Veto is an executive power to prevent any bill becoming a law. Normally all the modern constitutions confer this power upon the executive in order to prevent any unconstitutional matter getting passed as a law. There are four types of veto namely:
- Absolute veto
- Qualified veto
- Suspensive veto
- Pocket veto
Absolute Veto: If the President declares that he withholds his assent to the bill presented to him, the bill is dead. The legislature cannot override this veto by any majority.
Qualified Veto: It is a veto that can be overridden by the legislature by an extraordinary majority (special majority) prescribed by the constitution or any law. In the USA, the presidential veto in certain bills can be overridden by the resolution of the legislature passed by a special majority. But in India this type of veto is not available.
Suspensive Veto: It is a veto that is overridden by a resolution passed by the legislature supported by an ordinary (simple) majority. The President of India enjoys this veto. According to the proviso of Article 111, when the President returns a non-money bill for reconsideration of the House, the President is exercising his veto power. He declares that he will give his asset to the bill in the form in which it is passed by the House. In that case, the House needs to reconsider and pass the bill again. It is the discretion of the House to either accept the recommendations of the President.
Once reconsidered and passed, the bill is presented to the President for his assent. At this juncture, the President does not have any choice but only to give his assent. Since the constitution does not prescribe any special majority for this the presidential veto is overridden by an ordinary (simple) majority. Hence, this veto is known as suspensive veto.
Pocket Veto: It is not a veto in the true sense of the term veto. It is a consequential power. The constitution does not prescribe any specific time limit within which the President needs to declare his decision on giving assent to a bill. Therefore, it implies that the President can take any length of time to decide on the bill. When the President retains the bill with him without declaring his decision, it is known as the President ‘sitting on the bill’. After the expiration of a considerable length of time, the bill may lose its relevance even if it comes to force and hence, it is almost dead. In such cases the President is said to have pocketed the bill. This is known as pocket veto.
INDIAN PRESIDENT—A COMBINATION OF VETO POWER
The President of India enjoys a combination of veto powers. He possesses a combination of absolute, suspensive and pocket veto. He enjoys these veto powers in accordance with the type of the bill. This is an executive power which the President is to exercise with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
The President enjoys absolute veto with respect to:
- Ordinary bills passed by the Parliament: The ordinary bills passed by the Parliament can be absolutely vetoed by the President, on the advice of the Council of Ministers. After passing a bill the circumstance could change and a need for abolishing the bill may arise. For instance, in Jammu and Kashmir the legislature passed a bill that took away the right to inherit property for the Kashmiri women who married non-Kashmiri men. This bill met with huge public opposition and the government could not go ahead. So, the government advised the Governor to absolutely veto the bill. In case this power to absolutely veto the bill is not available, it would require another law to replace it or to declare it invalid. That would be a cumbersome and expensive process. However, in practice absolute veto is usually exercised in case of Private Member’s Bills. With respect to Government Bills, absolute veto is exercised in circumstances when the government resigns or removed.
- Money Bills passed by the Parliament: Although the Money Bills are introduced in the Parliament with the previous recommendation of the President, it does not bind the President to give his assent. Since, it is introduced on his recommendation he cannot return the bill for reconsideration. Article 111, expressly prohibits the President form returning the Money Bill for reconsideration. If he needs any clarification on the bill, he has to clarify at the stage of introduction itself.
- Private Member’s Bills: A bill introduced by the member who is not a minister is known as Private Member’s Bill. The President absolutely vetoes the bill if the Council of Ministers advised him to veto the bill.
- Financial Bills passed by the Parliament: Financial bills are Ordinary Bills for all the practical reasons of passage in the Parliament. Hence, such bills can also be absolutely vetoed.
- State Bills reserved for his consideration: According to Article 200, the State Bills can be reserved for the consideration of the President. The Governor of the State is empowered to reserve the bills, including the money bills, presented to him for assent. According to Article 201, the President has the powers to veto the bills absolutely.
The President enjoys suspensive veto with respect to the Ordinary Bills including the Financial Bills of both the union and the States. In any case, the President cannot return a Money Bill for the reconsideration of the House.
Since the constitution does not prescribe any time limit for the President to declare his decision, the President can retain any bill submitted to him. Thus, over a period of time the bill might lose its relevance and be dead. The postal amendment bill passed in 1984 was pocket vetoed the President.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BILLS
After the 24th Amendment Act, 1971, the President does not enjoy any veto power with respect to the constitution amendment bills. Article 368 (2), makes it mandatory for the President to give his assent to the constitution amendment bill when passed by both the Houses of the Parliament and presented to him for his assent. Thus, the President of India enjoys a combination of veto power.