. This envisages the indirect method of election. The framers of the Constitution deliberately favoured this method instead of direct election.
Some members in the Constituent Assembly was in favour of direct election of the president by the people as it might provide a sort of “balance of powers” which is found in the American Constitution. But the overwhelming majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly considered the method of direct election unnecessary and superfluous.
The following reasons were advocated in favour of indirect election:
(a) The size of the electorate in India is too big which forbids direct election. It is difficult to devise suitable electoral machinery for the direct election of the President with 251 million voters.
(b) Direct election would be too expensive and put great strains on administrative machinery.
(c) Direct election is considered to be superfluous for the election of a figurehead possessing no real executive power. It was feared that a directly elected President, conscious of the support of the people, may not be contented to play the role of a nominal head. He may aspire for more powers and quarrel either with the Cabinet or the Prime Minister.
Procedure of the Election:
As per the provision of Article 54 of the constitution, the elected members of the Parliament and the elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies participate in the Presidential election. The inclusion of the members of the State Legislative Assemblies for the Presidential Election is made on the ground that it would make the President represent the entire nation.
As stated by Pandit Nehru in the Constituent Assembly “By including Legislative Assembly as well as the Union Parliament in the Presidential Electoral College, an attempt has been made to avoid a Partisan choice to ensure a free national election for the highest office in the Union”.
Article 55 of the Constitution provides that the election of the President shall be held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of singles transferable vote. This method is adopted in order to secure Solute majority in the Presidential election.
It envisages a quota system. Unless the candidate secures a fixed quota, he cannot be declared elected. In case of the Presidential election the quota is 50%+l of the votes and unless a candidate contesting election secures this amount of votes, he is not declared to be elected.
Further, the Constitution provides for the weightage system in bringing about parity between the votes of M.Ps. and M.L.As. The principle of one man one vote is given up and in its place an ultra democratic procedure has been accepted.
The various States in India are unequal in population. The strength in their Legislative Assemblies is not uniform. In such circumstances the exact numbers of votes cast by different M.L.As.
In different States is decided by a definite formula. Article 55 of the Constitution provides that every M.L.A. of a State has as many votes as there are multiples of one thousand in the quotient obtained by dividing the population of the State by the total number of the elected members of the Assembly. In other words, the number of votes which an M.L.A. of a State is entitled to cast.
Total votes assigned to all the M.L.As./total no elected M.Ps
While counting, the first preferences in respect, of candidates are counted first. In this counting if any candidate does not secure an absolute majority (i.e. 50 %+l) of votes, no one is declared to be elected.
The lowest candidate will be dropped from the competition and the second preference of those voters will be added among the remaining contestants. In this way the process of elimination of weak candidates and the addition of their votes with the rest contestants would continue till someone gets absolute majority. As votes are transferred on single basis, the system is known as proportional representation means of single transferable vote.
An observation of the procedure of Presidential election leads to the following criticisms:
(i) If some voters do not exercise preferences, the system of election may fail.
(ii) It is feared that the President may dissolve a few Legislative Assemblies under Article 356 before the Presidential election takes place. Such dissolution is within the power of the President.
(iii) Proportional representation by mean of single transferable vote will succeed if there is proper understanding among the political parties. Multiplicity of contestants may lead to complexity and confusion.