HC Deb 28 July 1908 vol 193 cc1216-8
DR. RUTHERFORD (Middlesex, Brentford)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the Secretary of State for India will recommend His Majesty the King to extend his clemency to Mr. Tilak, in view of the position he holds in the Indian national movement, and remit a portion of his sentence, with a view to allaying to some extent the present unrest in India."


asked if the right hon. Gentleman thought that expressions of sympathy in the House with notorious enemies of British rule were likely to have the effect of "allaying to some extent the present unrest in India."


I think the Answer I have to make will cover both Questions. It is impossible for the Secretary of State to take the action suggested in the Question. My hon. friend hardly realises the nature of the charge on which Mr. Tilak was convicted and the circumstances of the trial. The trial lasted ten days before a judge of the Bombay High Court with a special jury. Mr. Tilak was convicted by seven out of nine jurymen of offences under Section 124a and 153a of the Indian Penal Code. At the beginning of the trial he exercised his full rights of challenge, objecting to six Europeans, one Jew, and one Hindu. He spoke for several days in his own defence. In passing sentence the judge said—"The articles are seething with sedition; they preach violence; they speak of murder with approval; and the Cowardly and atrocious act of committing murder with bombs not only seems to meet with the prisoner's approval, but he hails the advent of the bomb in India as if something had come to India for its good." I think the hon. Member will agree with me that writings of such a character cannot fairly be held to fall under the exception made by the Penal Code in favour of "comments expressing disapprobation of the measures or action of the Government with a view to obtaining their alteration by lawful means." The Government deliberately instituted these proceedings in a Court of Law, and in a case of this kind for them immediately to traverse the verdict of the Court or precipitately to set aside its sentence, would be to stultify themselves.


asked if the article could now be published as a Parliamentary Paper to give the House and the country the opportunity for learning what foundation there was for the language used by the Judge.


said he could make no promise of the kind.

SIR H. COTTON (Nottingham, E.)

Can a copy be placed in the Library?


I can give no pledge.


asked if the right hon. Gentleman was aware that copies could be obtained at the office of the paper called India.


asked if the substance of the article published in The Times was correct.


I cannot say.

MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

asked if the proportion of seven Europeans to two natives was the usual proportion on special juries in Bombay.


I cannot say. Thore wore on the jury seven Europeans and two Parsees, and the Judge was a Parsee gentleman.


And then there was a division of opinion on the jury?


Yes; I have already stated so.

MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the sentence of six years' transportation recently passed upon Mr. Tilak can be made the subject of appeal; whether a sentence of transportation involves the removal of the prisoner to a penal settlement; and, if so, what is the nature of the punishment to which he is there subject.


No appeal lies to the High Court from any order or sentence passed by a Judge exercising the original jurisdiction of the Court, but points of law may be reserved for consideration. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council may give special leave to appeal in cases where grave and substantial injustice appears to have been done. The appeal, in such cases, lies to the Judicial Committee. A sentence of transportation may involve the removal of a prisoner to a penal settlement, but does not necessarily do so; the prisoner may be sent instead to a Central Jail appointed for the purpose. A prisoner sentenced to transportation is subject for a time to solitary confinement: he is then put to some form of work with the other prisoners, and may obtain various privileges by good conduct.