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Shri Shivraj V. Patil had the rare distinction of being unanimously elected Speaker of the 10th Lok Sabha. By his liberal approach, amiable disposition and exemplary patience, coupled with an abiding sense of impartiality, he proved to be an excellent moderator in conducting the proceedings of the House. As the Presiding Officer, he delivered several rulings which will go down as landmarks in our parliamentary history both for their content and significance.

Shivraj V. Patil was born on 12 October 1935 in Chakur village of Latur district in the State of Maharashtra. He attended the Osmania University, Hyderabad, earning a graduation degree in Science before studying Law at the Bombay University. After obtaining Master's degree in Laws, Patil took up the Job of a lecturer and taught for about six months, before he decided to practice law in his hometown, Latur. After a short while, public life beckoned him. In 1967, he was elected as the President of the Latur Municipality and held that position till 1969 and again from 1971 to 1972. As the President of Latur Municipality, Patil introduced many innovations in the municipal administration, particularly relating to primary and secondary education, hospitals and underground drainage system, water supply scheme, town planning, etc.

Shivraj Patil's legislative and parliamentary career began in 1972 with his election to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. He remained a member of the State Legislative Assembly from 1972 to 1977 and again from 1977 to 1979. He was the Chairman, Committee on Public Undertakings, during 1974-75. Patil became Deputy Minister holding the portfolios of Law and Judiciary, Irrigation and Protocol in 1975 and continued in office till 1976. He was elected Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly on 5 July 1977 and held the position till 13 March 1978. His uprightness, impartial handling of contentious issues and immense patience were greatly appreciated and on 17 March 1978, he was unanimously elected Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, an office he held till 6 December 1979.

Patil was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1980 from the Latur parliamentary constituency as a candidate of the Indian National Congress (I), He was re-elected to the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Lok Sabhas in 1984, 1989, 1991, 1996 and 1998, respectively, from the same constituency. 

Patil was member, Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament from 12 May 1980 to7 September 1980 and Chairman of this Committee from 8 September 1980 to 18 October 1980.

During the next decade, he held important positions in the Union Council of Ministers. Patil was made a Minister of State in the Union Council of Ministers on 19 October, 1980 and held the following portfolios: Defence—19 October 1980 to 14 January 1982; Commerce (Independent Charge)—15 January 1982 to 29 January 1983; Science and Technology, Atomic Energy, Electronics, Space and Ocean Development, Bio-Technology—29 January 1983 to 21 October 1986; Defence Production and Supplies—22 October 1986 to 24 June 1988; and Civil Aviation and Tourism (Independent Charge)—25 June 1988 to 2 December 1989.

In all the portfolios he held, Patil brought to bear his distinctive stamp. As the Minister of State for Defence, Patil quickly came to grasp the complex issues relating to the defence of the country through his extensive as well as intensive study. He emphasized the importance of investments in new technologies and modern equipment and better facilities for the defence forces. During his tenure as Defence Minister, he left no stone unturned to strengthen national defence by making optimal use of available funds. As Minister of Commerce, his job was at once challenging and interesting. He not only stressed the exploration of new markets and new products for exports and simplification of export procedures but also worked with extreme dedication and constant vigilance towards achieving these goals.

It was as the Minister of Science and Technology, Atomic Energy, Electronics, Space and Ocean Development and Biotechnology that Patil left an indelible impress of his personality. No wonder then that when he was re-elected to the Eighth Lok Sabha, he was given charge of these very same Ministries. Among other things, he was influential in strengthening and expanding the electronic industry. Endowed with qualities of humility and self-restraint, coupled with diligence and perseverance, Patil never functioned on a superfluous plane. Instead, he would always go deep into the work with a great deal of understanding and would involve himself thoroughly in the sphere of policy formulation.

Patil was one of the members of the Committee on Technology Policy constituted to help the Union Government, public sector units, private sector and national laboratories to take decisions on matters relating to the development and import of technologies.

Patil carried his experience of the Ministry of Science and Technology to the Ministry of Defence in his new role as the Minister of State for Defence Production and Supplies. In fact, his earlier experience as Minister of State for Defence stood him in good stead. By now, he was fully conversant with the national laboratories that were producing defence-related technologies. Patil's main emphasis was now on the modernisation aspect of administration, application of new technologies and devising of new processes, besides installing latest equipment to increase production, efficiency and productivity. At the same time, he gave due importance to the welfare schemes for the workers. He always felt that "the man behind the machine is more important."

