(Last Updated on : 25/01/2014)
"I am one of those who have withdrawn their support from Hindi simply because of the fanaticism and intolerance of those who support it". This is what Sardar Hukam Singh had to say in 1949 in support of Hindi as the official language initially but he changed his mind later. Sardar Hukam Singh collectively elected as the Speaker of the Third Lok Sabha
, attempted to follow and put into effect the rules, procedures, practices and conventions of the House.
He stood in good lieu because of his legal background and a stint as a Judge in the years when he occupied the office of the Deputy Speaker and later the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. This widely acclaimed and respected personality for his clarity of thought, fairness and charm was also regarded as Debonair and soft-spoken but firm and forthright. He tried hard to facilitate smooth and orderly demeanor of the business of the House. At the same time, he also made sure of every opportunity to perform the grievance-redressed role of the members to the maximum extent possible.
The charming personality, Hukam Singh was born on 30 August 1895 at Montgomery, now a part of Pakistan. In 1917, Hukam Singh did his graduation from the Khalsa College, Amritsar, after finishing his matriculation from the Government High School, Montgomery. Thereafter, at the Law College, Lahore he studied Law and started practicing in his hometown Montgomery after passing out in 1921.
For a number of years he has been served as the President of the Montgomery Bar Association. Hukam Singh was inducted into politics through the Shiromani Akali Dal and has been its President for three years. He was also a member and president of the Montgomery Singh Sabha for three years. In connection with the Gurudwara Reform Movement, Hukam Singh was arrested in 1924 and was sentenced to about two years of imprisonment. The 1947 partition drove Hukam Singh to cross over to India in August 1947and became a refugee overnight. However, his talents were soon acknowledged and in December 1947he was appointed Puisne Judge of the State High Court, Kapurthala, a post that he held till November 1948.
In April 1948, Hukam Singh was voted to the Constituent Assembly of India as a member of the Akali Dal. He was also a member of the Provisional Parliament from1950 to 1952. Speaker G.V. Mavalankar placed his name in the Panel of Chairmen and in 1952; he was later elected to the First Lok Sabha representing the Akali Party. His way of conducting the proceedings of the House was admired by all cutting across party lines. Hukam Singh was collectively chosen as the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha on 20 March 1956, when he was a member of the Opposition. This was a testimony of his popularity and also the confidence of the members in his capability to run the House in a well-organized and independent manner. In 1957 from the Bhatinda parliamentary constituency, Hukam Singh was elected for the second time to the Lok Sabha
. On 17 May 1957, he was re-elected as Deputy Speaker. He also officiated as the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges, Committee on Private Members' Bills and Resolutions, Library Committee and Committee on Subordinate Legislation.
Hukam Singh was harked back for the third time to the Lok Sabha, through the General Elections that was held in 1962. This time he contested on a Congress ticket from the Patiala parliamentary constituency. Hukam Singh without dissent was elected as the Speaker of the Third Lok Sabha having been tested and fully confirmed his credentials. It was believed that the office of the Speaker was safe in the hands of Hukum Singh, who ardently endorse the self-esteem of Parliament
and the civil rights and constitutional rights of its members.
As a democrat, Hukam Singh believed that the conduct of the members in the House should be dignified for the proper functioning of Parliamentary democracy. To him it was also indispensable that the freedom of speech assured by the Constitution should be used in a proper fashion. For that reason, he prepared his own plan to implement discipline on those who strayed. According to his view 'if a member stood up and began speaking without being acknowledged by the Chair, he would not catch the Speaker's eye. If the member persisted in continuing, would not catch the Speaker's eye in future also. In extreme cases, the Speaker would instruct the reporters not to record such speeches'. This was his confidence in maintaining discipline and decorum inside the House.
In ascertaining a smooth functioning of the House Hukam Singh, as the Speaker, was convinced of the importance of the rules and conventions. His progressive curve of mind was always in search of know-hows and strategies to improve the effectiveness of the House. During the Third Lok Sabha met, he recommended to the House, that a convention needs to be established in order to aid the President to address the members of both the Houses of Parliament assembled together in the Central Hall. With the approval of the House it was agreed upon the suggestion that if any adjournment motion tabled, might be taken up the next day.
As Speaker, Hukam Singh also tried to organize all the Calling Attention Notices on the same day on which they were tabled. Hukam Singh determinedly preserved the preeminence of the Legislature vis-à-vis the Executive. The discussions on the contemplation of the Seventeenth Constitution Amendment Bill were completed on 28 April 1965. However the Amendment was unsuccessful to get majority support of the House and, as a result the Motion to alter the Constitution could not be carried. The Government demanded for a fresh Division. But, the demand was rejected by the Speaker Hukam Singh.
A Motion of 'No-Confidence' against the 'Council of Ministers' was accommodated and discussed, for the first time in the history of the Lok Sabha. And this historical event took place during the Speakership of Hukum Singh, in August 1963. Here to be noted that during his term as Speaker, six Motions of No-Confidence against various Councils of Ministers were admitted and discussed.
Hukam Singh ensured, through all these tempestuous debates, that decorum and discipline were sustained in the House. Hukam Singh himself on many important subjects presided over debates. One of the major legislations passed by the House was the Defense of India Act in the wake of the Chinese aggression on India. He has chosen such a remarkable way in order to conduct the proceedings of the House on such a sensitive issue was being talked about overpoweringly elevated his position as Speaker.
The Parliamentary Committee of the two Houses, which had been formed in October 1965 in order to find out a way out based on goodwill and sensible approach to the issue of the 'Punjabi Suba', Hukam Singh was appointed as the Chairman of the committee. As Speaker, in October-November 1962, Hukam Singh led the Indian Parliamentary Delegations to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conferences in Lagos (Nigeria) and in Kuala Lampur (Malaysia) in November 1963. In June 1963, at the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, Hukam Singh also led a Parliamentary Delegation to USA. In the General Elections of 1967, Hukam Singh did not contest and established the office of the Speaker on 16 March 1967. Subsequently, on 15 April 1967, he was appointed as Governor of Rajasthan and remained in office till June 1972. As Governor also, he won far-flung acclaim for perpetuating the high tradition of the office.
As, in politics, Hukam Singh showed his brilliance in many other fields too. He was a recognized sportsman during his college days, and was a member of the Punjab University Hockey team during 1914-16. His keen interest in education made him the manager of the Khalsa High School, Montgomery in 1941 and again from 1943 to 1945. He has been served as the Chairman of the Governing body of the S.G.T.B. Khalsa College, Delhi
. To his credit, he had written a few books in English and Punjabi such as 'Sikh Case', 'the problems of Sikhs', 'Russia as I Saw It and Russia Today'. In 1967, the Punjabi University, Patiala, awarded him honorary degree of LL.D. At the age of 88, Hukam Singh passed away on 27 May 1983.