More than just an address

Source– The post is based on the article “More than just an address” published in The Hindu on 14th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2-Polity

Relevance: Political System

News- The article highlights breach of constitutional convention with respect to special address made by governor.

The Governor of Tamil Nadu, R.N. Ravi made constitutional history in the State by omitting certain paragraphs. He departed from the official text of his special address at the opening of the Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu for 2023.

What is a special address made by the president and governor?

Article 87 of the Indian Constitution requires the President to make a special address to both Houses of Parliament assembled on the commencement of the first session of each year.  Article 176 requires the Governor to make a special address at the first session of each year of every State Legislative Assembly and to both Houses wherever the State also has a Legislative Council. The language of these provisions were borrowed from the rules of the House of Commons.

Jawaharlal Nehru, stated that the President’s address is nothing but a statement of policy of the government.

The Calcutta High Court, while interpreting this article in Syed Abdul Mansur Habibullah v. The Speaker, West Bengal Legislative Assembly (1966), held that the special address  keeps the members informed about the executive policies and legislative programme of the State government.

What does departure from the official text of a special address mean?

When there is an independent power provided under Article 175, it is a serious impropriety for any Governor (or even the President) to omit several paragraphs from the speech prepared by the incumbent government.

The Supreme Court has held that constitutional conventions are as much a part of the Constitution as its written text.

These conventions fill the interstices of a written Constitution and enable effective coordination between the legislature, executive and the judiciary.

Article 361 of the Constitution gives the Governor complete immunity from any legal action because our founding fathers hoped that Governors would maintain the highest standards of rectitude and propriety.

What is the role of the Governor in this regard?

The special address of the Governor is an important constitutional duty. It is performed with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head.

The constitutional role of the Governor is that of an elder statesman who brings a sense of gravitas to this high office.

The residents of Raj Bhavans are expected to be above party politics and should not hamper the functioning of a duly elected State government.


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