G. S. DHILLON
Dr. Gurdial Singh Dhillon was a multifaceted personality with interests that ranged from. law to journalism and from education and sports to constitutional studies. A man of uncompromising principles, he considered the institution of Parliament to be the temple of democracy and as such had great respect for the House and its traditions and conventions. The rare ability to quickly assess the mood of the House and a pragmatic approach helped him discharge the onerous responsibility of the office of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha in a dignified way. Dhillon's election as the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council of the IPU was at once a great honour for himself and also for the people and the Parliament of India
Gurdial Singh Dhillon was born at Panjwar in Amritsar district in Punjab on 6 August 1915. A brilliant student, he was educated at Khalsa. College, Amritsar, Government College, Lahore and the University Law College, Lahore.
During the period 1937-45, Dhillon practised Law and established himself as a successful Lawyer. However, the lucrative legal profession could not circumscribe his sense of patriotism and concern for his fellow beings. Soon, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the freedom struggle and the Kisan Movement for which he had to face the wrath of the British rulers. He was jailed twice for his activities related to freedom struggle. The prolonged incarceration also forced him to abandon his legal profession.
After Independence, Dhillon took to journalism and established himself as a tearless and forceful writer. His writings carried a stamp of conviction that impressed the readers. His efforts to promote communal harmony in the face of the wanton acts of the communal forces were exemplary. With a view to forging consensus on crucial issues and educating the people on the nefarious designs of divisive forces, he even started and edited a Punjabi daily Vartman in 1947. Later, he became the Chief Editor of the Urdu daily Sher-e-Bharat and the Managing Director of the National Sikh Newspapers Ltd. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Journalists' Association of Punjab till 1952 and also a member of the State Press Advisory Committee till 1953.
Dhillon was actively involved m various social, economic and political activities. He was a member of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Amritsar District Board from 1946 to 1954 and Chairman of the Taran Taran Market Committee during 1948-52. A committed worker of the Congress Party, he was the Chairman of the Punjab Congress Disciplinary Action Committee during 1950-51 and President of the Amritsar District Congress Committee till 1953. For some years, he was a member of the All India Congress Committee also.
Dhillon had a long and distinguished career as a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly from 1952 to 1967. During this period, he shouldered various legislative responsibilities with distinction. At various points of time. he was the Chairman of The public Accounts Committee and the Committee of Privileges Punjab Legislative Assembly. He also held the position of the chairman of the Non-agriculturist Land Taxation Committee in the state . Dhillon was elected the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1952 and remained in office till 1954 .Later he had a long tenure as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly from 1954 to 1962. As Speaker, he conducted the proceedings of The House in a manner that earned him the respect of all sections of the Assembly.
Dhillon was the General Secretary of the Punjab Congress Legislature Party and its Chief Whip from 1964 to 1966. During 1965-1966 he worked as Minister of Transport, Rural Electrification, Parliamentary Affairs and Elections and also for Rehabilitation Resettlement of the 1965 war-hit areas in Punjab. A nationalist out & out, Dhillon fearlessly moved around in the border areas during the 1965 war and inspired people to face the danger from the across borders unitedly. His courage and organising ability brought him encomiums from far and wide.
Dhillon was elected to the Fourth Lok Sabha in 1967 on the Congress ticket from the Taran Taran parliamentary constituency in Punjab. Thereafter, he was appointed Chairman of the Select Committee on the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 1967. Later, he was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Public -undertakings for two terms, for 1968-69 and 1969-70. He was also member of the Panel of Chairmen.
Following the resignation of the then Speaker Dr. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy to contest the presidential election, Dhillon was unanimously elected as the Speaker of Ihe Lok Sabha on 8 August 1969. When elected to the Chair, Dhillon had the distinction of being the youngest Speaker of the Lok Sabha till then. The way he conducted the proceedings impressed members belonging to all political parties represented in the House.
After he was returned to the Lok Sabha in 1971, again from the Taran Taran constituency, Dhillon was re-elected as the Speaker on 22nd March 1971. His re-election was a testimony to his popularity as well as his ability.
Deeply imbued with democratic values, Dhillon believed that the end purpose of freedom itself and democratic existence was the emancipation and betterment of the life of the common .SO as to build the foundation for an enduring social order.
He had the highest respect for parliamentary institutions and always strived to maintain the dignity of the House. Dhillon believed that in order to conduct the proceedings of the House, it was necessary that all sections of the House worked with a disciplined mind and showed respect not only to the rules and regulations but also to customs and conventions. With a view to maintaining the dignity of the House, he expected the members to show tolerance and listen to with patience what others, including their opponents, had to say and meet or counter the points made by them through arguments in a logical and controlled manner.
Dhillon was firm in upholding the rules of the House, in 1970, some members objected to papers included in the List of Business in the name of a Cabinet Minister being laid on the Table by a Deputy Minister belonging to a different Ministry. Dhillon, thereupon, observed that the concerned Minister, or in his absence the Minister of State or the Deputy Minister should lay the paper on the Table. In case they were not present, he would not allow any other Minister to lay the paper on the Table of the House, unless he was duly informed about it.
