A bill passed by the Parliament can become an act only if it receives the assent of the President. 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.

The object 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 the following four types:

  1. Absolute veto, which 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 (i.e., 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.

  • In 1954, President Dr Rajendra Prasad withheld his assent to the PEPSU Appropriation Bill. The bill was passed by the Parliament when the President’s Rule was in operation in the state of PEPSU. But, when the bill was presented to the President for his assent, the President’s Rule was revoked.
  • Again in 1991, President R Venkataraman withheld his assent to the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill. The bill was passed by the Parliament (on the last day before dissolution of Lok Sabha) without obtaining the previous recommendation of the President.

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. In USA, on the other hand, the President has to return the bill for reconsideration within 10 days. Hence, it is remarked that the pocket of the Indian President is bigger than that of the American President.
  • In 1986, President Zail Singh exercised the pocket veto with respect to the Indian Post Office (Amendment) Bill. The bill, passed by the Rajiv Gandhi Government, imposed restrictions on the freedom of press and hence, was widely criticised.
  • After three years, in 1989, the next President R Venkataraman sent the bill back for reconsideration, but the new National Front Government decided to drop the bill.
  • 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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