HC Deb 12 July 1906 vol 160 cc1046-7
MR. BRIGHT (Oldham)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he has received a Report from India of the circumstances connected with the execution of a native, who had appealed to the Governor-General; and what action he intends to take with respect to the official who is responsible for this execution.


When this subject was first raised by a Question in the name of the hon. Member for Tyneside, I expressed my incredulity, and in some particulars incredulity was justified. Udoy Patny was sentenced to death by the Sessions Judge of Sylhet for murder. The right of appeal is of exceptional liberality in India. First, the capital sentence was confirmed by the High Court of Calcutta. Next, the prisoner had right of appeal to the High Court; whether he exercised this right I do not know. The date of the execution was fixed by the Sessions Judge for May 21st. The prisoner now appealed for mercy to the Lieutenant-Governor, who, in the exercise of the powers vested in him, declined on May 12th to interfere. The prisoner then made an oral statement to the superintendent of the gaol, appealing to the Government of India. The superintendent informed the Local Government of the fact by telegram on Sunday the 13th. On the 15th the record of the ease and the notification of the appeal were despatched to the Government of India by registered letter marked " immediate." Owing to some error this letter which should have been delivered on the 19th, did not come into the hands of the Government of India until 10 o'clock on the morning of Monday, the 21st. The Government of India telegraphed staying the execution, if it had not been already carried out, not because they thought that the case deserved clemency —for the record satisfied them of the guilt of the accused—but because they were under the impression that a petition for mercy was on its way to them, and they did not realise that the telegram from the gaoler was all that the prisoner had to say. The convict had already been executed at 7 o'clock that morning. The Local Government admit in a communication to the Government of India that mistakes were made. They overlooked the fact that May 20th was a Sunday and therefore there might be delay. The superintendent of the Sylhet Gaol told them that he had fixed the 21st for the execution, but they gave him no orders to postpone. Let me say that if a prisoner, after petitioning the Local Government, further petitions the Government of India, and if such petition, in the opinion of the Local Government, contains nothing likely to influence the judgment of the Government of India in the prisoner's favour, the Local Government is bound, under the regulations of 1885 to forward it to the Government of India, but is not bound to postpone the execution beyond the date already fixed. In the present case the verbal petition to the Government of India added nothing to the petition to the Local Government which had already been rejected, and the Lieutenant-Governor's action was therefore strictly in accordance with the regulation to which I have just referred. Whatever may be the right construction of the rule, it was to be expected in my opinion that the Local Government, having forwarded the petition would make it part of the same operation to take care that the object in forwarding it should not be made futile by taking no steps to suspend the execution. I must remind the House that the Government of India have had no doubt upon a review of the record that the conviction and the sentence passed by the Sessions Judge and confirmed by the High Court of Calcutta were entirely just. There have been admitted faults in procedure, and I regret to say that in my view these proceedings fall short of the high and exact standard of official duty that the Indian Civil Service has for so many generations so notably maintained.

MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)

Does not all this point to the abandonment of the judicial policy of taking away human life?

[No Answer was returned.]