§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that, in 1887, the Reverend Father Millard, a Roman Catholic clergyman, was convicted of abetment of bigamy, and sentenced to imprisonment by the Madras High Court, because he had solemnised the marriage of a Roman Catholic convert woman, who had been deserted by her husband, although the said marriage was in strict accordance with the rules of the Roman Catholic Church in such cases, which have been in force among the Roman Catholic community in India for over 300 years, and in accordance with which numerous such marriages have been solemnised 1285 throughout the country, both before and after the establishment of British rule, and their legality never previously questioned; whether the Secretary of State for India will consider the desirability of directing the Government of India to pass a short Act embodying the original intentions of the Legislature in 1866, by which the legality of all such marriages may be clearly established with retrospective effect, and so that Roman Catholic clergymen in India may no longer run the risk of tine or imprisonment for performing their duty; and whether the Secretary of State for India will cause to be laid upon the Table all Correspondence connected with the above subject?
Father Millard was convicted because he solemnised a marriage between a man and a woman the latter of whom by the law of the land was still the wife of another man. No steps were taken, as they might have been, under the Native Converts Marriage Dissolution Act of 1866, to annul the first marriage before performing the second. The Indian Christian Marriage Law has recently on two occasions been very carefully revised by Acts II. of 1881 and II. of 1892, of the Governor General's Council; and it seems unnecessary to take any further action in the matter. The Secretary of State has no Correspondence on the subject. The case is reported at page 218 of the Madras Law Reports, Volume X.
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE
May I ask the hon. Gentleman is it to be understood that the only reason why this Roman Catholic priest was convicted of the offence of marrying the couple was the fact that necessary precautions had not been taken with regard to the former marriage?
The hon. Member must draw what inferences he pleases from the first part of my answer. I merely state the facts.