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.
56. "Term of office of President.- (1) The President shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office :
Provided that :
(a) the President may, by writing under his hand addressed to the Vice-President, resign his office;
(b) the President may, for violation of the Constitution, be removed from office by impeachment in the manner provided in Article 61;
(c) the President shall, notwithstanding the expiration of his term, continue to hold office until his sucessor enters upon his office.
(2) Any resignation addressed under clause (a) of the proviso to clause (1) shall forthwith be communicated by him to the Speaker of the House of the People. "
The President of India is the head of State and first citizen of India . The President is also the head of the armed forces of India . Although the President is vested with such powers by the Constitution of India, the position is largely a ceremonial role and the executive powers are de facto exercised by the Cabinet Ministers and Prime Minister. The post of President is known in Hindi as Rashtrapati , a Sanskrit neologism meaning "lord of the realm". The President is elected by an electoral college composed of members of the Parliament Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and also members of the Vidhan Sabha, the State Legislative Assemblies.
There have been 12 Presidents of India since the introduction of the post in 1950. The post was established when India was declared as a Republic with the adoption of the Indian Constitution. Apart from these twelve, three acting presidents have also been in office for short periods of time. Varahagiri Venkata Giri became Acting President in 1969 following the death of Zakir Hussain, while in office. Giri was elected President a few months later. He remains the only person to have held office both as a President and Acting President. The President may remain in office for a tenure of five years, as stated by Article 56, Part V, of the Constitution of India. In the case where a President's term of office is terminated early or during the absence of the President, the Vice-President assumes office. By Article 70 of Part V, the Parliament may decide how to discharge the functions of the President where this is not possible, or in any other unexpected contingency. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, is the only person to have held office for two terms.
Seven Presidents have been members of a political party before being elected. Six of these were active party members of the Indian National Congress. The Janata Party has had one member, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, who later became President. The State of Andhra Pradesh has sent three presidents to the office so far, Zakir Hussain, V V Giri and N Sanjiva Reddy, highest for any state. Two Presidents, Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, have died in office. Their Vice-Presidents functioned as Acting President until a new President was elected. Following Hussain's death, two Acting Presidents held office until the new President, Varahagiri Venkata Giri, was elected. Varahagiri Venkata Giri himself, Hussain's Vice-President, was the first Acting President. When Giri resigned to take part in the presidential elections, he was superseded by Muhammad Hidayatullah as Acting President. The current President is Pratibha Patil, who was elected as the 12th President of India in 2007. She is also the first woman to serve as President of India.
Resignation of President
President is known as the head of the State and his resignation process is carried out with dignity. He may in writing under his hand address to the Vice -President, to resign his office which shall be communicated by him to the Speaker . And in his absence Vice -President can take over his charge till the time a new President gets elected.
Removal of the President
The President may be removed before the expiry of his/her term through impeachment for violation of the Constitution.
The process may start in either of the two Houses of the Parliament. The House initiates the process by levelling the charges against the President. The charges are contained in a notice which has to be signed by at least one-quarter of the total members of that House. The notice is sent up to the President and 14 days later, it is taken up for consideration.
A resolution to impeach the President has to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the total members of the originating House. It is then sent to the other House. The other House investigates the charges that have been made. During this process, the President has the right to defend himself/herself through an authorised counsel. If the second House also approves the charges made by two-thirds majority again, the President stands impeached and is deemed to have vacated his/her office from the date when such a resolution stands passed. Other than impeachment, no other penalty can be given to the President for the violation of the Constitution.
In the event of a vacancy created for the President's post due to death, resignation, removal, etc., Article 65 of the Constitution says that the Vice President will have to discharge his duties. The Vice President reverts to his office when a new President is elected. When the President is unable to act owing to his absence, illness or any other cause, the Vice President discharges the President's functions for a temporary period until the President resumes his duties.
When the Vice President acts as, or discharges the functions of the President, he has all the powers and immunities of the President and is entitled to the same emoluments as the President.
Parliament has, by an enactment, made provision for the discharge of the functions of the President when vacancies occur in the offices of the President and of the Vice President simultaneously, owing to removal, death, resignation of the incumbent or otherwise. In such an eventuality, the Chief Justice, or in his absence, the senior most Judge of the Supreme Court of India available discharges the functions of the President until a newly elected President enters upon his office or a newly elected Vice President begins to act as President under Article 65 of the Constitution, whichever is earlier.