Under Article 75(1) of the Constitution of India, the Presidential
prerogative power has been given which provides that "The Prime Minister shall
be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the
President on the advice of the Prime Minister."The prerogative power is
described as the inherent power of the Head of the State which emanates from the
nature of his office which is the appointment of the Prime minister.
This power of the president has been recognized in the Constitution Debate on
December 30, 1948, by Dr. B.R. Ambedkhar has pointed out that:
With regard to
the appointment of Prime Minister it is not possible to avoid vesting the
discretion in the President. The only other way by which we could provide for
the appointment of the Prime Minister without vesting the authority or the
discretion in the President, is to require that it is the House which shall in
the first instance choose its leader, and then on the choice being made by a
motion or resolution, the President should proceed to appoint the Prime
Minister. Therefore, one way is as good as the other and it is therefore felt
desirable to leave this matter in the discretion of the President. 
It is also to be noted from the parliamentary system that the President is the
head of the State whereas the Prime Minister is the Head of the Government and
also of the Council of Ministers. Our Constitution of India does not provide as
to whether the Head of the Government should be appointed from the upper house
or lower house of the legislature. However, the collective responsibility of the
council of ministers to the lower house of the people presupposes that the prime
minister would be from the Lok Sabha.
Thus, there are limitations on the discretion power of the president if a party
securing majority in the Lok Sabha and has a recognized leader, which is
reinforced under Article 75(3) of the Indian Constitution which states that "The
Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the
People." Such appointment was supported by Shri N. Gopal Swami Ayyangar in
the Constituent Assembly on July 28, 1947, pointing out that the president
should appoint a Prime Minister who will be the leader of the party because of
the support of party itself or of the other groups in the House of the People as
to command fairly stable majority. 
Therefore, the historical evolution of the appointment of the Prime Minister by
the president can be explained through the practice followed by the president
during his office. He exercises this power either after the elections or when
there is a vacancy in the office of the Prime Minister. These vacancies in the
country which are elaborated further had aroused in 1964 and 1966 when there was
a natural death of the Prime Minister, in 1979 and 1990 when there was a
resignation and in 1984 when there was an assassination. Therefore, there are
various incidents where the president has played its discretionary role in
appointing the Prime Minister in the past.
Death of the Prime Minister:
In 1964, the instance for real exercise of the
power to appoint Prime minister came into existence during the presidentship of
Shri. Radhakrishnan because of the death of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
which led to the end of his government. The ruling party congress could not
recognize its leader and therefore, the president exercised his discretion power
independently of the Emergency Committee's identical recommendation and
appointed Prime Minister Shri G.L Nanda because he was the senior most cabinet
member and not the leader of any of the party of the two houses.
In 1966, Mrs. Indira Gandhi was a member of the Council of State, she was
appointed as the Prime Minister by the president. After, her appointment the
question aroused as to whether the Head of the Government should be appointed
from the Lok Sabha which led to rejection of the Bill providing the amendment
that it is mandatory to be the member of the Lok Sabha. However, Constitution
of India does not make it mandatory that the Prime Minister must belong to the
Legislature at the time of his appointment.
However, he is required to enter the
Legislature within six months of his appointment as a Prime Minister. The same
event was in June 1991, when the Prime Minister Shri Narasimha Rao was appointed
by the President, who was not a Member of Parliament and was required by the
Constitution to enter Parliament within six months of his appointment as Prime
In 1984, the role of president was emphasized in the appointment
of the Prime Minister when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated and thus,
President Shri Zail Singh appointed 44th Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by proving
his majority on the floor of the house. Similarly, in 1989, when no party won
the majority in the Lok Sabha, President Shri Venkataraman invited Congress (I)
which was a largest party to form the government and this was refused by the
The president gave opportunity to V.P. Singh, a leader of the National
Front and Bhartiya Janta party coalition to from the government. These
appointments of providing the opportunity to explore the possibilities of
forming an alternative government were departed from the earlier practice of the
president to name a Prime minister as in the case of demise of the Jawaharlal
The president also has its discretionary powers on the
appointment of the Prime Minister when the government resigns because of the
anticipation of its defeat in the floor of the house and the majority party of
the Lok Sabha splits. In 1979, there was a move of no confidence motion against
the Prime Minister Shri Moraji Desai by the leader of the Congress (S) Shri Y.B
Chavan. There was a resignation of a leadership by the prime minister without
facing the vote of no confidence on the anticipation that there was a
large-scale defection from his ruling party.
Meantime, president provided an
opportunity to Mr. Chavan Singh to form an alternative government, but he failed
to prove his majority in the house and Moraji again claim to form a stable
government. Thus, there aroused the question that whether the President can
invite a leader for re-appointment, who has already resigned from the office of
the Prime Minister ship owing to no confidence motion lying before the House.
However, in this situation the president chose the unprecedented practice of
inviting both the candidates to explore the possibilities of forming the
government and submission of the list of ministers who are in support of their
leadership. This step of president led to formation of the Chavan Singh's
leadership because of his list of supporters being more than that of the Morarji
and thus he was invited to seek confidence motion and to form the government.
There were several critics from such discretionary powers of the president
powers of appointing the Prime minister which provided an opportunity to the
Prime Minister designate to seek votes in the Lok Sabha. As it has been stated
that as long as the prime minister enjoys the support in the house he does not
have to seek vote of confidence in the lower house.
It was also criticized that
the president has advocated as a speaker of the house by inviting the leaders to
provide list of its supporters. Others criticizes that it's the advice of the
Prime Minister which is binding on the president and not a vice versa as after
the President had exercised the prerogative and appointed the Prime Minister, he
does not have the power to advice or give directions to the Prime Minister on
discharging his duties.
Therefore, the evolution of presidential powers with reference to appointment of
the Prime Minister has been depended on the practice been followed by each
president in its tenure. However, the constitutional provisions clearly states
that the president has the discretionary powers to appoint the Prime Minister
regardless of his membership are there in either of the houses of the
Moreover, there are also events where the Prime Minister has been
appointed without his membership in the parliament, but he must seek confidence
motion within six months of the appointment in the house of the legislature.
Thus, the president has practiced its discretionary powers in the past with
respect to the powers attained from the constitution provisions and in some
cases, it has provided the opportunity to the prime minister designate to form
an alternative form of government.
- Article 75(1), Constitution of India, 1949.
- Constituent Assembly Debates (New Delhi, Lok Sabha Secretariat), Vol.7,
December 30, 1948.
- Article 75 (3), Constitution of India,1949.
- Constituent Assembly Debates (New Delhi, Lok Sabha Secretariat), Vol. 4,
July 28, 1947.
- Lok Sabha Debates (New Delhi : Lok Sabha Secretariat), 53(32), April 1,
1966, c. 9140.