During the five years of his presidency, Pranab Mukherjee passed a staggering 82% of the bills that were sent to him for approval by the states. According to data available from the President’s Secretariat, 188 bills in all were sent to Mukherjee during him term, of which he gave the green signal to 155.
According to Article 200 of the Constitution of India, the Governor of a state may recommend a bill passed by the legislature for the consideration of the President, if he feels the subject of the bill contradicts any Central law or pertains to a sensitive and/or important matter. Article 111 gives the President the right to either give his assent to the bill, or withhold it, or send it back to the legislature (in case it is not a Money Bill) with a message, suggesting changes.
According to an analysis by Factly, the most number of bills sent to Mukherjee was in 2014 (51), followed by 2015 (48). In 2016 and 2017, the numbers showed further decline, going down to 38 and 14 (till date) respectively.
While Maharashtra sent him the most number of bills at 24, all of which were approved by the President, Delhi couldn’t get him to assent to even one of the 5 bills it sent.
The latter include the Code of Criminal Procedure (Delhi Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Delhi Member of Legislative Assembly (removal of disqualification) (amendment) Bill, for which assent was withheld, while the Delhi (Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Amendment Bill 2015 was returned to the legislature with remarks.
As The Indian Express pointed out, The Sugarcane (Regulation) of Supply and Purchase Amendment Bill from Bihar, which was sent for Mukherjee’s approval by Ram Nath Kovind, his successor who was then governor of the state, was also returned by the former President with a message early this year.
During his term, Mukherjee did sign some peculiar bills, such as the one making the running of hookah bars in the state of Gujarat punishable by a prison term up to three years, but in general he was prudent and desisted from making controversial decisions.
In comparison, his predecessor APJ Abdul Kalam had asserted it far more strongly when, during his tenure, he not only refused assent to a Central bill — something Mukherjee didn’t do at all — but didn’t even return it with a message to the prime minister.
Instead, after consulting with the then chief justice of India and two retired judges, he sent it to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
The bill in question was the Office of Profit Bill, which Kalam was closely tracking and had several concerns over the many exemptions (40) it had factored in. Experts had reportedly warned him that the purpose of the bill would be completely subverted if it went through with these exceptions written into itself.
Instead of acting under the guidance of the PM or his council of ministers, which is the usual course in such situations, Kalam decided to follow an usual path — exercise the independent powers granted to him by the Constitution.
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