Power and Function of Vice President

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As the nation’s second-highest constitutional authority, the Vice President of India plays a crucial role in the political landscape. In addition to ceremonial duties, the Vice President’s office plays a vital role in the functioning of the Indian government.

Constitutional Foundation

The Constitution of India, which was adopted on January 26, 1950, specifies the function of the Vice President in India. Articles 63 through 73 of the Indian Constitution detail the Vice President’s position, qualifications, election, and dismissal from office. The Vice President is indirectly elected by an electoral college comprised of members of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lokya Sabha (House of the People).

Requirements and Election

A candidate for the position of vice president must possess the following qualifications:

  • Must be an Indian citizen.
  • Must be older than 35 years old.
  • Must be eligible to become a Rajya Sabha member.

Vice Presidents are elected for five-year terms and are eligible for re-election. The election is conducted by secret ballot, and the candidate with the most votes is declared the Vice President-elect.

Capabilities and Abilities

  • Presiding Officer of the Rajya Sabha: The Vice President is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the upper chamber of Parliament, in his capacity as Presiding Officer. In this role, the Vice President presides over legislative sessions, maintains order, and assures adherence to parliamentary rules and procedures. In the event of a stalemate, the Vice President does not have a deciding vote, unlike the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
  • Casting Vote in Joint Sittings: In the event of legislative impasse between the two chambers of Parliament during joint sittings, the Vice President may cast a casting vote. This provision is significant in the event that the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha disagree.
  • Succession to the President: If the President of India resigns, dies, or is unable to carry out their duties, the Vice President assumes the presidency until a new President is elected. This provision assures executive continuity in the event of a vacancy in the office of the President.
  • Presidential Functions During Absence: When the President is unable to perform their duties due to foreign travel, illness, or other circumstances, the Vice President may temporarily assume some of the President’s responsibilities.
  • Advisory Role: The Vice President can serve as a consultant on matters of national significance. They may offer the President or the government advice on a variety of issues or specific policy matters.
  • Diplomatic Representations: The Vice President may represent India at international events and ceremonies if delegated to do so by the President or the Prime Minister.
  • Chairman of the Rajya Sabha: As Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the Vice President has the authority to refer legislation to committees, rule on points of order, and play a crucial role in the legislative process.
  • Tie-Breaking Vote in State Legislative Councils: In states with legislative councils, the Vice President functions as the ex-officio chairman of the council and has a tie-breaking vote on any issue.

Importance and Function in Indian Politics

  • Balance of Power: In the Indian parliamentary system, the Vice President’s function serves as a constitutional check and balance. They are the President’s immediate successors and thus guarantee a seamless transfer of executive authority.
  • Presiding Officer of the Rajya Sabha: As the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the Vice President is responsible for maintaining decorum, facilitating debates, and assuring the efficient operation of the upper chamber.
  • Political Neutrality: While presiding over the Rajya Sabha, the Vice President is expected to maintain political neutrality, allowing for the equitable representation of all political parties.
  • Constitutional Guardian: In the event of a constitutional crisis or ambiguity, the Vice President can play a crucial role by providing counsel and assisting in the resolution of legal and constitutional issues.

Connections with the President and Prime Minister

Vice Presidents share a close working relationship with both the President and the Prime Minister, despite their distinct roles:

  • President: The Vice President is the President’s immediate successor in the event of a vacancy or temporary inability to carry out duties. This relationship guarantees the continuity of executive power and constitutional order.
  • Vice President: Although not involved in day-to-day administration or policymaking like the Prime Minister, the Vice President may advise the government on significant matters and represent India at international events if delegated to do so by the Prime Minister.

Restrictions and Obstacles

Despite the constitutional importance of the Vice President’s office, there are constraints and obstacles:

  • Ceremonial Nature: The Vice President’s position is primarily ceremonial, with limited actual executive authority. Their authority is frequently eclipsed by that of the President and the Prime Minister.
  • Political Neutrality: Maintaining political neutrality can be difficult due to the Vice President’s possible political background or affiliations prior to assuming office.
  • Lack of Direct Popular Mandate: Contrary to the President, who is elected through a direct electoral process, the Vice President is elected indirectly by members of the electoral college, which may raise concerns about the legitimacy of their mandate.
  • Underutilization of Expertise: The Vice President’s prospective advisory role is frequently underutilized, as the government does not always seek their advice on major policy issues.

Notable Indian Vice Presidents

Several Vice Presidents have left their imprint on India’s political landscape throughout its history:

  • Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1952-1956): Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who subsequently became the President of India, served as the country’s first Vice President from 1952 to 1956.
  • R. Venkataraman (1984-1987): R. Venkataraman was known for his contributions to the nation’s political and constitutional development during his presidency.
  • Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma (1987-1992): After serving as Vice President, Dr. Sharma was elected President of India, playing a crucial position in the nation’s administration.
  • Dr. B. D. Jatti (1974-1979): As acting president and vice president of India, Dr. Jatti played a crucial role during a period of political unrest.

In India’s political structure, the Vice President occupies a unique and constitutionally significant position. While their powers may be limited in comparison to those of the President and the Prime Minister, their role as the Rajya Sabha’s presiding officer and constitutional responsibility to ensure the continuity of executive authority are invaluable. The Vice President’s office is a symbol of India’s commitment to democratic principles and good governance, providing stability and equilibrium to the nation’s political structure.

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