NEW DELHL India: President Zail Singh may withhold the assent to the bill authorizing the government to intercept mail. The bill which was passed by both Houses during the winter session was a matter of criticism throughout the country because it violated the privacy of the individuals and parties, etc. and gave the government power which democracies have been afraid to use even at the time of war or national crisis. Apparently the President has taken serious note of the criticism.

The law ministry says it sent to the President early last month two bills, one related to the enhancement of postal rates and the other an amendment to the Indian Post Office Act so as to allow the authorities to intercept the mail. The first bill was received from the President after signatures a few days ago and was implemented on January 1st. But the second bill according to the ministry has not been returned. Even the indiscreet enquiries have failed to solicit any Reply.

Under Article II of the Constitution a bill passed by both Houses of Parliament is presented to the President and he should declare either that he assents to the bill or he withholds the assent to the bill, therefore, in case he does not give assent he is authorized to return the bill with his message or recommendation for amendment.

Parliament is constitutionally bound to reconsider the bill accordingly. In case the two Houses pass the bill with or without amendment and send it back to the President for assent. He cannot withhold.

There have been cases where President is said to have withheld the bill passed by the state legislature and the government of India have been his prime advisors in such instances. The state governments have protested against undue rejection but ultimately have accepted it.

Never before a Central government has bill passed by the Parliament been withheld. Mr. Zail Singh may set a new precedent.

Article extracted from this publication >>  January 9, 1987