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 87 of the constitution provides two instances when the President specially addresses both Houses of Parliament.
- The President of India addresses both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha at the beginning of the first Session after each general election when the reconstituted lower house meets for the first time.
- The President also addresses both the houses at beginning of the first session of each year.
A session of a new or a continuing legislature cannot begin without fulfilling this requirement.
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.
Besides being a constitutional requirement, the President’s or Governor’s Address is keenly watched as it outlines the government’s policy agenda and stand on issues.
When the Constitution came into force, the President was required to address each session of Parliament.So during the provisional Parliament in 1950, the President gave an address for all three sessions.
At the suggestion of Speaker G V Mavalankar, the first Constitutional Amendment in 1951 changed this position.
Parallels in other countries
Similar provisions exist in other democracies.
- In the United States, it is referred to as the “State of the Union”. The phrase comes from an article in the US Constitution which specifies that the President, “from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
- In the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Queen’s Speech and is part of the ceremony to mark the formal start of the parliamentary year.
- In the American system, the President has the option of simply sending his written speech to Congress instead of personally going to deliver He also puts forward the position of his administration. In the British system, the Queen’s speech written by the government. She reads it in person from the throne in the House of Lords.
Indian and British System
The President’s Address in India is mirrored on the British system.
During the framing of the Constitution, B R Ambedkar drew a similarity between the President and the monarch under the English system. He said the President “is the Head of State but not of the executive. He represents the nation but does not rule the nation. He is the symbol of the nation. His place in the administration is that of a ceremonial device of a seal by which the nation’s decisions are made known”.
Content of the President’s or Governor’s address
The Constitution binds the President to act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers of the Union on a majority of issues. Therefore, the speech that the President or the Governor reads before the legislature is the viewpoint of the government and is prepared by it.
- The President’s speech follows the convention of the British system, where it contains legislative and policy proposals that the government intends to initiate.
- The speech also recaps the government’s accomplishment in the previous years.
- The contents of the speech are put together by aggregating inputs from various ministries of the government.
- The President 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 President doing so.
- After the President delivers the address, a debate takes place not only on the contents of the address but also the broad issues of governance in the country.
- This then paves the way for discussion on the Budget.