On the first day of the Parliament session in a new year, the President addresses a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament. It is the only time of the year when the President and the two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, that constitute the Indian Parliament, assemble under one roof.
In his speech to Members of Parliament in Central Hall, the President highlights the government’s achievements in the previous year and outlines its legislative and policy priorities for the coming year. The President also addresses a joint sitting of both Houses at the beginning of the Parliament session after a general election.
Article 87 of our Constitution requires the President to deliver this address to both Houses and “inform Parliament of the causes of its summons”. We have borrowed this phrase from the British Parliament, where the Queen’s speech to the Houses of Commons and Lords marks the beginning of the British parliamentary calendar.
Similarly, in the United States, the American Constitution requires the President to give Congress information on the State of the Union from time to time.
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The government drafts the President’s Address to Parliament. Usually, in December, the Prime Minister’s Office reaches out to government departments for information to be included in the President’s speech. The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs conducts a similar exercise focusing on legislative proposals “meriting mention” in the address. The address is given final shape after compiling the inputs from the different arms of the government. The President then reads it out before Parliament.
The President’s Address is an important policy document of the government. For the current year, it lays out the roadmap that the government intends to follow. For previous years it serves as a record of government thinking and its engagement with issues.
In his Address to both Houses on Tuesday, President Pranab Mukherjee referred to the government’s step to demonetise high denomination currency notes, and to carry out surgical strikes against terrorists aided by Pakistan. He also spoke of Sabka saath, sabka vikas, and the Prime Minister’s pet Swachh Bharat and ‘Give it Up’ missions.