HC Deb 04 February 1831 vol 2 cc137-9
Mr. Wilks

presented a Petition from Hanley and Shelton, Staffordshire, praying the House to put an end to Idolatrous Practices in India. The petitioners mentioned one subject which he had not seen before adverted to in the House, and which he thought especially worthy of notice. They stated, that by the laws of the Hindoos, when any one of them embraced Christianity, he was disinherited—his evidence was not allowed to be received in a Court of Justice—and he was otherwise ill-treated. The petitioners prayed, therefore, that the Government would interfere to abolish these persecuting laws.

Mr. Cutlar Ferguson

would take on himself to say, that there was not a single tribunal in India, subject to British rule, in which such a law was acted on, or which would enforce such a law. He was sure that no instance was known, or could be adduced, of natives deprived of any of their rights on account of having embraced Christianity, by any act of any Court under the control of this country.

Mr. Wilks

stated, that the laws of the Hindoos were very peremptory on this subject, and if he had known that a discussion would have arisen, he would have brought down to the House the names of several persons who had been deprived of their rights for having embraced Christianity. He did not say that it was done by the power of the British Courts, but it was done, and the people were disinherited.

Mr. John Campbell

would take upon himself to say, that there was no such law actually existing in India as the one alluded to by the hon. Member. Such a Decree might be found in the Institutes of Menu, but it was not at present the law in any part of British India. He believed that it was only a vulgar prejudice; and he was not surprised that such prejudices existed here as to India, when he knew that it was a vulgar prejudice in this country that a Jew could not possess real property in England. For that opinion there was no foundation whatever. Every person born within the allegiance of his Majesty had a claim to all the rights of natural-born subjects, whether he were a Jew or a Pagan.

Sir R. Inglis,

could quote the authority of the late Chief Justice of India for the existence in that country of the law in question. That learned Gentleman had stated distinctly, before a committee of the House of Commons, that by the native laws, persons, whether Hindoos or Mussulmen, who embraced the Christian religion, were deprived of their rights. No person could succeed to inheritance who could not perform the funeral ceremonies. He was sure that this was the substance of the late Chief Justice's statement, as he had lately read the passage; and, if that learned Gentleman were in the House, he would, no doubt, confirm the statement

Mr. Cutlar Ferguson

repeated, that not a single instance could be brought of a native, under the authority of an English Court, and by a decree of that Court, having been deprived of any rights or advantages because he had embraced Christianity. That might have been the law under the Mahommedan, or native Princes, but it was not the law in British India.

Petition laid on the Table.

Mr. Wilks,

in moving, that it be printed, repeated his statement; and added, that he should be ready to produce the names of the persons who had suffered, when he brought under the consideration of the House, as he had given notice to do, the subject of Idolatry in India.