- The President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session every year is a Constitutional requirement.
- 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.”
- 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 — Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru argued in Parliament that it was too cumbersome to have the President, complete with the entire paraphernalia that his office carries, address the Houses every time they met.
- Replying to the debate on Clause 7 of The Constitution (First Amendment) Bill, 1951, Nehru said: “The real difficulty of course, is that this involves a certain preparation outside this House which is often troublesome.
- Members are aware that when a coach and six horses come all kinds of things have to be done for that purpose. Anyhow that trouble does not fall on the House or members thereof, but on the administration of Delhi.” [‘President’s Address, Motion of Thanks and Messages’, Rajya Sabha At Work (Chapter 7), Rajya Sabha Secretariat (2017)]
- The President’s Address at the beginning of the first session each year takes place at the time and date notified for the commencement of the session. Barring some exceptions in the early years of the Republic, it has generally taken place at 11 am.
- 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 of the first session of the year not commencing with the President’s Address.
- In 2004, when the House assembled for the first time in the year on 30 January 2004, it was not treated as the first session of the year but as Part II of the 200th session of Rajya Sabha which commenced on 2 December 2003. Therefore, the session did not commence with the Address by the President.
- The President addressed both Houses of Parliament assembled together on 7 June 2004 in the 201st Session after the general elections to the Fourteenth Lok Sabha.
- The President’s speech essentially highlights the government’s policy priorities and plans for the upcoming year. It is drafted by the Cabinet, and provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.