India’s federal government has three parts: the Executive (President and about 5,000,000 workers), the Legislative (Law-makers and House of Representatives), the Judiciary (The Supreme Court, The High Courts and The Subordinate Courts.)
For these apex of government, there is a need to have checks and balances to ensure that there are no special powers given to any of them. It would not create disparities in power holding bodies. These equalisers ensure that neither of the body gets their control over law-making. One of the checks and balances is Veto Power.
What is meant by Veto Power?
Veto Power is the right given to one branch of the government to scrap or postpone the decisions, regulations, bills and enactments of law-makers. Under Veto Power, President and other chief executives can reject the bill, passed by the Legislature.
Veto power of the President
In India, the President has three veto powers, i.e. – absolute, suspension and pocket.
A bill sent by parliament can only become an act when it is passed by the executive. President can send the bill back to the Legislature for amendments. However, the parliament is under no obligation of these, if Legislature does not feel the need for any amendments, the bill is sent back to President without considering any suggestions from the executive.
In that case, President has to give his assent to the bill, mandatorily, or if still the bill does not get assent of the president, it becomes law after 14 days.
The veto power enjoyed by the Executive are classified into four types:
- Pocket veto- taking, no action on the bill passed by the legislature.
- Absolute veto- withholding assent to the bill passed by the legislature.
- Qualified veto- which can be overridden by the legislature with a higher majority. (It is not present in the case of the Indian President; it is enjoyed by the American president. Under this veto, a bill becomes law when it gets a 2/3 majority, even before the president gives his assent.)
- Suspensive veto- which can be overridden by the legislature with an ordinary majority.
Hence, of the above four, President of India is vested with three- that is, pocket veto, absolute veto, and suspensive veto.We will know about each veto one by one.
Under this veto, the President is not bound within time frames to give his assent to a bill when it is sent for the first time. Therefore, by delaying the bill or taking no action against the bill, the President can functionally exercise veto power. The discussion over a bill then further stops, since it has not been sent back with suggested recommendations.
The president cannot exercise a pocket veto on a financial or a constitutional amendment bill. Pocket veto allows the President or Executive officials for taking ‘no action’ rather than vetoing the bill. In this case, the President can send the bill back to the parliament with suggested amendments but the Parliament is not legally bound to accept the amendments and may send the bill back.
If these conditions prevail, the President is bound to give his assent to the bill within a fixed time period. In India, article 111 of the Indian constitution states that the President shall give his assent to a bill passed by both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and shall return the bill as soon as possible for reconsideration and with his suggestions.
By keep postponing the bill, it gets vetoed. However, if the President previously had vetoed a bill and had sent it back to the parliament and if such a veto gets overruled by another parliamentary vote, then such a bill becomes an act within fourteen days of the President’s receiving it.
Pocket veto has only been exercised once in the history of Republic by Giani Zail Singh. He was the President of India from 1982 until 1987. It was used to prevent the Indian Post Office (Amendment) Bill from becoming law.
Absolute veto is when the President or the officials of Executive refuses assent to any bill passes by the legislature. Hence, it cannot become law.
However in India there are almost no cases of absolute veto. While in Unites States, a two-third vote in both the House Senate can override Presidential veto.
The President exercises this veto when he returns the bill back to the Parliament for reconsideration. 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.
In this case, the presidential veto is overridden by same ordinary majority, unlike USA, where high majority is needed to override veto. The President cannot exercise this veto in case of money, either he can give his assent or withhold his assent but cannot return it for reconsideration.
However, the Money bill is presented in the Parliament only with his previous permission.
Presidential Veto over State Legislation
The President can exercise veto powers even in the State Legislation. A Bill passed by a State Legislature can become an act only when it receives the assent from Governor, or the governor can reserved the bill for the consideration of the President.
Under article 200 of the Constitution, the governor has four alternatives for the bill:
- He may give his assent to the bill, or
- He may withhold his assent to the bill, or
- He may return the bill (if it’s not a money bill), or
- He may reserve the bill for President’s consideration.
And, if the bill is reserved for the President, he has three choices to make:
- He may give his assent to the bill, or
- He may withhold his assent to the bill, or
- He may ask the Governor to return the bill (if it’s again not a money bill) for reconsideration. If the bill is passed by again the State Legislature with or without amendments and then presented again to the President for his assent, the President is not bound to give his assent to the bill. This clearly means that state legislature cannot override the veto power of the President.
Well, in the case of State legislation, the President is not bound with any time limit for giving his assent to the bill, reserved by the Governor.
Legislation sans Veto
As we have studied about the veto powers, exercised by the Executive, we can effectively see how compelling it is to have such special powers in our federal system. It has polished up the law making process, and has made it healthier and stronger.
What would have been the scene of legislation if there were no veto powers?
Perhaps, the political tensions would have been prevailed, and there might have been grudges between the authorities. And the law making processes would have been more chaotic.
Without the veto power legislation would be
- Impulsive and brisk.
- More unconstitutional, as acts would get made which could be against the constitutional guidelines.
Veto Powers by UN
Now that we have talked about Veto powers of the President, there are Veto powers which are enjoyed by some countries across the world. These are granted to them by the United Nations Security Council.
The United Nations Security Council ‘veto power’ refers to the power of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to veto any ‘substantive’ resolution.
These permanent five (P5) members are: United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China. At the time of UN formation in 1945 these victorious nation played a crucial role in its making in monetary terms as well as in intelligence perspective.
Hence, they had been given special powers and got awarded with veto. It means no resolution can be passed without the consent of all the P5 members. Even a single can use veto against any resolution.
Veto power was given on the grounds of the status and advancements of the country in the world. Those who have had exorbitant nuclear powers and other powers with stiffed military and army services were the first choice of UN Security Council to give veto.
As these countries were more advanced than the rest of the world, they now have power to exercise veto. It is stated that, since 1992 Russia has been the most frequent user of the veto, followed by the United States and China. France and the United Kingdom have not used the veto since 1989.
What happened with INDIA? Why India does not have veto power?
As India is not a permanent member, it does not have a veto power, though it had became non-permanent member 7 times. However, with the growing economics, having largest faithful democracy, and a maintaining a good track of harmony across the world, there are chances that India would get honoured with the power of veto. Many countries of the world including Russia, France and U.S are claiming that UN should render these special powers to India.