HC Deb 16 March 1891 vol 351 cc1045-6
MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for India (1) whether manufacture of salt is defined in the Bombay Salt Act, under which two native women were recently convicted and punished, to be not merely the preparation of salt for trade purposes, but "every process for the purification or refinement of salt;" (2) is he aware that it is by the process of evaporation over fire, which the Definition Clause of the Act defines to be manufacture, that the dirty bazaar salt is prepared for table use; (3) is he aware that the salt, for the treatment of which by the above process the women were punished, had already paid duty; (4) whether the cases were referred by the District Magistrate to the High Court in order to ascertain if there was any way of escape from the hard and fast definition and prohibition contained in the Act; that Justices Bird wood and Parsons found that there was not; and that Mr. Justice Birdwood declared that the definition of manufacture in the Act Would apparently convert into crimes some perfectly innocent practices connected with the use of salt for domestic purposes; (5) whether, in the face of so strong an expression of opinion by the learned Judge, he still adheres to his decision that the law shall continue to be enforced; and (6) whether he will cause a Return to be prepared, showing each case of alleged infraction of the Act, the nature of the offence, and the punishment inflicted?


The answer to the first paragraph of the question of the hon. Member is, Yes, and to the second, Yes. The reply to the third paragraph is that the newspaper report of the High Court decision states that the salt was not alleged to be contraband. The answer to the fourth paragraph is that the words quoted occur in the newspaper report. In reply to paragraph five, I have to say that the law will be enforced with discretion, and, if it is found necessary, will be amended. The answer to the last paragraph of the question is that if the hon. Member will consult the Bombay Annual Salt Report he will find there an account of salt prosecutions and the result thereof.


Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman controverts the accuracy of the report of Mr. Justice Birdwood's statement that the definition of the manufacture of salt in the Act Would apparently convert into crimes some perfectly innocent practices connected with the use of salt for domestic purposes.


No, Sir; I said that the Secretary of State had received no official communication in regard to this trial, but that the words quoted by the hon. Member do appear in the newspaper report.