§ MR. J. M. ROBERTSON (Northumberland, Tyneside)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that the Government of Bengal are paying out of public funds, the entire costs of the plaintiff in the suit of Hem Chunder Lahiri v. the Editor and publisher of the Indian Daily News, recently under trial upon the civil original side of the High Court of Calcutta, and that official correspondence to that effect has been published in Calcutta by the Government of Bengal; whether he is aware that the suit in question is one of several which 1432 are being brought by an inspector of the Calcutta police force against a number of Calcutta newspapers, both Indian and Anglo-Indian, for damages in respect of an alleged libel published by them in July, 1905, in connection with the abortive police prosecution of one Ganga Ahir for murder; whether the conduct of this inspector and of other members of the Calcutta police force in reference to this prosecution was at the time condemned in strong terms by the present Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal; and, if so, what is the reason for the action now being taken by the Government of Bengal, and why are public moneys being expended on behalf of one of the parties to a private action at law?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (SIR EDWARD GREY, Northumberland, Berwick)
I have seen a report in the newspapers that the Government of Bengal are bearing part of the costs of the plaintiff, who is an inspector of police. I have no official information as to the details of the case to which my hon. friend refers. The action of the Bengal Government is apparently in entire accordance with the rules laid down by the Government of India for the conduct of Government servants, which provide that when a Government servant, with the previous sanction of Government, has recourse to the Courts for the vindication of his public acts or character against defamation, the Government shall decide whether it will bear his costs itself, or reimburse him if the decision is in his favour.