The UPA followed NDA’s footsteps of adjourning ‘sine die’ the two Houses instead of proroguing, thereby depriving Prez of joint address in Parliament.

New Delhi :  President Pranab Mukherjee must be frowning at the government going for a session in February without the usual President’s address in the new year despite his well-known views he registered back on January 30, 2004 as then chief whip of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha.

He may not criticize the government now or express his anguish publicly, but he had certainly objected to the then NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee not proroguing Parliament after a short winter session in 2003 and then re-summoning the two Houses in January for passage of the vote-on-account, citing the Lok Sabha elections ahead.

The UPA government followed in the NDA’s footsteps of adjourning ‘sine die’ the two Houses instead of proroguing as that would have given Mukherjee an opportunity to address the joint session of Parliament twice.

“We are deprived of having the opportunity of reviewing the performance of the Government which is being provided in the Address of the President, and the President is also deprived of addressing the two Houses of Parliament in the election year twice. He would not have given his own version; he would have given the version, as dictated by the Government,” Mukherjee had retorted, pointing out that the President only reads out the government-prepared address.

Here goes his retort, not as the President today, but as a member of the Rajya Sabha in 2004, as culled out from the record of the official debates, to stress that the election year cannot be an excuse:

“…what is the rationale behind extending the Winter Session? Approval of the Vote on Account because the full Budget cannot be placed before the House due to General Election, is not an unusual thing. My colleague, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is sitting on my right, had presented the Vote on Account in 1996. He did not present the full Budget. That was the election year. We have seen it on a number of occasions that the Vote on Account is approved by the Lok Sabha normally in an election year…

“…the Houses are adjourned sine die by the respective Presiding Officers. In regard to the prorogation, which is a constitutional requirement, the Presiding Officers of both the Houses have a role to play. My point is that the Government of the day, to fulfil its own political agenda, to serve its own political agenda, has used the offices of the Presiding Officers.

“…we are doing away with another constitutional requirement which is under article 87, clause 1. As per that, the President is to address the Joint Session of both the Houses at the beginning of each year. There is a little history behind it. Even the very first amendment of the Constitution in 1951 took place on this issue. The original article 87 stipulated that each session of Parliament was to be

addressed by the President.

“Therefore, after the adoption of the Constitution on 26th January, 1950, when three sessions of the provisional Parliament took place, every session was addressed by the President, and it was pointed out that it is inconvenient. So, the first amendment to the Constitution took place in 1951 of article 87 and making a provision that the President will address only the first session of the year.

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