HC Deb 07 July 1914 vol 64 cc866-7

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been drawn to the result of the recent appeal to the Chief Court of the Punjab brought by the "Daily Zamindar" of Lahore against the declaration of forfeiture made by the Government of the Punjab under the Press Act; whether he is aware that, as the result of this appeal, the proprietors of an Indian newspaper of a large circulation will be penalised by a fine amounting to £800, besides the entire loss of their printing presses, in respect of three articles which contained no incitement whatever to violence or disorder, but which on account of certain criticisms of Government action were held to have a seditious tendency; whether his attention has also been called to the opinion expressed by the Chief Justice of Bengal that, owing to the all-comprehensive nature of the provisions of the Press Act, the task of an applicant to the Courts against forfeiture of security is an almost hopeless task, so that every newspaper which expresses any views of which the local Government disapproves becomes liable to fine and forfeiture; and whether, in view of the apparent harshness of the working of the Press Act in the case of the "Daily Zamindar," the Secretary of State will direct further inquiry to be made into the matter?


The Secretary of State has received a telegraphic summary of the judgment in which the Punjab Chief Court rejected the appeal of the keeper of the "Zemindar" Press, and is awaiting a full report. The Court found it impossible to accept the editor's explanation that the articles were inoffensive, and held that he must have been aware that they tended to incite to violence and disorder. The opinion expressed by the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court on another case referred to action taken under a different Section of the Press Act.


In view of this sentence, will the Indian Government give instructions that these prosecutions should not continue in the future?


Is it not a fact that the punishment, as far as one can tell, is altogether out of proportion to the offence committed, and will the Secretary of State consider the desirability of giving relief?


That is a matter for the Court.