Chuni Lal Katial

Other names: 

Dr Chuni Lal Katial

C. L.  Katial


21 Spencer Street Finsbury
London, EC1V 7HP
United Kingdom
51° 31' 41.3724" N, 0° 6' 10.5048" W
Victoria Dock Road Canning Town
E16 3AA
United Kingdom
51° 30' 35.3448" N, 0° 1' 21.7416" E
Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1898
Precise DOB unknown: 
Date of death: 
14 Nov 1978
Location of death: 
Putney, London
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1927
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1927-47, 1970-8


Liverpool, London.


Chuni Lal Katial was a doctor and politician. He moved to England in 1927 after graduating with a medical degree from Lahore University and working for five years with the Indian Medical Service in Iraq. He resigned his position to continue his training in public health. He studied in Liverpool and gained a diploma in tropical medicine. He later became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine. On moving to London Katial established his own practice, first in Canning Town and later in Finsbury, attending mainly to working-class patients. He was a member of the Indian Social Club and the Indian Medical Association, and was involved with the Hindu Association of Europe.

He became heavily involved with the India League and was a supporter of Krishna Menon. During the second Round Table Conference in Autumn 1931, he put himself at the disposal of Gandhi, arranging meetings and effectively becoming his chauffeur. The meeting between Charlie Chaplin and Gandhi took place at his house.

He won a seat for Labour on Finsbury Borough Council in 1934 and served as Deputy Mayor from 1936 to 1938. He became the first South Asian mayor in 1938, a position he held until 1939. In 1946, he was elected to the London County Council to represent the borough. His work as Chairman of Finsbury’s public health committee had the most wide-reaching impact, with Katial being a driving force for the creation of a health centre for the borough, which opened in 1938. It concentrated under one roof a number of services and health provisions for the borough’s population, such as doctors’ surgeries, a TB clinic, a dentist and a women’s clinic. It was a trailblazer for similar provisions which formed an integral part of the National Heath Service, created in 1948.

During the Second World War, Katial worked as a civil defence medical officer and chaired the air raid precautions medical service and food control committee. He also provided training in first aid for the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. For his services to the borough he was made a freeman of Finsbury in 1948. The same year he returned to India and worked as Director-General of the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation of India until 1953. He returned to London in the 1970s and died in Putney in 1978.


Dr Bhandari, G. D. Birla, Durga Das, Mahdev Desai, M. K. Gandhi, Sir Mirza Ismail, A. S. Iyengar, M. A. Jinnah, Zafarullah Khan, Jiwan Lal Kapur, Muriel Lester, Krishna Menon, Indira Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Motilal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Bepin Chandra Pal, Sir A. P. Patro, H. S. L. Polak, K. C. Roy, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Satis Chandra Sen (fellow doctor), Usha Sen, Muhammad Shafi, Said Amir Shah (India League), Purshottamdas Thakurdas.

Hindu Association of Europe, Indian Medical Association, Indian Social Club.

Involved in events: 
Published works: 

 Handbook Relating to Public Health Services in Finsbury (London: Finsbury Borough Council)


Secondary works: 

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)

Visram, Rozina, 'Katial, Chuni Lal (1898–1978)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/448-56, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Oral History Files, Nehru Memorial Library, Delhi, India