The election of Shri K.S. Hegde as the Speaker of the Sixth Lok Sabha was unprecedented in the sense that he was chosen to occupy the high office in his very first term as a member of the Lok Sabha. His professional career is also unique since he was a member of the Rajya Sabha before he entered the Judiciary. His eminent judicial background, coupled with legislative experience, enabled him to ensure smooth conduct of the proceedings of the House in a manner that won him encomiums from all sections of the Lok Sabha. True to his conviction, he preserved and sustained the authority of the Chair all through his tenure.
Kawdoor Sadananda Hegde was born on 11 June 1909 at village Kawdoor of Karkala Taluk in South Kanara district of the erstwhile State of Mysore. He was educated at the Kawdoor Elementary School and the Karkala Board High School. Subsequently, he was an alumnus of the St. Alosius College, Managalore, the Presidency College, Madras and the Law College, Madras. Primarily an agriculturist, Hegde also possessed a rich and varied judicial experience. He began his legal profession in 1933 and worked as Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor during the period 1947-51. He was a champion of the farming community and he always tried to promote their cause. Hegde was elected to the Rajya Sabha as a Congress Party nominee in 1952. Hegde served the Upper House till 1957 and made outstanding contributions to its deliberations. He was a member of the Panel of Chairmen and also a member of the Public Accounts Committee and of the Rules Committee.
During this period, in 1954, Hegde was chosen as an alternate delegate to the Ninth Session of the United Nations General Assembly and served on its Second Committee with distinction. He was also a member of the Railway Corruption Enquiry Committee and of the Governing Body of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
In 1957, Hegde resigned from the Rajya Sabha when he was appointed a Judge of the Mysore High Court. As a Judge, he earned widespread respect and approbation for his judicial pronouncements. He served on the bench of the Mysore High Court till 1966, when he was appointed as the first Chief Justice of the Delhi and Himachal Pradesh High Court. Hegde had already distinguished himself as a Judge and as the Chief Justice of the High Court, he delivered many a judgment which were really path-breaking. In 1967, he was appointed by the President of India as a Judge of the Supreme Court in which capacity, he delivered many judgments of far-reaching significance.
He was known for his uprightness and authority and as a learned Judge who always gave precedence to the rule of law than anything else. As far as the independence of the Judiciary was concerned, he was uncompromising and critical of interference, whatsoever, on the part of the Executive in the affairs of the Judiciary. A man of matchless honesty and utmost integrity, Hegde was convinced that a just social order could not be built up by any society if it was corrupt. And no amount of sacrifice could build a Welfare State unless there was an efficient and honest administration.
On 30 April 1973, Hegde tendered his resignation, as a matter of principle, when one of his junior colleagues was appointed as the Chief Justice of India.
Thereafter, Hegde once again started taking an active part in socio-political movements. In 1977, he was elected to the Sixth Lok Sabha from the Bangalore South constituency on a Janata Party ticket. He was appointed by the then Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Dr. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy as the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges, a post he occupied till 20 July 1977.
On 21 July 1977, Hegde was elected to the office of the Speaker following the resignation of Dr. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy to contest the election to the office of the President of India. There was only one motion before the Lok Sabha proposing Hegde's name for the office of the Speaker which was carried unanimously. The fact that Hegde was elected as Speaker even though he was a first timer in the House spoke of his stature, ability and acceptability to all sections of the House.
Speaker Hegde believed in the rule of law and fair play. Maintaining the supremacy of Parliament was uppermost in his mind. It was his constant endeavour to give opportunities to all members to participate in the proceedings of the House to the extent possible. He was convinced that the effectiveness of the House could be improved only when members maintained decorum and discipline and observed the rules scrupulously. He once ruled that when a member persisted in speaking in spite of the Speaker asking him not to speak, the Speaker, under his inherent powers, could direct that the relevant proceedings be not recorded.
Hegde strongly felt the need for a continuous review of procedures and practices so that they were in tune with the emerging needs. However, he was equally convinced that the modifications should be such that they helped in making the best utilisation of the parliamentary floor time in the interest of the nation.
Speaker Hegde was for devising appropriate institutional arrangements within the Legislatures to facilitate realisation of parliamentary aspirations of members. He also believed that in admission of notices, in giving consent to proposals for discussion and in various other situations, the Speaker should show enlightened accommodation, keeping in mind the basic criteria of the larger public interest.
Hegde had given many important rulings as Speaker. In response to an unstarred question on 25 July 1977, the concerned Minister stated that he would be placing the relevant document in the Parliament Library for consultation by members. The matter was subsequently raised by a member under rule 377 on 1 August 1977. Speaker Hegde thereupon observed that whenever any document was to be placed for the benefit of the members, it should be laid on the Table of the House and not merely placed in the Parliament Library.
Hegde was keen to improve the effectiveness of the members so that they could adequately perform the multifarious roles required of them. He was for rendering effective research and reference assistance to the members, particularly new members, so that they might frame their questions and motions appropriately and also could get factual information and data for making their participation effective. Keeping this objective in mind, Speaker Hegde addressed a letter personally to the members of the Lok Sabha inviting them to make use of the Library, Reference, Research, Documentation and Information Services.
Hegde firmly believed in international peace and cooperation. He, therefore, accorded a great deal of importance to Inter- Parliamentary cooperation. He led the Indian Parliamentary Delegations to the 23rd, 24th and 25th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conferences held in Ottawa (Canada) in September 1977, in Kingston (Jamaica) in September 1978 and in Willington (New Zealand) in November-December 1979, respectively. Hegde also led the Indian Parliamentary Delegations to the 65th hirer-Parliamentary Conference held in Bonn (former Federal Republic of Germany) in September 1978 and the 66th Inter-Parliamentary Conference held in Caracas (Venezuela) in September 1979. Besides, he participated in the Meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on 'The CPA and the Future' held in London in January 1978 and the Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Conference of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers at Nassau (The Bahamas), also in January 1978.
Speaker Hegde attended the 5th Conference of the Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers held in Canberra (Australia) in August-September 1978 and the Meetings of the Executive Committee of the CPA held in Perth (Australia) in May 1979 as regional representative for Asia. Hegde also led Indian Parliamentary Delegations to Romania, Bulgaria and Poland in June 1979 and to the former Soviet Union in June-July 1979.
A voracious reader, Hegde had to his credit some acclaimed publications like Crisis in the judiciary and Directive Principles.
During the short period that he remained the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, K.S. Hegde made a distinctive contribution not only In upholding the high office of the Speaker but also in consolidating parliamentary institutions in the country.
Hegde passed away on 24 May 1990 at his native place in Karnataka at the age of 81.
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