HC Deb 10 December 1888 vol 331 cc1594-5
MR. JAMES STUART(for Mr. H. J. WILSON) (York, W.R., Holmfirth)

asked the Under Secretary of State for India, Whether he is aware that a telegram was received on December 7, by several Members of this House, from Mr. Alfred Dyer, editor of The Bombay Guardian, in which he alleges that an European magistrate at Patna yesterday ordered a Christian girl, whom he holds to be under 14 years of age, to be taken from the charge of Miss Abraham, Church Missionary Zenana Mission, and handed over to an immoral man, to whom her mother had sold her; whether he has telegraphed for further particulars; what reply he has received; and, what action will be taken?


The Secretary of State has received the following information from the Government of India in reference to the alleged case of withdrawal of a girl from the custody of the Church Missionary Zenana Mission:— Quinn, magistrate of Patna District, reports that girl alleged to be under 14 years of age left reputed husband's house in October last. Application made to magistrate of district under Section 551, Criminal Procedure Act X. of 1882, to restore girl to her mother. Orders issued under section to show cause why girl should not be restored. Inquiry made about it shows that girl's marriage has been proved and Court's orders issued for the restoration of the girl to her husband and mother. Bengal High Court, on application, pending inquiry, has refused to interfere with district magistrate's proceedings. Affair apparently dispute between the missionaries and natural guardians for possession of native child. The Government of Bengal has called for record of district magistrate's proceedings. I will read to the House the section of the Indian Procedure Code referred to— Section 551. Upon complaint made to a Presidency Magistrate or District Magistrate on oath of the abduction or unlawful detention of a woman, or of a female child under the age of 14 years, for any unlawful purpose, he may make an order for the immediate restoration of such woman to her liberty, or of such female child to her husband, parent, guardian, or other person having the lawful charge of such child, and may compel compliance with such order, using such force as may he necessary. The Secretary of State desires me to remind the House that Indian magistrates are bound to administer the law as it is; and that the Government of Her Majesty is under the most solemn obligations to respect the religious and social customs of the Hindoos, and all other classes of Her Majesty's subjects in India.