HC Deb 23 March 1911 vol 23 cc599-600

asked the Under Secretary for India whether he can state the particulars in which the new proposed Seditious Meetings Act is more liberal than the expiring Act; whether it is temporary in character; and whether it is to be applied to the whole of British India or only to disturbed areas, and on whose demand?


The Seditious Meetings Bill, as introduced in the Governor-General's Legislative Council, and passed without a Division, differs from the Act now in force in the following respects: First, it provides that the power of a local Government to notify proclaimed areas shall only be exercised with the sanction of the Government of India. Secondly, it omits from the definition of a public meeting the provision that a meeting of more than twenty persons shall be presumed to be a public meeting until the contrary has been proved. Thirdly, it restricts the scope of the Act by omitting the words "or of any political subject" from the Clause requiring notice to be given of meetings held to discuss certain classes of subjects. The effect of this will be that the only meetings of which notices need be given will be those held for the discussion of subjects likely to cause disturbance or public excitement. Fourthly, the notices of such meetings must be sent to the district magistrate instead of the police. The new Act, like the present one, will have operation only in such provinces as the Government of India may notify from time to time. My hon. Friend has no doubt observed the language of the Viceroy to his Legislative Council, on Monday: "I do not intend that the new Act shall be extended to any part of the country until the necessity arises. The contingency, I hope, may never arise."


Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether the Government of India, in preparing that Act, had before them as a precedent the Piggott perpetual Coercion Act in Ireland?


I cannot say.