At the conclusion of arguments, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved verdict on the issue whether 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.

Ramdas Athawale, former national president of the Republican Party of India, challenged the then Speaker’s decision to dispense with the President’s address when Parliament was convened on January 29, 2004.

“Unconstitutional”

His counsel, H.K. Puri argued that there was no presidential address at the first session of 2004 as envisaged under Article 87, and therefore the Lok Sabha proceedings in the session were unconstitutional, illegal, and void.

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. Counsel argued that the sitting, which commenced that day, was the first session for 2004 in terms of Article 87. But the provisions of this Article were not complied with.

Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati argued that the winter session was adjourned and the House was not prorogued. As a result, the sitting begun January 29, 2004 was not a new one but continuation of the winter session.

Quoting Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha, he said: “If the House is merely adjourned, as is the case here, the Speaker under Rule 15 can call a sitting at any time after it has been adjourned. The sitting so re-convened after the adjournment sine die is the next part of the same session.”

The Attorney-General said the first session of the year, as provided under Article 87, could not refer to resumption of the adjourned session. “It must refer to a new session.”

Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices S.H. Kapadia, R.V. Raveendran, B. Sudershan Reddy and P. Sathasivam were on the Bench.

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