The Constitution of India is the fountainhead from which all our laws derive their authority and force. This is next article in the series on constitutional provisions in order to aid our readers in understanding them.
71. "Matters relating to, or connected with, the election of a President or Vice-President - (1) All doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with the election of a President or Vice-President shall be inquired into and decided by the Supreme Court whose decision shall be final.
(2) If the election of a person as President or Vice-President is declared void by the Supreme Court, acts done by him in the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of the office of President or Vice-President, as the case may be, on or before the date of decision of the Supreme Court shall not be invalidated by reason of that declaration.
(3) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament may by law regulate any matter relating to or connected with the election of a President or Vice-President.
(4) The election of a person as President or Vice-President shall not be called in question on the ground of the existence of any vacancy for whatever reason among the members of the electoral college electing him."
Article 71 is the combined provision in respect of both President and Vice-President of India. This Article is not an original Article in the final and adopted draft of Constitution. It has been successfully substituted by Constitution (Thirty-Ninth Amendment) Act, 1975 and Constitution (Forty-Fourth Amendment) Act, 1978.
In Fakruddin Ali Ahmed's case the relative enactments like Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act of 1952 was held by the Supreme Court as not ultra vires the Constitution and it was also held that Article 71(3) and Article 246 read with item 72 of List I of Seventh Schedule of The Constitution were sufficient to enable the Parliament to enact Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election Act.
In case of Charan Lal Sahu v. Giani Zail Singh the Supreme Court discussed within its residency power the three conditions which govern an election petition by which a Presidential and Vice-Presidential election is challenged, viz.:
(a) Firstly, such petition should be challenged in the Supreme Court only.
(b) Secondly, such petition must disclose a challenge to the election on one or more grounds.
(c) Thirdly, an election petition can be presented only by a person who was a candidate at the Presidential election or by 20 or more electors joining together as petitioner.
Further in this case, it was held by the Supreme Court that Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act was not ultra vires Article 71(1) of the Constitution of India and simultaneously that Article 71(3) of the Constitution confers powers upon the Parliament subject to the provisions of the Constitution of India, to make the law for regulating matters relating to or connected with, the election of the President or the Vice-President.
Moreover Article 71 after its substitution in 1975 and 1979 by two Constitutional Amendments has four clauses. The first clause speaks about election petition under this Article to be entertained only by the Supreme Court. The second clause says that only the Supreme Court can declare election petition under this Article void or illegal. The third clause tells about the power of Parliament to make laws in respect of such Article and clause four says that the election of a person as President or Vice-President shall not be called as question on ground of vacancy among the members of the electoral college electing the President or Vice-President. Hence this Article takes into its ambit the election of President or Vice-President, power of the Supreme Court and power of the Parliament in respect of making and regulating law in this respect.