The President's address to both Houses of Parliament at the first session of every year could be dispensed with if it is considered resumption of an adjourned sitting, the Supreme Court held on Monday. Giving this interpretation, a Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices S.H. Kapadia, R.V. Raveendran, B. Sudershan Reddy and P. Sathasivam dismissed a writ petition by Ramdas Athawale, former national president of the Republican Party of India, who challenged the then Speaker's decision to dispense with the President's address when Parliament was convened on January 29, 2004.

The winter session was adjourned sine die on December 23, 2003. However, a notice was issued on January 20, 2004 stating the Lok Sabha would resume on January 29. The petitioner contended that there was no presidential address in the first session of 2004 as envisaged under Article 87, and therefore the Lok Sabha proceedings that session were unconstitutional, illegal, and void.

Justice Reddy, writing the judgment for the Bench, said: “Whenever the House resumes after it was adjourned sine die, its resumption for the purpose of continuing its business does not amount to commencement of a session.”

The Bench pointed out that the Speaker gave a ruling that since the House was not prorogued after it was adjourned sine die on December 23, 2003, the session could at best be treated as the second part of the 14th session of the 13th Lok Sabha “notwithstanding the fact that the calendar year has since changed.” The session convened from January 29, 2004 was held to be the second part of the winter session.

The Bench said: “The Speaker is the guardian of the privileges of the House and its spokesman and representative on all occasions. He is the interpreter of its rules and procedure and is invested with the power to control and regulate the course of debate and to maintain order. Whether the resumed sittings on January 29, 2004 were to be treated as the second part of the 14th session as directed by the Speaker is essentially a matter relating purely to the procedure of Parliament. The validity of the proceedings and business transacted in the House after the resumption of its sittings cannot be tested and gone into by this court in a proceeding under Article 32.”

Fine balance

The Bench said: “The courts cannot go into the lawfulness of the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament. The Constitution aims at maintaining a fine balance among the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.” Further, in this case there was no complaint of any infringement of fundamental rights. “Whenever a person complains and claims that there is a violation of any provision of law or a constitutional provision, it does not automatically involve a breach of the fundamental right for the enforcement of which alone Article 32 is attracted.”

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