HC Deb 13 June 1861 vol 163 cc1027-32

Order for Second Reading read.


moved the second reading of the Bill.


asked, what inducements were intended to be held out to barristers and other members of the legal profession, English or Native, to practise in these courts?


concurred in thinking that three more important Bills than those now before the House were never introduced, and yet nobody appeared to take any interest in these debates except those who profited by the plunder of India. He knew his opinion was unpopular, but it was not necessarily the less true. If we wished to retain our power there we must not admit the Natives to the Government. Our going to India at all was a mistake and an injustice; we were in India contrary to the law of nature, which was inimical to the spread of our race in that country; though he did not say that, having possession of that empire, we should now surrender it; but it behoved us to be careful to whom we intrusted the reins there. Our rule in India was jealously watched by one of the greatest States in Europe. The Emperor of the French was steadily preparing his advances upon us; he had possession of Suez, the neck, as it was called, of British power in the East, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government, knowing the danger that threatened, steadfastly resisted the cutting of a canal through that isthmus. Napoleon III. had also possession of the best bay on that coast; he was master of a great portion of Africa; he now held Syria, and he had also an armed force in Cochin China. These were alarming facts, and ought to be borne in mind in legislating for India. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) might spare himself his alarm as to the permissive power to admit Natives into the Indian Cabinet. That was a power no more likely to be exercised than the power under the Act of 1829 to admit Roman Catholics into the English Cabinet, which had never since been acted upon. In The Times newspaper the right hon. Baronet was represented to have said that the Bill had been submitted to the Judges of the Supreme Courts of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, and was highly approved by them. He was also reported to have said that the Judges of the Mofussil, who were to be made co-ordinate with those of the Supreme Courts, had not the slightest legal training.


said, the hon. Member was out of order.


said, he was only quoting remarks which had been imputed to the right hon. Baronet by The Times.


said, that was just the irregularity to which he had called the hon. Member's attention.


said, he had not stated that the right hon. Baronet had used those words, because the right hon. Baronet had assured him that he had never done so.


Order, order.


only referred to this matter as a very good proof of the utility of his intended Motion on the expediency of having authorized reports of their debates. It appeared from a letter entitled Observations and Suggestions on the proposed amalgamation of the courts, written by the Chief Justice of Bombay, Sir Matthew Sausse, one of the most eminent Judges in India, that "the adminis- tration of justice in the Mofussil was the most unpopular of British institutions in India"—that "the administration of justice in the Presidency towns was very popular, notwithstanding the expense of litigation in the Supreme Courts." The reason for this difference was that "the Judges in the latter were trained in the principles of law and evidence and in their practical application," while in the Mofussil or "country courts, owing to the deficiency of legal education, the Judges had no fixed principles of law and evidence to guide them, and decisions varied with the person or the feelings of the Judge." The letter said that the remedy proposed was "to unite the popular with the unpopular and the professionally inefficient with the efficient elements into one court," and the writer added his opinion that "the hopes and good intentions of the framers of this measure would be grievously disappointed." What would be thought if it were proposed to take a perfectly untrained gentleman from the Court of Quarter Sessions in this country and put him to sit beside the Judges of the land to decide upon the questions submitted to the superior courts? The main proposition of this Bill was to mix up the learned with unlearned gentlemen, for what object he could not understand, except to admit some of the Native element, with the expectation that the civil servants who were Judges of the Sudder Court would be able to give some information to the Judges of the Supreme Court. The principle of the Bill might be right, and he should not vote against the second reading, but he hoped that before the Bill reached another stage they would receive some information on which they could intelligently act.


protested against the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Scully) that none took an interest in Indian questions but those who had profited by India or expected to profit by it. There were many Gentlemen in that House who honestly endeavoured to legislate for the benefit of India, though they never had any connection personally with it, or had derived any profit from it. He regretted that the House had not been furnished with all the information they ought to possess on this subject; they ought to have had before them the opinion of the Council of India. He had voted against the Members of the Indian Council being excluded from Parliament, as they could have given much information on Indian subjects; they were the men who knew more about India than any other class; and yet the House was debarred from an acquaintance with their opinions on this most important question. He hoped the House would insist on the production of the opinions of the Council. He protested against any information being concealed from them on such a subject.