In the General Elections of 1989, the Congress emerged as the largest single party in the Lok Sabha but fell short of the requisite majority to form the Government. The Janata Dal, with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party, formed the Government and the Congress became the Opposition party. As a practice developed over the years, the Deputy Speaker of the House used to be from the Opposition. Since Patil had an excellent record as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, he became the unanimous choice of all the members for the office of Deputy Speaker of the Ninth Lok Sabha. Patil always stood away from any controversy and this enabled him to stand high in the eyes of the ruling party and the Opposition alike. He was most often described by his fellow politicians by one word "fair". Patil remained Deputy Speaker from March 1990 till March 1991. During this period, he functioned as the Chairman, Committee on Private Members' Bills and Resolutions and also the Library Committee. He was a member of the General Purposes Committee from May 1990.

In less than two years' time, the country went to the polls again to elect a new Lok Sabha. The Indian National Congress formed the Government at the Centre. Patil was the natural choice for Speakership and he was unanimously elected to the office. All sections of the House were of the considered view that Patil would bring to the august office of the Speaker rich and varied experience and dignity and maturity, qualities which Needed in a Presiding Officer.

Patil's commitment to strengthening the parliamentary institutions was evident to all—members, media or general public, legislative bodies of the State or parliamentary bodies of other nations. As the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Patil was equally respected by both the ruling party and the Opposition. There were several occasions when the situation in the House became tense and tumultuous, but by his exemplary patience and extraordinary forbearance, he invariably succeeded in defusing the tension and the surcharged atmosphere. The manner in which he conducted the House during debates on certain controversial issues such as "bank scam", "criminalisation of politics", etc. evoked a great deal of admiration from various quarters,

During his Speakership, history was created when the Lok Sabha discussed and subsequently negatived the first ever motion for the impeachment of a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court. Since this was the first such instance of its kind and one of great importance, Patil took particular care to ensure that proper procedures were laid down for considering the motion and held consultations with Leaders of various Parties and Groups on the issue.

In 1993, Patil gave an important decision under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution regarding matters arising out of the petitions for disqualification against as many as twenty members. He felt that the case involved the membership of twenty parliamentarians who were the representatives of more than two crores of Indian citizen's. They were elected by the people and as representatives of the people, were expected to live up to their expectations. The menace of floor-crossing. Speaker Patil stressed, if not controlled, could destroy the parliamentary and democratic system. He pointed out that the Tenth Schedule had served to a great extent the purpose for which it has been brought into existence but it has certain weak points and defects. He felt that the law should be made more comprehensive so as to provide for possible situations which could crop up in interpreting and enforcing it, such as matters pertaining to party activities outside the Legislature, the question of who should decide on cases relating to the anti-defection law and the applicability of the whip.

Another remarkable achievement of Patil's thoughtful efforts and of far reaching significance was the growth of the Committee System of Indian Parliament during his tenure. Though the proposal for the introduction of the Committee System had been there for several years and three Subject Committees had been constituted in the Eighth Lok Sabha, these efforts fructified when Patil took the initiative in the Tenth Lok Sabha and discussed the matter with party leaders, member, and others and formulated the scheme. Finally, on 31 March 1993, seventeen Departmentally-related Standing Committees of Parliament were formally inaugurated. It was undoubtedly a major initiative in the direction of making the Parliament more powerful and effective in the exercise of its control over the Executive. 

As a member, Patil was fully aware of the demands of constituents for attending to small developmental works in the constituency which involved a certain amount of money. Hence, when he became the Speaker, he took up this matter with full vigour and pursued it with the concerned authorities. The efforts eventually bore fruit in December 1993 when the MPs Local Area Development Scheme was announced in the Parliament. Under this Scheme, each member has the choice to suggest to the District Collector works to the tune of one crore Rupees per year to be taken up in his or her constituency.

Patil gave a new thrust to the ongoing computerization and modernization efforts of the institutional arrangements of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, particularly the computerization of the information service to the members of Parliament. Not only were a large number of activities of Lok Sabha Secretariat computerized under his leadership, a number of index based databases of information were developed to provide the parliamentarians non-partisan, objective, reliable and authoritative data on a continuous and regular basis.

