The office of the Vice President of India is modelled on the American pattern. The Vice President office is a unique feature of our executive system at the Centre. There is no such office in other Parliamentary executives for example in England, in the Dominions, or Ireland. The only democracies that provide for such an office are in the United States of America, but their system of government is completely different from ours.
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The Vice President of India
The need for the office of vice president arose because the President of India at times may not be able to exercise his executive powers due to non-availability and in such circumstances, the Vice-President steps into the shoes of the President. Part V of the Constitution of India under Chapter I (executive) discusses the Vice-President of India.
Qualification of the Vice President
To be elected as the Vice President of India, a person should be a citizen of India, must not be less than 35 years of age, and should be qualified for election as a member of the Council of States. He must be free from any sort of disqualification laid down under Article 102. Besides this, the Vice Parliament has full discretion to prescribe new laws relating to qualification and disqualification.
Any disputes arising out of the election of the Vice President shall be settled by the Supreme Court but only after the election has been completed.
Term of office
Article 67 states that the term of the Vice President is 5 years. However, the Vice President can continue to hold his office until the successor takes over. There is no bar placed on the re-election of the Vice President.
Elections of the Vice President of India
Before 1961, the members of the Parliament were required to elect the Vice-President at the joint session of the Parliament. In the election of Dr S Radhakrishnan, no such meeting took place as there was no opposition party standing against him. Therefore, the election was held void, and therefore to avoid such difficulty the provision requiring the joint session was dropped. Now, the Vice-President is elected by the system of proportional representation by using a single transferrable vote.
Oath of the office
Every Vice President before resuming his office shall take an oath and subscribe before the President or any other appointed on his behalf. The Vice President takes swear in the name of God that he will carry on his duties and responsibilities faithfully.
Pay and other emoluments
The Vice-President draws his salary not as a Vice-President but as a member of the Council Of States. According to the Salaries and Allowances of Office of Parliament Act 953, the Vice-President gets a salary of Rs.4,00,000 per month and Rs.50000 per month as a sumptuary allowance. The Vice President is even provided with the furnished residence which is free of charge. He is even entitled to free medical facilities for himself as well as for the members of his family. According to the rule framed by the Government of India, the Vice President gets his daily travelling allowances. The salary and allowances paid to him are charged on the Consolidation fund of India.4
The Vice-President shall act as an ex-officio chairman of the Council of States and he must not hold any other office of profit under him. It is to be noted that, when the Vice-President under Article 65 discharges the duty of the President he must not act as a Chairman of the Council of States during that period of time. He will not even be entitled to the pay and allowances payable to the Chairman of the Council of States under Article 97.
Duties and functions of the Vice President of India
- The Vice-President is vested with no executive powers. He presides over the Council of States. He represents the Council on ceremonial occasions even to foreign countries. He is also the protector of the rights and privileges of the member of the Council of States.
- The Vice-President has the power to perform the functions of the President in certain contingencies. They have been divided into two categories:
- Article 65 (1) lays down that in case there is a vacancy in the office of the President because of his death, removal, or resignation, the Vice-President will act like a President.
- Article 65 (ii) lays down that in case the President is unable to perform his function owing to absence, illness the Vice-President will discharge the duty of the President, till he resumes his office.
- The point to be noted is that there is no provision for the Vice President to take the title of President. He is officially referred to as Vice-President acting for the President or the Vice President discharging the duties of the President. He carries out the functions from his own office. While performing the functions he has all the powers and immunity of the President. He is also entitled to the same pay and allowances as that of the President. However, the Parliament may determine it differently by passing a law.
- The Vice-President has to communicate the resignation of the President if and when it is sent to him by the President, to the speaker of the Lok Sabha.
- He is associated with the member of the Institute in an ex-officio capacity, for example, he is Chancellor of the Delhi University.
Position of the vice president
The Vice-President of India has occupied no.2 in the warrant of precedence since the year 1956. He is posted with all the information regarding the decision of the cabinet like the President. He is consulted by the persons placed in the highest authority of the Government and the leaders of public opinions seek his advice and views. Even though no executive function has been attached to his office, his position has acquired the significance of its own.
Utility of the office of vice president
- The Vice President is free from pre-occupations as his involvement in the day-to-day governance of the Country. It is because of this, including other reasons, that his advice is sought by the President, Prime Minister, and other high dignitaries.
- The office of the Vice-President has incidentally served as a balancing force for a country like India, where differences of all sorts- religious, linguistic, regional exists. The office of Vice-President helps in providing adjustments and bridging the differences.
- Dr S Radhakrishna and Dr Zakir Hussain who served as Vice-President were elevated to the posts of President in the years 1962 and 1967 respectively. Therefore, it can be said that the office of the Vice-President serves as a training ground for the President.
First Vice president of India
Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) was the first Vice president of India from 1952-1962
In the State of the Indian Union there exists no post for a Deputy Governor. In the viewpoint of this, it was found that it is necessary to have an office of Vice-President at the centre. The office of the Vice-President has come to acquire a position of respect in our Constitutional system. Dr Radhakrishna and Dr Zakir Hussain have both worked strongly and made a valuable contribution in making the post of Vice-President recognizable. However, it is to be noted that, in the absence of power, an office of Vice-President is regarded as superfluous. This is one of the reasons why the other countries with Parliamentary executives don’t have such an office. Therefore, it is important that Parliament as a whole can put their confidence in his position so that he can head the Parliamentary commission and investigate charges of corruption.