was understood to support the Bill.


said, there were some parts of the Bill which could, he thought, be advantageously amended. For instance the covenanted servants of ten years' standing were put upon a par with barristers of five years' standing. The hon. Member (Mr. Scully) had spoken of the learned and the unlearned sitting together in the same court, the learned being barristers of five years' standing, and the unlearned, members of the Covenanted Civil Service of not less than ten years' standing, who had served as Zillah Judges. But he should be inclined to regard the latter experienced persons as the learned, and the inexperienced barrister as the unlearned member of the Court. The standing of the Judges of the proposed Court well deserved the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.

It was hardly fair or considerate to the Covenanted Civil Service to legislate for the possible association of a barrister of five years standing, on the same bench with the covenanted civil servant of twenty-two or twenty-three years standing, which is, he (Mr. Torrens) believed, the shortest period of service at which a covenanted servant has ever attained the honour of a seat on the bench of the existing Sudder Court in Bengal.


held it to be impolitic to put barristers of five years' standing, who might be about thirty years of age, on the same bench with covenanted servants who might have had from twenty to thirty years' experience. A population of not less than 150,000,000 required the administration of justice according to the Mahommedan and Hindoo codes, and by Judges who understood their languages—qualifications not likely to be possessed by barristers of five years' standing. Hitherto the Mofussil courts had been presided over by Native Judges and had given the greatest satisfaction; but it seemed they were to be superseded by new local courts, presided over by an European barrister, at an expense to the Indian Government of five to ten times the cost of Native Judges. People spoke of these proposed small cause courts as being new to India; but the fact was they existed in India long before the county courts were known in England, and they had worked so satisfactorily, that the Native Judges had decided on an average, from ninety-seven to ninety-eight cases in every hundred civil suits, with comparatively few appeals from their decision.


said, in reply to the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), that who should practice before the Courts in India was settled by the Courts themselves. The Sudder Court decided who should practise before it, and under what regulations; so did the Supreme Court; and in like manner the High Court would decide for itself who should practise before it, whether barristers, advocates, or solicitors. In reply to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Scully) what he (Sir Charles Wood) had said was this—that a draft of a Bill had been sent out to the Judges of the Supreme Court of Bengal. Their suggestions had been received and considered, and the greater number of them had been adopted. With respect to the Judges at Madras, the expression of their opinion was in favour of amalgamation. He certainly had received some suggestions from one of the Judges of the Supreme Court at Bombay in a letter, which, no doubt, had been correctly cited by the hon. Member, but which not being a public document he (Sir Charles Wood) did not feel justified in laying it upon the table of the House. The hon. Gentleman then said that the Bill had been introduced without due information. But in the Report of the Committee of 1851–2, and the labours of the Law Commission, which reported the same year, abundant materials would be found. The hon. Baronet (Sir Harry Verney) had charged him (Sir Charles Wood) with acting in this matter without taking the opinion of the Indian Council. He thought the hon. Baronet ought to have ascertained whether the fact was so or not before he made this charge. The truth was that the matter had been repeatedly discussed in the Council; many of the suggestions thrown out had been adopted; but no recorded statement of opinion had been made either for or against the measure, as all were perfectly agreed as to what its main provisions should be. With regard to the objection taken by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Torrens), he had only to say that in fixing a five years' standing at the English Bar and ten years' standing for a civil servant as a qualification for a Judge, he had merely repeated the existing qualification for Supreme Court and for the Sudder Courts according to the existing law. The hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) had recommended him to bring in another additional Bill; but he (Sir Charles Wood) had been already blamed for introducing so many Indian measures so late in the Session, and he scarcely thought the House would approve of another.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday next.