PM Modi Inaugurating New Parliament: Why Claims Of Unconstitutionality Are Baseless

PM Modi Inaugurating New Parliament: Why Claims Of Unconstitutionality Are Baseless

by Yathansh Joshi - Thursday, May 25, 2023 06:01 PM IST
PM Modi Inaugurating New Parliament: Why Claims Of Unconstitutionality Are BaselessView of the new Parliament building set to be inaugurated this Sunday. (Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar)

Recently, the slated inauguration of the new Parliament on 28 May (Sunday) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sparked controversy with over 19 opposition parties boycotting the inauguration ceremony.

In a joint statement released by them, the opposition has alleged, amongst other things, that the inauguration must be done by the President and not the Prime Minister.

Terming it as an attempt at self-aggrandizement, many in the opposition camp have repeatedly alleged that the PM inaugurating the Parliament complex instead of the President doing so, is ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘undemocratic’.

In fact, recently, a PIL has also been filed in the Supreme Court, demanding that the new Parliament must be inaugurated by the President only.

Such demands are not only without precedent, but claims of unconstitutionality against the inauguration ceremony being done by the Prime Minister are also without locus and substance.

A simple legal analysis of the relevant Constitutional provisions and principles sheds light on the same.

Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari had taken to Twitter to substantiate the claims of unconstitutionality by citing certain Articles of the Constitution of India – Articles 60, 79 and 111.

However, the content of those Articles have little do with their claims. For reference, Articles 60 and 79 of the Constitution of India are reproduced below:

Article 60: Every President and every person acting as President or discharging the functions of the President shall, before entering upon his office, make and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice of India or, in his absence, the senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court available, an oath or affirmation in the following form, that is to say—

“I, A.B., do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President (or discharge the functions of the President) of India and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India.”

Article 79: There shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of States and the House of the People.

Article 111 of the Constitution of India details on the manner in which the President is to go about declaring his/her assent to a bill brought to it after receiving the assent from both the houses of the parliament - in a nutshell, highlighting the key function performed by the President vis-a-vis the Parliament.

Thus, Articles 60, 79 and 111 of the Constitution of India, read in conjunction, make it clear that the President is a part of the Parliament, and is fundamental to its structure and its operation.

However, the Congress leaders seek to interpret the same to denote that the President is the ‘head’ of the Parliament, and in every way the only constitutionally authorized individual appropriate to inaugurate the Parliament building.

The claims are incorrect on multiple grounds.

While the President is a key functionary of the Parliament (Article 79) and appoints the head of the government, it is the Prime Minister, i.e., the leader of the ruling party/coalition in the Parliament, which is the Leader of the Parliament. The President is the Constitutional head of the State.

Further, the cited provisions do not in any breadth indicate that non-executive and political functions/events such as inauguration of monuments, buildings, etc. are to be performed by the President only, or for that matter provide no such ‘constitutional’ or ‘democratic’ compulsion for the participation or primacy of the President in such ceremonies.

In addition, no such precedent has also been always adhered to.

Article 60 of the Constitution of India, projecting the Oath administered to the President, is being touted by the opposition to build a claim that the President is the head of the Parliament, and hence, it is unconstitutional for the PM to not invite the President to inaugurate the new Parliament.

This claim is devoid not only any legal finesse, but also of logic.

Thus, not only is the claim of unconstitutionality against the inauguration by PM and not the President, without any legal locus, but it is also a portrayal of severe twisting of logic to seek a non-existent Constitutional compulsion for an inauguration ceremony.

It is evident that the allegations of unconstitutionality by the opposition are a veiled attempt at shielding their innate inability to celebrate the inauguration of a monument of national character as they have reservations about associating its opening with PM Modi.

This is despite the fact that he is the democratically elected leader of the Parliament – the seat of legislature – and it is not inappropriate in any manner for the PM to inaugurate it.

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