Keeping in view the immediate and succinct information requirements of the parliamentarians to discharge their duties in an effective manner, members of the Tenth Lok Sabha were provided with note-book computers to get instant and up-to-date information on a wide range of activities, in organising their office activities, receiving/sending E-mail and fax, and having quick and accurate information on legislative and parliamentary matters on their desk instantly.

Another path-breaking initiative in bringing Parliament nearer to the people was made when the Address by the President to the members of the two Houses of Parliament was telecast live for the first time on 20 December 1989 and subsequently in 1990. It was Patil who mooted for the first time a comprehensive proposal highlighting the feasibility, technical viability, modalities and the general advantages of telecasting parliamentary proceedings. Since 25 August 1994, Lok Sabha proceedings are telecast live by means of a low power transmitter, within a range of 15 km from Parliament House, besides the live telecast of proceedings of the Question Hour of both the Houses of Parliament on alternate weeks throughout the country. Important debates in the House also began to be telecast during this period. Besides, the Question Hour also started to be broadcast on the All India Radio beginning from the Monsoon Session of 1992.

As an upshot of telefilming and televising of parliamentary proceedings and production of films on parliamentary subjects, an Audio-Visual Unit, set up in Parliament House for the preservation and retrieval of the official audio-visual records of parliamentary proceedings and other parliamentary events, gained further momentum during Patil's tenure.

The need for providing adequate facilities to members so as to enable them to discharge their responsibilities effectively can hardly be over-emphasized. A Joint Parliamentary Committee to suggest Facilities and Remuneration for Members of Parliament was constituted on the initiative of Speaker Patil. The Joint Committee recommended better amenities and facilities to members of Parliament in respect of daily allowance, telephone calls, water and electricity charges, air journey, etc.

The history of Indian parliamentary democracy, in a way, has been inextricably linked with the Parliament House and its historic Central Hall. The precincts of Parliament House have statues and busts of stalwarts from our history. The Central Hall of Parliament House is adorned with the portraits of several leaders who have contributed immeasurably to the national cause. Under another major initiative taken by Patil, proposals for installation of statues and portraits of eminent leaders like

Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharial Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad, Vallabhbhai Patel, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi and others were approved by the Parliamentary Committee on Installation of Statues and Portraits of National Leaders m Parliament Complex. Several statues and portraits were thus unveiled during this time. On the birth anniversary of the national leaders whose portraits adorn the Central Hall of Parliament House, functions are being organised to pay humble tributes to their sacrifices by a grateful nation which lakes inspiration from their contribution to the welfare of the country and its people.

Patil's abiding commitment in strengthening parliamentarism came to the fore when the Indian Parliamentary Group set up an Outstanding Parliamentarian Award to be given every year to an eminent parliamentarian for his contribution in upholding the parliamentary traditions,

A great votary of peace and cooperation, Patil repeatedly emphasized the importance of promoting inter-parliamentary relations. He stressed the fact that inter-parliamentary conferences and meetings provide forums for parliamentarians from all over the world to meet, discuss and exchange ideas and views on bilateral, multilateral and international matters which certainly go a long way in widening the areas of understanding and cooperation. Under the leadership of Speaker Patil, India had the privilege of hosting as many as four major international Parliamentary Conferences: (i) the 37th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in September 1991; (ii) the 89th Inter­parliamentary Conference in April 1993; (iii) the Sixth Commonwealth Parliamentary Seminar in January 1994; and (iv) the First Conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians, in July 1995. Besides strengthening inter­parliamentary cooperation, these Conferences also brought to the fore many useful ideas which could serve the larger cause of parliamentary democracy.

Yet another initiative taken by Patil was granting of Research Fellowships to selected scholars for undertaking original studies on subjects of parliamentary interest. Under the scheme, the Lok Sabha Secretariat grants two Research Fellowships, one each in Hindi and English, every year on any of the following fields: Parliamentary Institutions (including State 1egislatures): Evolution and Development; Parliamentary Rules, Practices and Procedures; Committee System; Communications between Parliament and the People; and Modern Techniques of Servicing the Parliaments.

Patil continues to be an active member of Parliament, lending his experience and expertise to his colleagues in the highest deliberative forum in the country.

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