HC Deb 06 August 1907 vol 179 cc1822-3

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that the Government of Bengal gave leave to six police officers to institute a civil action for libel against three papers on a criticism of mismanagement of the prosecution of the Sova Bazar murder case, the action being eventually heard against the Indian Daily News; whether the Government privately guaranteed the cost of the action in the event of the policemen winning; and whether it is to be understood in future that any officials criticised by any paper are free to sue for damages at the public expense.


The rules regulating the conduct of Government servants prohibit a Government servant from having recourse, without the previous sanction of the Government, to any Court for the vindication of his public acts or character from defamatory attacks. In granting such sanction the Government must in each case decide whether it will itself bear the costs, or whether the Government servant shall institute the proceedings at his own expense, and, if so, whether, in the event of a decision in his favour, the Government shall reimburse him to the extent of the whole or any part of the costs. It was in accordance with these rules that the Government of Bengal acted in the case referred to. The judge held that there had been a serious libel; and I need not remind my hon. friend of the difference between fair criticism and defamation.

MR. HAROLD COX (Preston)

What would have happened had the newspaper won the case? Would the Government have paid the costs?


I am afraid I cannot say.