Amid the sound of trumpets in the central hall of the Parliament, when President Pranab Mukherjee addresses the joint session on Monday, it will be his first such speech after the Narendra Modi-led NDA government was sworn in last month.
The speech is basically a constitutional obligation for the president as the head of the state, where he will outline new government’s policies.
For example, former president Pratibha Patil, addressing first joint session of Parliament on June 4, 2009, after UPA-II was elected, said, “My government will ensure that the growth process is not only accelerated but also made socially and regionally more inclusive and equitable.”
The address on Monday will spell out the Modi government’s policy initiatives ranging from local to international relations which country intends to work on.
The presidential address is prepared with the collective effort by different ministries, as the prime minister’s office (PMO) requests all secretaries to suggest matters with respect to their departments. The address to the joint session of parliament is done under the provision of Article 87 (1) after members take oath. According to the parliament website, the provision for the address goes back to 1921, when the central legislature was set up for the first time under the Government of India Act, 1919.
The minister of parliamentary affairs confirms the date and time of the president’s speech, which is usually marked with certain ceremonies. The president, who arrives at gate number five of parliament house either in his car or presidential coach (buggy), is received by the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, the prime minister, the minister of parliamentary affairs and the secretaries-general of the two Houses. Then the president is taken to the central hall of the parliament, where the members rise from their places in mark of respect. The national anthem is played by the Rashtrapati Bhavan band, positioned in one of the lobbies of the Central Hall. The president then reads the address either in Hindi or English. After the conclusion of the address, the president takes leave.
The address is then discussed by the members of parliament in the form of the ‘Motion of Thanks’. The prime minister finally replies to the motion following debate by members in parliament.
However, such things are not entirely without controversy. In 1996, when the minority government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in, the then President Shankar Dayal Sharma refused to read out an address prepared by the government. Sharma’s argument was that the government’s majority was untested. Instead he prepared a draft of the address that he wanted to read out and sent it to the government. But later, under pressure from the Vajpayee government, he agreed to read out the address they had prepared.
On 20 December 1989, when then President R Venkataraman addressed the first joint session of parliament after VP Singh’s government took over, a member of the Rajya Sabha started shouting about the non-implementation of the assurances regarding the Mandal Commission, when the president read out a paragraph about it.
Otherwise, it has been a smooth run for the presidential address agenda of the government of the day.