Motion of Thanks on President’s Address (TH)

Context: The Lok Sabha witnessed repeated disruptions on Thursday as a united Opposition insisted on having a separate discussion on the farm laws instead of clubbing it with the motion thanking the President for his address to the joint sitting of Parliament.

Analysis

  • All executive power is vested in the President of India.
  • The Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister aids and advises the President who exercises his powers in accordance to such advice.
  • Article 86(1) of the Constitution provides that the President may address either House of Parliament or both Houses assembled together, and for that purpose require the attendance of members. However, since the commencement of the Constitution, there has not been any occasion when the President has addressed either House or both Houses assembled together, under the provision of this article.
  • Article 87 of the constitution provides two instances when the President specially addresses both Houses of Parliament assembled together.
  • Article 87(1) says: “At the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons.”
  • Thus, the President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session (1st session of the year) every year is a Constitutional requirement.
  • This Address has to be to both Houses of Parliament assembled together. If at the time of commencement of the first session of the year, Lok Sabha is not in existence and has been dissolved, and Rajya Sabha has to meet, Rajya Sabha can have its session without the President’s Address. 
  • In the case of the first session after each general election to Lok Sabha, the President addresses both Houses of Parliament assembled together after the members have made and subscribed the oath or affirmation and the Speaker has been elected.
  • The provision for Address by the Head of State to Parliament goes back to the year 1921 when the Central Legislature was set up for the first time under the Government of India Act, 1919.
  • Originally, the Constitution required the President to address both Houses of Parliament at the commencement of “every session”.
  • This requirement was changed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
  • When a session of Lok Sabha is not prorogued after being adjourned sine-die and subsequently re-convened to meet in the next calendar year, the President, in such cases, is not required to address both Houses of Parliament assembled together.
  • The President reads the Address either in English or in Hindi.
  • After the conclusion of the Address, there is a roll of drums followed by the National Anthem.
  • Half an hour after the President has finished speaking, the two Houses assemble separately in their respective Chambers for the transaction of formal business.
  • The Rajya Sabha Secretariat records one instance, in 2004, of the first session of the year not commencing with the President’s Address.
  • It is drafted by the Cabinet, and provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.
  • In this address, the president outlines the policies and programmes of the government in the preceding year and ensuing year.
  • It also indicates the main items of legislative business which are proposed to be brought during the session to be held in that year.
  • This address of the president, which corresponds to the ‘speech from the Throne in Britain’, is discussed in both the Houses of Parliament on a motion called the ‘Motion of Thanks’.
  1. The scope of discussion on the Address is very wide and the members are free to speak on all sorts of national or international problems.
  2. Even matters which are not specifically mentioned in the Address are brought into discussion through amendments to Motion of Thanks.
  3. The only limitations are that members cannot refer to matters which are not the direct responsibility of the Central Government and that the name of the President cannot be brought in during the debate since the Government and not the President is responsible for the contents of the Address.
  • Amendments to Motion of Thanks on President’s Address: Amendments may refer to matters contained in the Address as well as to matters which, in the opinion of the member, the Address has failed to mention.
  1. If any of the amendments is accepted then the Motion of Thanks is adopted in the amended form.
  2. There have been only three instances so far, when the Motion of Thanks was adopted by Rajya Sabha with amendments.
  • At the end of the discussion, the motion is put to vote. This motion must be passed in the House. Otherwise, it amounts to the defeat of the government.
  • This inaugural speech of the president is an occasion available to the members of Parliament to raise discussions and debates to examine and criticise the government and administration for its lapses and failures.

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