Book Review: Debtoru Chatterjee, Presidential Discretion

Published date01 September 2017
Date01 September 2017
AuthorS.K. Jain
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Indian Journal of Public
63(3) 495–507
© 2017 IIPA
SAGE Publications
Book Reviews
Debtoru Chatterjee, Presidential Discretion. New Delhi: Oxford
University Press, 2016, 313 pp. `995.
The preamble to the Indian Constitution declares India a ‘Republic’. Article 52
provides for an indirectly elected President as head of the state for India unlike
hereditary monarch of Britain. As we know, British tradition follows the maxim
‘The King can do no wrong’, whereas in India, the President can, and when he/she
violates constitutional provisions he/she is liable for impeachment. Political
developments since Independence and advent of coalition politics/governments
since 1989 have further created controversy regarding the discretionary power of
the President of India. Vested with the role ‘to advise, to encourage and to warn’
which would lend the President as much authority and influence as his/her own
personal character, capability and political situation would warrant leaving the
actual decision making with the cabinet, in fact, is the constitutional scheme
regarding the presidency in India.
In the backdrop of this, the book under review Presidential Discretion has
made a serious attempt to deal with the vital issue of presidential discretion in
the event of a hung parliament by choosing the Prime Minister and dissolving the
parliament. One can examine the changing role of the President in two categories:
(a) Presidential assertiveness before 1989 and (b) Presidential assertiveness after
Presidential Assertiveness before 1989
The first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, though a close associate of Prime
Minister Nehru, did not agree with him on certain issues. His strong views
about rights and responsibilities of the office of the President led to crisis on several
occasions. He attributed to his office greater powers than those provided by the
Constitution. In September 1951, he expressed his desire to act solely in his own
judgement independent of the cabinet, when giving his assent to the bills, sending
messages to the parliament and returning bills to the parliament for reconsideration.
Nehru did not agree. However, in actual practice, Prasad did not create any
constitutional crisis. Though the President was not in full agreement with the
Hindu Code Bill, he complied with the policy of the government. Similarly in 1959,

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