Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

President’s address in Parliament

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : President’s address

Mains level : Significance of Presidential address

Many Opposition parties announced their decision to boycott the President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the three farm laws.

Try this PYQ:

Q. The President’s address is one of the most solemn occasions in the Parliamentary calendar. Discuss. Highlight its importance in Parliamentary Democracy.

President’s address

  • The Constitution gives the President the power to address either House or a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.
  • Article 87 provides two special occasions on which the President addresses a joint sitting. The first is to address the opening session of a new legislature after a general election.
  • The second is to address the first sitting of Parliament each year. A session of a new or continuing legislature cannot begin without fulfilling this requirement.
  • When the Constitution came into force, the President was required to address each session of Parliament.

In the UK, the history of the monarch addressing the Parliament goes back to the 16th century.  In the US, President Gorge Washington addressed Congress for the first time in 1790.

History & precedent

  • In India, the practice of the President addressing Parliament can be traced back to the Government of India Act of 1919.
  • This law gave the Governor-General the right of addressing the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State.
  • The law did not have a provision for a joint address but the Governor-General did address the Assembly and the Council together on multiple occasions.
  • There was no address by him to the Constituent Assembly (Legislative) from 1947 to 1950.
  • And after the Constitution came into force, President Rajendra Prasad addressed members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for the first time on January 31, 1950.

By the govt, about the govt

  • The President’s speech essentially highlights the government’s policy priorities and plans for the upcoming year. The address provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.
  • There is no set format for the President’s speech. The Constitution states that the President shall “inform Parliament of the cause of the summons”.

How it is done in India?

  • The speech that the President reads is the viewpoint of the government and is written by it.
  • Usually, in December, the PM’s Office asks the various ministries to start sending in their inputs for the speech.
  • A message also goes out from the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs asking ministries to send information about any legislative proposals that need to be included in the President’s address.
  • All this information is aggregated and shaped into a speech, which is then sent to the President. The government uses the President’s address to make policy and legislative announcements.

Assembly debates on the matter

  • During the making of the Constitution, Prof K T Shah wanted the President’s address to be more specific.
  • He suggested that the language be changed to specify that the President shall inform Parliament “on the general state of the Union including financial proposals, and other particular issues of policy he deems suitable for such address”.
  • His amendment was inspired by the US Constitution, according to which the President gives to Congress information on the State of the Union, and recommend measures as he shall judge necessary.
  • But Shah’s amendment was rejected by the Constituent Assembly.
  • The address of the President follows a general structure in which it highlights the government’s accomplishments from the previous year and sets the broad governance agenda for the coming year.

Notable addresses till date

  • In 1985 President Giani Zail Singh announced that PM Rajiv Gandhi’s government intended to introduce a new national education policy and the anti-defection law.
  • In 1996, PM Vajpayee’s 13-day government announced its intention of giving statehood to Uttaranchal and Vananchal (Jharkhand) and 33 percent reservation to women in legislatures.
  • During his second stint in 1999, Vajpayee’s government mooted the idea of a fixed term for Lok Sabha and State Vidhan Sabhas.
  • After the devastating tsunami of 2004, PM Manmohan Singh’s government used the President’s Address to announce the creation of a national law for disaster management.

Procedure & tradition

  • In the days following the President’s address, a motion is moved in the two Houses thanking the President for his address.
  • This is an occasion for MPs in the two Houses to have a broad debate on governance in the country.
  • The PM replies to the motion of thanks in both Houses and responds to the issues raised by MPs.
  • The motion is then put to vote and MPs can express their disagreement by moving amendments to the motion.

Role of the opposition

  • Opposition MPs have been successful in getting amendments passed to the motion of thanks in Rajya Sabha on five occasions (1980, 1989, 2001, 2015, 2016).
  • They have been less successful in Lok Sabha. For example in 2018, Lok Sabha MPs tabled 845 amendments of which 375 were moved and negated.

Significance of the address

  • The President’s address is one of the most solemn occasions in the Parliamentary calendar.
  • It is the only occasion in the year when the entire Parliament, i.e. the President, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha come together.
  • The event is associated with ceremony and protocol.
  • The Lok Sabha Secretariat prepares extensively for this annual event.
  • In the past, it used to get 150 yards of red baize cloth from the President’s house for the ceremonial procession.
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