President bound to act as per council of ministers advice: Mukherjee

New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said that as per the constitutional scheme of things, the President of India was bound to act as per the advice tendered by the Union Council of Ministers.

Going down memory lane while speaking at the Indira Gandhi centenary celebrations function here, he said the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi introduced an amendment to Article 74 of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) to ensure this.

“It is my view that historians need to study this period more closely. The office of the President is a constitutional non-executive position,” Mukherjee said.

“I have often wondered why (Neelam) Sanjiva Reddy wanted to be the President at the age of 54. Two questions are moot in this regard. Why did a person from the judiciary, a former Chief Justice of India, himself jump into the Presidential elections of 1967…?”

“Why did Sanjiva Reddy, a relatively young man, only four years older than Indira ji, opt for the Presidential office with hardly any executive powers?”

Was Sanjiva Reddy’s nomination an effort to curtail the powers of the (then) Prime Minister? the President asked.

“Did Indira ji’s rivals want to use the constitutional office to provoke a confrontation between the President and the Prime Minister? Perhaps Indira ji opposed Sanjiva Reddy’s candidature because she saw through this game,” said Mukherjee.

“She saw an attempt was being made to dilute the Prime Minister’s authority and to enhance the President’s role. Indira ji felt strongly that in a parliamentary democracy like India, the Prime Minister’s role should be paramount,” he added.

The President said: “It is perhaps in line with this thinking that she introduced the amendment to Article 74. Indira ji did not want to provide any elbow room to the President for discretionary action,” Mukherjee added.