Veto Power of the President

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A bill passed by the Parliament can become an act only if it receives the assent of the President. When such a bill is presented to the President for his assent, he has three alternatives (under Article 111 of the Constitution):

1. He may give his assent to the bill, or

2. He may withhold his assent to the bill, or

3. He may return the bill (if it is not a Money bill) for reconsideration of the Parliament.

However, if the bill is passed again by the Parliament with or without amendments and again presented to the President, the President must give his assent to the bill.

Thus, the President has the veto power over the bills passed by the Parliament, that is, he can withhold his assent to the bills. The object of conferring this power on the President is two-fold: (a) to prevent hasty and ill-considered legislation by the Parliament and (b) to prevent a legislation which may be unconstitutional.

The veto power enjoyed by the executive in modern states can be classified into the following four types:

1. Absolute veto, that is, withholding of assent to the bill passed by the legislature.

2. Qualified veto, which can be overridden by the legislature with a higher majority.

3. Suspensive veto, which can be over ridden by the legislature with an ordinary majority.

4. Pocket veto, that is, taking no action on the bill passed by the legislature.

Of the above four, the President of India is vested with three—absolute veto, suspensive veto and pocket veto. There is no qualified veto in the case of Indian President; it is possessed by the American President. The three vetos of the President of India are explained below:

Absolute Veto:

It refers to the power of the President to withhold his assent to a bill passed by the Parliament. The bill then ends and does not become an act. Usually, this veto is exercised in the following two cases:

(a) With respect to private members’ bills (ie, bills introduced by any member of Parliament who is not a minister); and

(b) With respect to the government bills when the cabinet resigns (after the passage of the bills but before the assent by the President) and the new cabinet advises the President not to give his assent to such bills.

Suspensive Veto:

The President exercises this veto when he returns a bill for reconsideration of the Parliament. However, if the bill is passed again by the Parliament with or without amendments and again presented to the President, it is obligatory for the President to give his assent to the bill.

This means that the presidential veto is overridden by a re-passage of the bill by the same ordinary majority (and not a higher majority as required in USA).

As mentioned earlier, the President does not possess this veto in the case of money bills. The President can either give his assent to a money bill 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 money bill as it is introduced in the Parliament with his previous permission.

Pocket Veto:

In this case, the President neither ratifies nor rejects nor returns the bill, but simply keeps the bill pending for an indefinite period. This power of the President not to take any action (either positive or negative) on the bill is known as the pocket veto.

The President can exercise this veto power as the Constitution does not prescribe any time-limit within which he has to take the decision with respect to a bill presented to him for his assent.

The pocket of the Indian President is bigger than that of the American President because President of USA has to return the bill for reconsideration within 10 days.

It should be noted here that 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.

Presidential Veto over State Legislation:

The President has veto power with respect to state legislation also. A bill passed by a state legislature can become an act only if it receives the assent of the governor or the President (in case the bill is reserved for the consideration of the President).

When a bill, passed by a state legislature, is presented to the governor for his assent, he has four alternatives (under Article 200 of the Constitution):

1. He may give his assent to the bill, or

2. He may withhold his assent to the bill, or

3. He may return the bill (if it is not a money bill) for reconsideration of the state legislature, or

4. He may reserve the bill for the consideration of the President.

When a bill is reserved by the governor for the consideration of the President, the President has three alternatives (Under Article 201 of the Constitution):

1. He may give his assent to the bill, or

2. He may withhold his assent to the bill, or

3. He may direct the governor to return the bill (if it is not a money bill) for the reconsideration of the state legislature. If the bill is passed again by the state legislature with or without amendments and presented again to the President for his assent, the President is not bound to give his assent to the bill. This means that the state legislature cannot override the veto power of the President.

Further, the Constitution has not prescribed any time limit within which the President has to take decision with regard to a bill reserved by the governor for his consideration. Hence, the President can exercise pocket veto in respect of state legislation also.

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