Wednesday, March 14, 2012

There are no amendments to the President's Speech to Parliament, there are amendments to Motion of Thanks

The President's Speech is a statement of the government. It is a statement of what the government has done and what the government intends to do. The President's Speech is debated in the two Houses in the form of Motion of Thanks. Opposition members criticise the government's claims made in the speech. In extreme case, the Motion of Thanks can be used to reject the government's claims, and amendments can be pressed to the Motion of Thanks. Rule 18 of the "Rules Of Procedure And Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha" says: "Amendments may be moved to such Motion of Thanks in such form as may be considered appropriate by the Speaker."

The tantrum of Trinamool Congress (TMC) that it wants, as is rumoured in the corridors of Parliament, that it wants the part relating to the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) to be deleted reflects deep ignorance and recklessness that is not expected of a political party. Nothing can be deleted from the President's Address once it is delivered. It is on record. The government cannot withdraw its statement. If Mamata Banerjee and other regional satraps like Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar feel strongly about states' rights, they can refuse to cooperate with the centre on the NCTC, and they can challenge it in the Supreme Court, or they can raise it separately in Parliament, especially in Rajya Sabha. And if the TMC want to make their objection to NCTC explicit, they can move an amendment to the Motion of Thanks expressing dissent on the NCTC question.

Does this necessarily lead to the fall of the government? It is not necessary. Even going by convention, it is only when the Money Bill falls, or even if a cut motion is passed in the Money Bill, then the government can choose to resign because it does not enjoy the freedom to spend money on projects it deems important. Of course, government can choose to resign and call for elections on any bill which is rejected in Lok Sabha. But there is no constitutional provision that the government has to fall because parliament rejects a bill. The only constitutional obligation for the government to quit is when it loses the trust vote in Lok Sabha, also known as the no-confidence motion.

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