HC Deb 14 December 1908 vol 198 cc1244-5

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for India whether a new penal law has been passed by the Government of India abolishing, for those accused under it, the right of trial by jury and depriving them of the right to bail as long as there is reasonable ground for inquiring into the charges against them, and making evidence against them the depositions of witnesses who may be prevented by death or absence from giving oral testimony at the trial; whether the same law makes highly criminal the mere membership of certain associations without any specific crime having to be proved against the individual; and, if so, whether he will state the precise offences against which this law is directed and whether there is any precedent for such an enactment.

MR. HERBERT (Buckinghamshire, Wycombe)

I beg also to ask the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the Bill for the trial of prisoners accused of sedition in India provides that the prisoner is in no case to be allowed bail; whether there is any, and, if so, what, reason to distrust the proper action of the Courts in India by depriving them of the discretion as to granting bail; does the Bill also provide that the depositions taken at a preliminary inquiry of witnesses who have died before the trial are to be admissible in evidence if against the prisoner but not if in his favour; will he state whether this Bill requires, or has received, the assent of the Secretary of State for India; and will the Government take all necessary steps to secure that under exceptional legislation of this kind prisoners are guaranteed a trial at least as consonant with the principles of justice as they would be entitled to if they were tried under martial law.


The Bill was passed at a meeting of the Governor-General's Legislative Council on Friday last. The Secretary of State had already sanctioned its introduction. All Acts of the Legislative Council become law at once, but are subject to disallowance by the Crown on the advice of the Secretary of State. It will at once be laid upon the Table of the House. Meanwhile, perhaps hon. Members will excuse me from giving an Answer to their questions in detail. The Act deals with murderous outrages and kindred offences, and not with sedition.