Dhillon was of the firm view that the Executive should not try to enter into the area which rightfully belonged to the Legislature. Fully conscious that the law making power remained in the domain of the Legislature, Dhillon once reiterated his predecessors' view that the Government should ensure that Ordinances were issued only if there was real emergency or urgency justifying such an action.
On another occasion, reacting to the Government's announcement in March 1970 to hike the prices of some commodities without informing the House when the Parliament was in Session, Dhillon observed that it was improper to announce such decisions without informing the House when it was sitting.
Dhillon resigned from the office of the Speaker on 1 December 1975 and was sworn in the same day as the Minister of Shipping and Transport in the Union Cabinet. He continued in this post till 1977. He was a member of the Planning Commission in 1480. He served as the Indian High Commissioner in Canada during 1980-82. As High Commissioner, he proved himself to be a seasoned diplomat and contributed significantly to the strengthening of Indo-Canadian relations.
Dhillon was elected to the Eighth Lok Sabha, this time from Ferozpur constituency, in September 1985. He was soon inducted into the Union Council of Ministers as Minister of Agriculture and held this charge from 12 May 1986 to 14 February 1988 . As Union Minister, Dhillon discharged his functions with a great distinction.
Dhillon was closely associated for many years with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. He had led Indian Parliamentary Delegations to the 15th, 17th, 18th and 19th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conferences held in Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) in October 1969, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in September 1971 .Blantyre (Malawi) in October 1972 and in London (United Kingdom) in September 1973. He served as the Regional Representative for Asia on the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and was elected its President in Colombo in 1974. He presided over the 21st Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in New Delhi in October-November 1975.
Dhillon also attended the First Commonwealth Speakers and ‘Presiding Officers' Conference held in Ottawa (Canada) in September 1969. He had the distinction of conducting and Presiding over the Second Conference of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers held in India in 1970-71. Besides, he attented many Meetings of the Executive Committee of the Commonweatth Parliamentary Association and the Meetings of Standing Committee of the Commonwealth Speakers' and Presiding Officers' Conference. He was the Chairman of the Standing Committee during 1971-74.
Dhillon presided over the 57th Inter-Parliamentary Conference held in New Delhi in October-November 1969. This was the first time that the Conference was held in India. Dhillon Conducted the proceedings of the Conference in a very dignified manner. He remained on the Executive Committee of the Union for several years.
Dhillon was elected the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 113th Session hold in Geneva in October 1973. He was the first Asian to hold this prestigious position. This was a recognition of his personal qualities and of his hard and conscientious work for the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Dhillon made immense contribution to the goals of promoting personal contacts among members of all Parliaments and uniting them in common action to secure and maintain the full participation of their respective countries in the firm establishment and development of representative institutions and in the advancement of the work of international peace and cooperation.
He was re-elected as the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council in Tokyo in October 1974 and occupied that post till 1976. As the President of the Council, Dhillon presided over various Meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
As the Leader of Indian Parliamentary Delegations to foreign countries, Dhillon brought great prestige and dignity to the Indian Parliament. He also had the honour of leading Indian Delegations to the 41st and 42nd Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 1985 and 1986.
Dhillon was actively associated in promoting many social, cultural and educational organisations and academic bodies. He was an elected member of the Syndicate and the Senate of the Panjab University, Chandigarh from 1956 onwards, of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, during .1971-78 and again during 1985-86 and of the Punjabi University, Patiala during 1968-69. He had also the honour of holding the position of the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Panjab University, Chandigarh during 1974-81 and 1984-86. Besides, Dhillon served on the Board of Governors, Yadavendra Public School, Patiala and the Public School, Nabha for some years. He was also associated with the functioning of several other educational institutions.
A many-splendoured personality, Dhillon was involved in various social activities. He was a member of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust, Amritsar. An erudite scholar, he was the co-editor of Chatrik Abhinandan Granth. He wrote several pamphlets, brochures and articles on subjects of topical concern. He was also a progressive farmer, a sportsman and a patron of civil aviation and gliding. A veteran freedom fighter, he was awarded the Tamra Patra in recognition of his services to the nation.
Dhillon was conferred LL.D. by the Panjab University in 1969, the Punjabi University in 1971 and the Kurukshetra University in 1973. He was awarded D.Litt. by the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar in 1971, Doctor of Political Science by the Humbolt University, Germany in 1973 and Ph.D. by the Sung Kuyun Kwan University (Republic of Korea) in 1973. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the promotion of the ideals of the Inter Parliamentary Union, Dhillon was honoured posthumouslym by an IPU Award at the inaugural function of the 89th Inter-Parliamentary Conference held in New Delhi in 1993.
Dr. Gurdial Singh Dhillon passed away on 23 March 1992.
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