HC Deb 29 May 1845 vol 80 cc1009-11
Mr. B. Escott

rose to put to the hon. Member for Beverley the question of which he had given notice. He wished to ask him whether the Court of Directors of the East India Company had considered the case of Lieutenant Hollis, late of the East India Company's service, who had been tried by a court martial and dismissed?—whether he was enabled to give any opinion as to the legality or illegality of the court martial by which he had been dismissed? Secondly, supposing that, in their opinion, the court martial which had dismissed Lieutenant Hollis was illegal, whether he did not think that some substantial compensation should be made by the Company to that Lieutenant for his dismissal by a sentence which the Court of Directors of the East India Company themselves considered as illegal? And he would ask, in addition, if the hon. Member was not aware that in the opinion of many learned persons that court was an illegal court?

Mr. Hogg

thought he was scarcely called upon to answer these questions. If it were the pleasure of the House that he should go into the case of Lieutenant Hollis, he would do so; and he would state the charge against that gentleman, not in his own words, but in the words of the finding of the court, with the observations of the Commander-in-Chief thereon. He would state this in the words of the finding, without adding a word of observation from himself, if the House thought it expedient that he should do so; but he gathered that the House was of opinion that it would be better that he should abstain. With regard to the legality of these proceedings, he was surprised that the hon. Gentleman should ask whether or not the Court of Directors had considered the legality of the court martial. They had no right to take upon themselves to judge of its legality. The whole authority of courts martial was, by the warrant of the Crown, in the Commander-in-Chief. He was the sole authority on the subject, and from his decision there was no appeal. The Court of Directors had no power to alter, correct, or affirm the decision of any court martial. The Mutiny Act described the course of proceeding if there was reason to complain. The Courts of Westminster were open to those who in this country felt themselves aggrieved; so were the courts in India, and the courts in the various Presidencies. The Court of Directors had no power to pass any opinion on the finding of a court martial. They had the power, by the 51st of George III., to restore the officer who had been suspended or dismissed by the sentence of a court martial; but the power of the Statute did not come into operation till the sentence of the court martial had been promulgated. The Court of Directors had considered the case of Lieutenant Hollis, and believed it one of some hardship. If he had voluntarily retired from the service, he would have been entitled to a pension of 73l. a year; and although he had forfeited his right to that allowance, the Court voluntarily agreed to give him the sum of 70l. a year—3l. less than the pension he would otherwise have received—considering him to be afflicted with some infirmities of temper which prevented his remaining in the service. To show the House how careful the Directors had been in exercising the power vested in them of restoring officers to the service who had been dismissed by a court martial, during twenty-seven years they had only exercised it on eight occasions; and every one of these cases were referred to them by local authorities, or by the Commander-in-Chief himself. The Court of Directors had inquired into this case with a desire to do every thing for this unfortunate man consistent with their duty to that service in which he had been an officer. He repeated, that he was not the organ of the Court of Directors; he merely gave his individual opinion, and did not think much discretion was shown in forcing the subject before the House.

Subject at an end.