Delhi’s architectural identity, the circular Parliament House, will cease to function as the venue for Parliament of India after the new building for Parliament is opened on 28 May.
The iconic Parliament House, with a circumference of one-third of a mile and a colonnade of 144 columns on the first floor, saw the First Day of the First Session of the First Parliament of India on 13th May, 1952.
The four-day first week of the session, beginning Tuesday, saw oath-taking by members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. President Rajendra Prasad delivered his first address to a joint sitting of Parliament on Friday, the 16th May.
Before the Presidential address, there were felicitations for Lok Sabha’s first Speaker G V Mavalankar on the 15th May. When the two Houses met after the Presidential address the next day, the Rajya Sabha’s first Chairman S Radhakrishnan was felicitated. After the address, the Lok Sabha saw rejection of the first three adjournment motions sought by members on food subsidies.
On the first day, the Lok Sabha met “at a Quarter to Eleven of the Clock.” The proceedings began with observance of silence for two minutes.
After this, the Secretary of the House, M N Kaul, read out orders of the President to appoint G V Mavalankar and M Ananthasayanam Ayyangar to be the persons before whom the members could subscribe to their oath.
On Thursday, the 15th May, the Secretary read out the President’s order appointing another member of the House, B Das, to perform the duties of the Speaker, till the election of the Speaker during the day. The Prime Minister moved G V Mavalankar’s name for the Speaker’s post and it was seconded by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Satya Narayan Sinha.
A K Gopalan moved the name of Shankar Shantaram More for the Speaker’s post and it was seconded by T K Chaudhuri. In the contest that followed, Mavalankar won by getting 394 votes against More’s 55 votes.
Mavalankar was conducted to the Chair by the Prime Minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and A K Gopalan. The Prime Minister said “Sir, It is a very high honour for any person to be, as Speaker, the head of this great Parliament and if I may say so, it is an honour and a privilege for us in the House to have you in that Chair.”
S S More (Sholapur) said “Sir, I congratulate you. I am the defeated candidate and yet none is happier on your election than myself. In the best traditions of Parliament, a gracious custom prevails by which where two candidates are proposed for the Speakership, each candidate votes for the other candidate. l have observed that custom by voting for you.”
A K Gopalan said “Mr Speaker, on behalf of the hon. Members belonging to the Communist Party, the single largest party in this Parliament on this side, I heartily greet you and congratulate you on this occasion because you have been elected as the Speaker.”
Replying to the felicitations, the Speaker said “this House is different from its predecessors. Uptill now, whatever our ideologies and notions of public welfare and the functions of Government, we were all engaged in dislodging the foreign rule in our land; we have been successful in achieving independence, and we are now masters of our own destinies.”
“But the very fact of the end of the foreign rule has brought to the forefront, the vast differences in ideologies; and though our objective is common, as defined in the Constitution, we differ widely and sharply as regards the ways and means. This is but natural, and in a sense necessary also, for any parliamentary Government to function properly and for the real benefit of the people,” he said.
He said “At the same time, each one of us has to remember that, howsoever great the difference in viewpoints and methods, we are all meeting here, as representatives of the nation, for one common cause, which is, in the language of the Preamble to the Constitution,“to secure to all its citizens, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.”
“A parliamentary Government is described as Government by discussion. Every Member has the fullest liberty to express his own views, remembering that every other Member has the same liberty,” he said.
Replying to felicitations, the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Dr Radhakrishnan said “A democracy is distinguished by the protection it gives to minorities. A democracy is likely to degenerate into tyranny if it does not allow the opposition groups to criticise fairly, freely and frankly the policies of the Government.”
He said “But at the same time minorities also have their responsibilities. While they have every right to criticise, their right of criticism should not degenerate into wilful hampering and obstruction of the work of Parliament. All groups, therefore, have their rights, and have their responsibilities.”
The two Houses of Parliament met separately after a short interval after the President’s address. In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker said he had received three notices of three differently worded adjournment motions, two from K Subrahmanyam and one from A K Gopalan. They dealt with the question of food subsidies.
The Speaker said “The position is that so far as the importance of the matter is concerned, so far as the definiteness of the motions are concerned and so far as the urgency of the matter is concerned, I am in full agreement with the hon. Members, but the right to move adjournment motions has certain limitations. One of the limitations is that it should not anticipate a debate in the House.”
The Speaker said there will be a motion of thanks coming from the Government side in respect of the President’s Address, and the members could move amendments and bring up the subject they wanted to raise in the House. “Therefore, I do not think I should give my consent to these adjournment motions.”