§ Sir HENRY COTTON
asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he has any official information regarding the introduction of a Bill into the Legislative Council of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal authorising the police of Calcutta and the suburbs of Calcutta, to prohibit meetings, public and private, processions and illuminations, and to arrest persons without warrant, and at the same time affording absolute indemnity to the police for their action; whether this legislation has been introduced with the sanction of the Secretary of State; and, if so, whether he can state what is the reason for such a measure?
The MASTER of ELIBANK
A Bill to amend the Calcutta and Suburban Police Acts of 1866 has been, with the sanction of the Secretary of State in Council, introduced into the Bengal Legislative Council. In November last the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal represented that the statutory powers of the police as to processions and assemblies were extremely indefinite, and were liable to be called in question on purely technical grounds. He accordingly recommended that the two Acts should be amplified by provisions from the Act regulating police administration in the City of Bombay, which has been in force for seven years. The proposed Amendments are taken practically verbatim from the Bombay Act. The description in the question greatly exaggerates the effect of the Bill. The Bill gives the police no power to interfere with private meetings. There is no absolute indemnity. The power of a police officer to arrest without warrant is limited to persons persisting in an offence punishable under the Bill in his presence in any public place, after being warned, and refusing to give their address, or to accompany the police officer to the station. In reference to a supplementary question last Tuesday by the hon. Member for Newbury, this Bill has no relation whatever to anything in the recent speech of Sir E. Baker. He said nothing at all in that speech about further repressive measures.