The Vice President of India is the second-highest office in India, after the President. The Vice President is elected indirectly by an electoral college consisting members of both houses of the Parliament. The Vice President would ascend to the Presidency upon the death, resignation, impeachment, or other situations leading to the vacancy in the Office of President. The normal function of the Vice President is to serve as theChairman of the Rajya Sabha. The current Vice President of India is Hamid Ansari, since 11 August 2007, and re-elected on 7 August 2012 with the appointment by the President of India Pranab Mukherjee.
Powers and duties
Acting President of India
The Constitution provides that should “there occur a vacancy in the office of the President by reason of his death, resignation, removal or otherwise, the Vice President shall act as President until a new President is elected and enters upon his office” (Article 65(1)). After 1957,as per revised protocol the second highest post in India is of vice president which previously belonged to the prime minister of India.
If the vacancy is going to be caused by a regular expiration of the term of the President, elections have to be completed before the term expires. Even if there is a brief interregnum owing to a delay of the elections, the President shall continue to hold office until his successor enters upon the office (Article 56(1)c). Thus the Vice President would ascend to the Presidency only under extraordinary circumstances such as:
1. Death of the President
2. Resignation of the President
3. Removal of the President by impeachment
4. Invalidation of the election of the President by the Supreme Court Under such extraordinary circumstances, a Presidential election must be held no later than six months from the date of occurrence of the vacancy. In the interim, the Vice President is empowered by the Constitution to act as President. Apart from a permanent vacancy, there may also arise a temporary vacancy due to the President’s inability to perform the duties of the office. The Constitution provides that the Vice President shall discharge the functions of the President during temporary absence of the President, illness, of any other cause by which the President is unable to discharge his functions.
The inaugural Vice President of India Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was himself the first Vice President to discharge the functions of the President, when the then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad was away from the country for fifteen days on a tour to the Soviet Union in 1960. V. V. Giri was the first Vice President to serve for an extended period as Acting President of India (from May 3, 1969 to July 19, 1969) when the then President Dr. Zakir Hussain died while in office. When V. V. Giri resigned to contest for Presidential elections, the Chief Justice of India Mohammad Hidayatullah briefly acted as the President.
Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
The Vice President also serves as the ex-officio chairman of Rajya Sabha (Council of States). Thus, apart from holding the executive position of successor to the President, the Vice President also serves the legislative role of Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. This unique duality is not shared by any other Commonwealth Country, and was borrowed from the Constitution of the United States. Constitutionally, the Chairman is empowered to preside over the meetings of the Rajya Sabha. He is empowered to adjourn the House or to suspend its sitting in the event of absence of quorum. Members who wish to resign from the House shall submit their resignations to the Chairman, who may use his discretion to reject the resignation if he is satisfied that such resignation is not voluntary or genuine. Under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, the Chairman determines the question as to disqualification of a member of the Rajya Sabha on ground of defection. The Chairman also makes rules for giving effect to the provisions of that Schedule. He is empowered to direct that any wilful contravention of the said rules should be dealt with in the same manner as a breach of privilege of the House.
The Chairman may permit a member who is unable to express himself in Hindi or in English, to address the House in his mother tongue. The Rules of Procedure of the Rajya Sabha confer several other powers to the Chairman such as maintaining order in the House, raising questions, calling attention, authenticating motions, resolutions, Bills, amendments to Bills, petitions, papers etc. The Chairman cannot exercise a vote, except when there an equality of votes. The Chairman can exercise a tie-breaking vote if the need arises. In his task as Chairman, he is assisted by the Deputy Chairman who is a member of the Rajya Sabha and elected by it. The Deputy Chairman presides over the Rajya Sabha in the absence of the Chairman and performs the duties of the office of the Chairman if the Vice President is acting as President or if the office of the Vice President is vacant.
The Chairman nominates members of the Rajya Sabha on various bodies such as Courts of Banaras Hindu University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, North-Eastern Hill University, Pondicherry University, University of Hyderabad, Anjuman (Court) of Jamia Millia Islamia University, Haj Committee, Press Council of India, Samsad (Court) of Visva Bharati, National Council for Teachers Education, etc. set up under the relevant statutes. The Chairman also nominates members of the Rajya Sabha on other bodies like General Assembly of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, General Body of the Central Social Welfare Board, General Council of the School of Planning and Architecture, Hindi Shiksha Samiti, Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies, etc.
