HC Deb 17 February 1898 vol 53 cc880-1

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been drawn to the general disapproval and alarm excited in India by the proposed changes in the law of sedition as shown by the fact that more than thirty public bodies, European and Indian, have protested against the proposed changes; whether these protesting bodies include the Calcutta Bar, which consists chiefly of Englishmen; whether, according to present arrangements, the Government of India proposes to pass the Measure into law within a few days from the present date; and whether, in view of the gravity of the matter, he will secure that the Bill shall not become law until the House of Commons has had an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon its provisions?


The Bills to which the hon. Baronet's Question refers were introduced into the Legislative Council more than eight weeks ago. No information has reached me confirming the allegations of the first Question. On the contrary, from what I hear, I believe the opposition to the Measure to be confined to a very limited class of the community. The Calcutta Bar does not consist chiefly of Englishmen; and, if a protest has been submitted by that Bar, I am unaware by what proportion of its members such protest has been signed. According to the telegrams which have reached me, the Penal Code Amendments will be considered to-morrow in the Legislative Council. The Procedure Code Amendments have not yet been reported, so far as I know, by the Select Committee to whom they were referred. I have no intention of asking the Government of India to postpone the consideration of these Measures. If they should pass into law, the power of allowing, or disallowing them, is vested in the Crown, and I am in no sense disposed to shirk responsibility for any advice which I may give to Her Majesty on this subject.