Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

History, Significance of President’s Address


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: President Address, Motion of Thanks

Mains level: Read the attached story


President Droupadi Murmu addressed the joint sitting of Parliament for the first time after assuming the position.

Mains PYQ: The President’s address is one of the most solemn occasions in the Parliamentary calendar. Discuss. Highlight its importance in Parliamentary Democracy. (250W)

President’s Address: What is the history?

  • United Kingdom: The tradition of the monarch addressing the Parliament began in the 16th century.
  • United States: President Gorge Washington addressed Congress for the first time in 1790.

President’s Address in India

(A) Colonial period

  • GoI Act, 1919: In India, the practice of the President addressing Parliament was established after the promulgation of the Government of India Act in 1919.
  • Governor General’s address: This law gave the GG the right of addressing the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State.
  • No joint address: 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.
  • During constituent assembly: Between 1947 and 1950, there was NO address to the Constituent Assembly (Legislative).

(B) After the enactment of Constitution

  • 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.
  • When the Constitution came into force, the President was required to address each session of Parliament. The Constitution gave the President and the Governor the power to address a sitting of the legislature.
  1. Article 87: It 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.
  2. Making it an annual affair: So during the provisional Parliament in 1950, President Prasad gave an address before every session. In 1951, the First Amendment to the Constitution changed this and made the President’s address an annual affair.

What is the procedure and tradition?

  • Motion of Thanks: After the President’s address, the two Houses move a motion to thank the President for her speech.
  • Debate on the speech: This is an occasion for MPs in the two Houses to have a broad debate on governance in the country.
  • PM addresses the questions: The issues raised by MPs are then addressed by the Prime Minister, who also replies to the motion of thanks.
  • Unanimous voting: The motion is then put to vote and MPs can express their disagreement by moving amendments to the motion.
  • Scope for Amendment: Opposition MPs have been successful in getting amendments passed to the motion of thanks in Rajya Sabha on five occasions, including in 1980, 1989, 2001, 2015 and 2016.
Do you know?

The Motion of Thanks must be passed in Parliament. Otherwise, it amounts to the defeat of the government. It is one of the ways through which the Lok Sabha can also express a lack of confidence in the government.

Content of the address

  • There is no set format for the President’s or Governor’s speech.
  • 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 proposal took inspiration from the US Constitution.
  • But the Constituent Assembly didn’t accept Prof Shah’s amendment.

What is the government’s role?

  • Written by the government: The President’s speech is essentially the govt. viewpoint and is also written by the government itself.
  • Inputs from various ministries: Usually, in December, the Prime Minister’s Office asks the various ministries to start sending in their inputs for the speech.
  • Collation of information: The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs sends a message, asking ministries to give information about any legislative proposals that need to be included in the President’s address. All this information is collated and shaped into a speech, which is then delivered to the President.
  • Role of Lok Sabha Secretariat: The address is an event, associated with ceremony and protocol, and the Lok Sabha Secretariat makes extensive arrangements for it.

Significance of the address

  • Policy announcements: The President’s address serves as a platform for the government to make policy and legislative announcements.
  • Report card of the government: It highlights the government’s accomplishments from the previous year and sets the broad governance agenda for the coming year.

What if the President disagrees with the text of the speech?

Ans. It is CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION on the President.

  • The President or Governor cannot refuse to perform the constitutional duty of delivering an address to the legislature.
  • But there can be situations when they deviate from the text of the speech prepared by the government.
  • So far, there have been no instances of a President doing so.

Recent instances of defiance

Ans. States vs. Governors

  • There have been occasions when a Governor skipped or changed a portion of the address to the Assembly.
  • Most recently, Tamil Nadu’s Governor made changes to the prepared speech he read out in the Assembly.
  • TN Chief Minister had to step in and move a resolution, which demanded that only the original speech given to the Governor be put in records.
  • In 2020, Kerala Governor, during his address to the Assembly, stopped before reading out his speech’s paragraph 18, which related to the Kerala government’s opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Why it is so cherished in democracy?

  • Parliament as a unit: 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.
  • Ceremonial event: The event is associated with ceremony and protocol. The Lok Sabha Secretariat prepares extensively for this annual event.
  • Grandeur: 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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