Election, oath and term
As in the case of the President, in order to be qualified to be elected as Vice President, a person must:
* Be a citizen of India.
* Have completed more than 35 years of age
* Not hold any office of profit
While in order to be a President, a person must be qualified for election as a member of the Lok Sabha (House of Peoples), the Vice President must be qualified for election as a member of theRajya Sabha (Council of States). This difference is because the Vice President is to act as the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
The Vice President is elected indirectly, by an electoral college consisting of members of both houses of the Parliament. The election of the Vice President is slightly different from the election of the President—the members of state legislatures are not part of the electoral college for Vice Presidential election. The nomination of a candidate for election to the office of the Vice President must be subscribed by at least 20 electors as proposers and 20 electors as seconders. Every candidate has to make a security deposit of Rs.15,000 in the Reserve Bank of India. The Election Commission of India, which is a constitutional autonomous body, conducts the election. The election is to be held no later than 60 days of the expiry of the term of office of the outgoing Vice President. A Returning Officer is appointed for the election, usually the Secretary-General of either House of the Parliament, by rotation.
The Returning Officer issues a public notice of the intended election, inviting nomination of candidates. Any person qualified to be elected and intending to stand for election is required to be nominated by at least twenty Members of Parliament as proposers, and at least twenty other Members of Parliament as seconders. The nomination papers are scrutinized by the Returning Officer, and the names of all eligible candidates are added to the ballot. The election is proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote by secret ballot. Voters stack-rank the candidates, assigning 1 to their first preference, 2 to their second preference, and so on. The number of votes required by a candidate to secure the election is calculated by dividing the total number of votes by two, and adding one to the quotient by disregarding any remainder. If no candidate obtains the required number of first-preference votes, the candidate with the least number of first-preference votes is eliminated and his/her second-preference votes are transferred.
The process is repeated till a candidate obtains the requisite number of votes. First, the first preference votes are counted. If there is no candidate and the number of first preference votes secured by each candidate is ascertained. Nominated members can also participate in the election. After the election has been held and the votes counted, the Returning Officer declares the result of the election to the electoral college. Thereafter, he/she reports the result to the Central Government (Ministry of Law & Justice) and the Election Commission of India and the Central Government publishes the name of the person elected as Vice President, in the Official Gazette.
All disputes arising in connection with the election of the Vice President are petitioned to the Supreme Court of India, which inquires into the matter. The petition is heard by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court, which decides on the matter. The decision of the Supreme Court is final.
Oath of Affirmation
The Constitution provides the Oath of Affirmation for the Office of Vice President as under:- “I, ________ do swear in the name of God that I will bear true faith and allegiance to solemnly affirm the Constitution of India as by law established and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter.”
The Vice-President performs some important functions and duties. They are the following: 1. The Vice-President is the ex-officio Chairman of the Council of States. He may cast his vote when there is a tie. 2. He represents the Council of States on ceremonial occasions. 3. He protects the rights and privileges of the members of the Council of States. 4. He visits foreign countries on goodwill missions.
5. If the President is not able to perform his functions due to absence or illness etc. the Vice-President shall perform the functions of President until the President resumes his duty. 6. If the post of President falls vacant due to his resignation, removal, and death or otherwise, then the Vice-President shall act as the President until a new President is elected. This period between the Vice-President acting as the President and the election of a new President can be extended for a maximum period of six months.
The Vice President holds office for five years. He/she can be re-elected any number of times. However, the office may be terminated earlier by death, resignation or removal. The Constitution does not provide a mechanism of succession to the office of Vice President in the event of an extraordinary vacancy, apart from re-election. However, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha can perform the duties of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha in such an event.
The Vice President does not have to be formally impeached, unlike the President of India. The Constitution states that the Vice President can be removed by a resolution of the Rajya Sabhapassed by an effective majority (more than 50% of effective membership(total membership-vacancies)) and agreed to by a simple majority (50% of voting members) of the Lok Sabha (Article 67(b)). But no such resolution may be moved unless at least 14 days’ advance notice has been given. Notably, no ground has been mentioned in the Constitution for his removal. No Vice President has ever faced removal proceedings.
Salary and pension
There is no specific provision of salary/pension for the Vice President, per se. He/she receives the salary of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, which is currently Rs. 1,25,000 per month. There are no additional emoluments for the office. The constitution provides that when the Vice President acts as the President or discharges the duties of the President, he/she is entitled to the salary and privileges of the President of India. The pension is 50% of the salary.