§ On the Motion, "That the House at its rising adjourn till Monday next,"
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he rose to ask the President of the Board of Control if he will state to the House what steps have been taken by the Government to put an end to the practice of Torture in the Presidency of Madras, since the Report of the Commission that has proved its prevalence in that Presidency? And whether similar investigations have been instituted in Bombay and Bengal; and, if so, whether it is intended to communicate the result of such inquiries to the House? It must be in the recollection of hon. Members that in consequence of the statement made by the Government of Madras a Commission was appointed to investigate the subject. That inquiry extended over seven years, and the result was that the Commissioners produced a book which showed not only that the practice of torture prevailed in India, but to a far greater extent than had ever been stated in that House. One of the purposes for which it was employed was to enforce the payment of the revenue. With regard to torture to extort confession, it appeared that there had occurred in the Madras Presidency 1,690 cases in which persons had been forced by torture to confess them- 715 selves guilty of offences with which they were charged, and out of that number not less than 890 were afterwards acquitted. It was impossible to conceive a more infamous state of things. Then, with respect to torture by the police for the purposes of plunder. The Commissioners stated that the practice was universal, and they stated the means of torture employed, which were of the most harrowing character, and, as regarded females, were too disgusting and indecent to be described. Moreover, the Commissioners stated that these instances which they had collected were only samples, for from the system pursued by the local authorities inquiries were obstructed; and even when parties were convicted their punishments were utterly inadequate; so that these outrages were rather encouraged. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite might attempt to put him down by clamour, but he would maintain that the system was disgraceful to a free country. He considered that he was addressing an English assembly, representing the rights of freemen, protecting the interests of the subjects of the realm, and they ought not to try to drown the voice of an independent Member who was exposing a system of abuse degrading to the country. By attempting to silence him by clamour, hon. Members would involve themselves in the disgrace which attaches to those infamous practices of the native Hindoo police. There was another statement in the Report which showed that this hideous system was not maintained by the native police alone. It stated—In this investigation one thing has impressed us even more painfully than the conviction that torture exists, it is the difficulty of obtaining redress which confronts the Hindoo nation.The Commissioners then drew a dreadful picture of the state of the native police. The police were under paid, which no doubt was one great cause of the evil; and the Commissioners stated,—
"The police are banded together from the highest to the lowest for the purpose of extorting illicit gains, and violence, fraud, and torture are the chief means of detecting crime, or rather of implicating innocence."
said, he rose to order. He was refused a short time previously the opportunity of saying a few words, but the noble Lord was allowed to make a speech. ["Order, order."]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The two cases are very different. There is now a Motion before the House (that the House at its 716 rising adjourn), which gives the noble Lord the privilege of speaking; and if I am asked whether the noble Lord is strictly in order I am bound to say that he is.
rose again, as if desirous to address the Chair. He was met by loud cries of "Chair, chair," but continued still standing.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have answered the question of the hon. Member for Beaumaris, and as I have stated that the noble Lord is in order, I consider that he is entitled to continue his address.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he thought that the hon. Member for Beaumaris had not selected a very suitable task in rising to speak to "order." During the long period through which he trusted that Mr. Speaker would continue to hold the Chair he hoped never again to see him treated as he had been on that occasion. The present was a question affecting so many millions of our fellow-subjects, that he was sorry to see it attract so little the attention of hon. Members opposite, who had little respected its magnitude and importance. However, as they were so impatient he would take another opportunity of entering into details, and would conclude by requesting an answer to the question which he had asked.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he certainly should not follow the noble Lord into his details, considering that they had been a most inconvenient abuse of the Orders of the House. ["No, no!"] It certainly was admitted that questions might be taken up on the Motion for Adjournment, but that was usually understood to be confined to questions of urgency, and not to extend to questions of such a magnitude and nature as these asked by the noble Lord. He the more regretted that the noble Lord should have taken the present opportunity of introducing the question, because the inattention with which it had been met might be regarded here, but above all in India, as arising from indifference to the subject; whereas it arose only from the inappropriateness of the occasion. The answer he had to give to the questions of the noble Lord simply was, that he intended to move for the production of all the papers on the subject since September 4, 1855, which was the date of the last return. There had been a great deal done already in consequence of the valuable labours of the Commission, and he fully participated in the horror expressed by the noble Lord at the atrocities they had dis- 717 closed. He should do all that he could to extirpate such practices; and so, he was sure, Would his noble Friend Lord Harris, the Governor of the Madras Presidency. Letters had been written under his (Mr. V. Smith's) sanction to the authorities in India, representing the horror which these practices excited among the people of this country, and when the agents were convinced that the determination of the Indian Government was to put these practices down, he believed they would co-operate with the Government in that object. It was proposed to inflict additional penalties on those who might be guilty of these practices; and as there was a new penal code under consideration, it had been suggested that its provisions might be modified for that purpose. For his own part he did not shrink from investigation, and was sincerely desirous to put down practices so disgraceful, and with that view desired that public attention should be directed to them. But he did not know what other measures could be adopted for that end than those which had been thus resorted to.
Mr. Speaker, I have to apologise to you and to the House if I seemed just now to dispute your authority. I should be sorry, Sir, having had the honour of a seat here many years, to set such an example to younger Members. It was not, Sir, that I was not satisfied with your answer to my first question, but I wished to put a further question as to what I always understood to be the rule of the House—that a Member must speak to the question before it. No Member, Sir, will do more to support your authority than myself, and I again beg to apologise to you and the House if I appeared to disregard it.