Thursday, October 6, 2022

Nothing unconstitutional about TS budget session

  • Precedents are there where Lok Sabha held session without President’s address
  • AP before bifurcation had Assembly sessions twice without Governor’s address
  • West Bengal, Puducherry also did the same
  • Apex court made  it amply clear in 2004

The budget session of Telangana legislature from March 7 will start without the conventional address by the Governor as was decided at Monday’s Cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. It was decided that Finance Minister Harish Rao will straight away present the annual budget on the first day itself.

The decision is in accordance with the Constitution. There have been precedents.  In united Andhra Pradesh, assembly session was conducted without Governor’s address to both Houses in 1970 and prior to bifurcation of the State in 2014.West Bengal Assembly started its session in 2020-21 without Governor’s address. Kiran Bedi also did not address the budget session of the legislature of Union Territory of Puducherry.

The decision of the Telangana government evoked interest because of reports of widening gap between Governor Tamilsai Soundararajan and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao with CM and his colleagues not attending the flag hoisting by the Governor on Republic Day. The Governor in her address spoke of Prime Minister’s initiatives elaborately whereas the initiatives by the State government were mentioned briefly. If one takes into account the CM’s oft repeated stance that the present constitution has to be replaced by new constitution, it is reasonable to guess that something is happening which is not approved by or in defiance of the constitution.

However, there is nothing unconstitutional about commencing the budget session on March 7 without formal address by the Governor. It was very clearly mentioned by the Supreme Court in its judgment on the petition filed by Ramdas Athawale, present Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, in 2004. The case was heard by the then Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and judges S.H. Kapadia, RV Raveendran, B. Sudershan Reddy and P. Sathasivam. The judgment was delivered by Justice B. Sudershan Reddy. The petition questioned the decision to convene Parliament session on 29 January 2004 and there was no address by the President as provided in Article 87(1). The question raised was whether it was the first session of the year or continuation of the last session adjourned sine die on 23 December 2003. The apex court held that it was continuation of the last session.

The first amendment

The judgment said Article 85 and 87 were amended so as to do away with the summoning of Parliament twice a year and the Constitutional requirement of President’s special address at the commencement of each session…The House is now prorogued only once a year and the President addresses both the Houses of Parliament only at the commencement of the first session of each year.

Article 87, the judgment said, as it originally stood, provided for President’s address in “every session of the year.” The first amendment carried out in 1951 replaced the words “every session” with “first session of each year.” (The year is not calendar year. Year commences only after prorogation).  By the first amendment Act 85 and Act 87 were also amended. While intervening in the debate, Dr. Ambedkar, with reference to the amendment to Art 85, stated: “… due to the word summon, the result is that although Parliament may sit for the whole year  adjourning from time to time, it is still capable of being said Parliament has been summoned only once and not twice. There must be prorogation in order that there may be a new session. It is felt that this difficulty should be removed and consequently the first part has been deleted. The provision that whenever there is a prorogation of  Parliament, the new session should be called within six months is retained.”

The judgment also quoted from Kaul & Shakdher’s Practice and Procedure of Parliament (5th edition at page 180) which said: “Before Art 87(1) was amended in its present form by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, the article required the President to address both the Houses assembled together at the commencement of each session. Accordingly, the President addressed each of the three sessions held in 1950 of the provisional Parliament…Speaker Mavalankar,  in this connection, suggested that instead of the President addressing each session, it might be provided that he would give his address at the commencement of the first session (First Amendment Bill, 1951) as reported by the Select Committee. It observed: “The real difficulty, of course, is that this (address) involves certain preparation   outside this House which is often troublesome.”

Distinction between adjournment and prorogation

The judgment also delved on the distinction between prorogation and adjournment. It said, “…When the House is prorogued, all the pending matters of the House are not crashed and pending Bills do not lapse. The prorogation of the House may take place at any time even after the adjournment of the House or even while the House is sitting. An adjournment of the House contemplates postponement of the sitting of proceedings of either House to reassemble on another specified date. During currency of a session the House  may adjourned for a day or more than a day. Adjournment of the House is also sine die. When the House is adjourned the pending procedures or Bills do not lapse.

An adjournment is an interruption in the course of one and the same session, whereas a prorogation terminates a session. The effect of prorogation is to put an end with some exceptions to all proceedings in Parliament then current.

Kaul & Shakdher’s Practice and Procedure of Parliament further explains the constitutional position succinctly stating, “The session of Lok Sabha comprises the period commencing from the date and time mentioned in the order of the President summoning Lok Sabha and ending with the day the President prorogues or dissolves the Lok Sabha.” It is thus clear a session commenced in terms of the order of the President summoning the House can come to an end only with the day on which the President prorogues the House of dissolves the Lok Sabha.

The eighth session of the eighth Lok Sabha commenced on 23-2-1987 and adjourned sine die on 12-5-1987. The Lok Sabha was not prorogued.   It was reconvened on 27-7- 1987 and it went on till 28-8-1987. It was considered as continuation of the same session.

What applies to Parliament applies to legislature and what is said about President holds good for Governor. So, there is nothing unconstitutional about the decision to reconvene the Assembly which was adjourned sine die on 8 October 2021 and not prorogued.    

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor

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