HC Deb 09 November 1911 vol 30 cc1813-5
Mr. MORRELL (for Mr. MacCallum Scott)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether in the case of the British subject recently found by the sessions judge of Poonah to have been tortured to death by a sub-inspector of police, any compensation was made to the family of the victim; and whether, in any of the cases where innocent men have been found to have been tortured to death by policemen, any compensation has been given to the families of the deceased?


No compensation has as yet been paid to the family in this case, but the Government of India have the question under consideration. Under certain conditions the courts can award compensation to persons injured by the commission of an offence, and, when compensation is not awarded by the court, it can be given by a local government. The latter power was exercised in a similar case last year, and the attention of all local governments is being called to the subject.


Why could not the compensation have been given immediately, when it was shown that the man had been tortured to death by the Indian police?


The immediate grant of compensation is in the discretion of the Court. In this particular instance the Court did not see fit to recommend compensation until further consideration. Action by the local government has not yet taken place: it is under consideration.


asked whether, seeing that the Indian Penal Code provides that the crime of murder is committed by anyone who causes the death of another by intentionally inflicting upon him without lawful excuse such bodily injury as is either likely to cause death, or as is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, that the medical evidence in the recent Poonah torture case showed that the man tortured to death was a strong, healthy man, but was so severely beaten by the police that several of his ribs were broken, and that he was ultimately suffocated to death, he can state upon whose advice it was decided that under such circumstances no charge of murder should be brought against the police?


The charge against the prisoner was framed in accordance with usual practice by the committing magistrate, who would be guided by the evidence before him in deciding the issues on which the accused should be tried. I may add that the sessions judge may, if he thinks proper, alter the charge during the hearing of the case. Further, I would observe that the hon. Member's allegations as to the evidence and his whole description of the case are not accurate. The medical evidence was slender and conflicting, and it does not seem to be the case that any ribs were broken, and the deceased was not suffocated to death while in the hands of the police.


Is there any reasonable doubt that the man died as the result of torture by the police?


I have only seen the judgment in the case; the evidence has not yet come before me. The hon. Member sets out in his question certain allegations of fact which are not, at all events, borne out by the information which reached me.


Is it not possible for the Indian Government to put an end once and for all to the employment of torture for the extraction of evidence?


The hon. Member must be aware the Government of India is doing its best to put an end to torture, and, as they have not yet succeeded, it shows it is not possible once and for all to stop it.