On 7 January 1949, the Constituent Assembly took up Article 64 of the Draft Constitution (Article 77, Constitution of India 1950). The Draft Article provided for all executive action of the government of India to be taken in the name of the President.
Economist and socialist K.T. Shah pushed back against this provision. Moving an amendment, Shah wanted executive action to be taken in the name of the ‘Government of India’, not the President. He felt that Draft Article 64 offended all principles of the Draft Constitution. He argued that the Draft Constitution placed the President ‘outside the turmoil of parties’. Since the government of India was going to be a ‘party government’ or a ‘coalition government’, Shah noted, orders of the government of India must not be done in the name of the President.
Ananthasaynam Ayyangar, prominent freedom fighter and lawyer, came to the defence of Draft Article 64. He reminded Shah that the Assembly had already approved Draft Articles 42 and 66: these vested the President with the executive power of the Union and made the President an integral element of the parliament of India. In light of this, Ayyangar continued, to provide for executive actions of the government of India to be carried out in the name of the President was nothing more than an implementation of Draft Articles 42 and 66.
Ayyangar further argued that the Draft Constitution gave the President the power to dissolve parliament and ministries. This, he seemed to suggest, implied that the President enjoyed supremacy in the executive space. In the absence of an elected parliament and ministries, under whose executive authority would the business of the government of India be run?, asked Ayyangar. In such a situation, he continued, ‘…the President has to exercise the powers’.
He ended his intervention by emphasising that ‘it is impossible to get him [President] out of the framework. The President is the chief executive authority and he is an important link in Parliament. It naturally flows that executive action should be taken in the name of the President’.
At the end of the debate, Draft Article 64 was taken up for voting. The Assembly accepted the Draft Article and rejected Shah’s amendment.