Many comments have been made about the role of the EP. Some claimed that it must be an involved President, willing to speak up for the people, some say it is meant to be a dumb President, some say it like a machine, only say what the govt wants it to say or else better not be heard.
The lay people have their own interpretation and expectation of an Elected President, a President that they took the trouble to vote, not just any appointed President when they have no say at all. They, rightly or wrongly, feel that the President should be more than a dud. They think that being the highest office in the country, he must be able to speak up on national issues that affect their lives and have some influence on the govt.
However, these are just layman’s views, and everyone can have a view. The Law Minister too has a view. He has spoken quite comprehensively on what the EP can or cannot do. He even quoted the constitution. Now, is he just expressing a legal opinion based on his professional background, or is he taking a position, that what he said is the govt’s definition of the role of the EP?
There is still the judicial, the courts of law that will have the final say as to the interpretation of the constitution. Until the courts have its say, it is all a matter of interpretation, and naturally everyone is trying to interpret it to his own advantage.
According to the constitution, Article 21(1) as quoted by Shanmugam, it says the President shall ‘act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet’. So the EP can only act under the advice of the Cabinet and not otherwise.
What does this mean, cannot go against the will of the Cabinet? What if the Cabinet push out a bill to spend all the reserves and ask the President to sign? Now can the President then act against the advice of the Cabinet. Surely he can, or else how is he going to protect the reserves.
How many things that the EP can or cannot do that are specified by the constitution? Or is it another case of No U Turn sign. If there is a U Turn sign only can make a U Turn and if there is a No U Turn sign cannot make U Turn. No sign means cannot do anything. I am not sure how many pages are there in the constitution that described what the EP can or cannot do.
From what was reported, one thing for sure, if he is nice to the PM, he may be able to influence the PM over beer, I think.