HC Deb 04 December 1919 vol 122 cc787-90

(1) This Act may be cited as the Government of India Act, 1919, and this principal Act, as amended by any Act for the time being in force, may be cited as the Government of India Act.

(2) This Act shall come into operation on such date or dates as the Governor-General in Council, with the approval of the Secretary of State in Council, may appoint, and different dates may be appointed, for different provisions of this Act, and for different parts of India.

On the dates appointed for the coming in, into operation of the provisions of this Act as respects any executive or legislative council all the members of the council then in office shall go out of office, but may, if otherwise qualified, be re-appointed, re-nominated or re-elected, as the case may be, in accordance with the provisions of the principal Act as amended by this Act.

(3) Any reference in any enactment, whether an Act of Parliament or made by any authority-in British India, or in any Rules, Regulations or Orders made under any such enactment, or in any letters patent or other document, to any enactment, repealed by the principal Act, shall for all purposes be construed as references to the principal Act as amended by this Act, or to the corresponding provision thereof.

(4) Any reference in any enactment in force in India, whether an Act of Parliament or made by any authority in British India, or in any Rules, Regulations, or Orders made under any such enactment, or in any letters patent or other document, to any Indian legislative authority, shall for all purposes be construed as references to the corresponding authority constituted by the principal Act as amended by this Act.

(5) If any difficulty arises as to the first establishment of the Indian legislature or any legislative council after the commencement of this Act or otherwise in first giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Secretary of State in Council or the Governor-General in Council, as occasion may require, may by Order do anything which appears to them necessary for the purpose of removing the difficulty.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Colonel YATE

I had here again on the Paper my proposal to leave out the words "The Secretary of State" and insert instead thereof the words "His Majesty." I had a similar proposal on a preceding Clause. I would like to point out that the consideration that the King is Emperor of India seems to have been forgotten in framing these Clauses. His Majesty has visited India, and has been received and acknowledged by the people there who have shown their warm appreciation of his being their Emperor. It seems to have been overlooked that the position of India in the world has been completely changed. India has been admitted to a full partnership with us in the British Empire; she has taken her place in the Imperial War Cabinet and in the War Conference, and was an integral part of the Peace Conference in common with the other belligerents. I think it is only right that the words "His Majesty in Council" should have been inserted. We must remember the position India occupies, which is one of equality. I ask the Secretary of State for India to take this into consideration. I think this point of the date of operation of the Act should have been reserved for submission to His Majesty in Council and not to the Secretary of State.

Question put, and agreed to.

The following new Clause stood on the Paper in the names of Mr. SPOOR, Colonel WEDGWOOD, and Mr. A. HENDERSON:

(Declaration of Rights.)

It is declared that the following rights of His Majesty's subjects in India are recognised, and that any laws which are inconsistent with these rights are hereby, to the extent of their inconsistency, repealed:—

  1. (a) That all Indian subjects of His Majesty and all subjects naturalised or resident in India are equal before the law, and that laws and the administration thereof shall not discriminate between status, colour, caste, or creed;
  2. (b) That no subject of His Majesty in India shall be liable to suffer in liberty, property, or life in respect of freedom of speech, publication, or association, nor shall the free expression of opinion in the Press be subject to restriction or penalty, save only under ordinary process of law in legal and open trial in the common Courts of the land.


The first new Clause on the Paper—[Declaration, of Rights]— should really not be a new Clause. It is rather a proclamation or a preamble.


On a point of Order. Is it not quite normal to have in a Bill which is instituting a new constitution a Clause making a declaration of rights such as we passed in 1689? It seems to me that the analogy is complete. In granting a written constitution we should at the same time include in the constitution a declaration of rights, saying what we think are the rights of the subject under the British Crown. The Act as a Constitutional Act seems to be incomplete without some such declaration that the inhabitants of India are equal before the law, that the Habeas Corpus Act works there as in England, and that all men shall be tried in open Court by the laws of the land. I think it would be in order.


I think not. I think it is outside this Act and might conflict with other legislation. You cannot put a Proclamation into an Act of Parliament.


I submit that it would not conflict with this Act of Parliament, though it would be inconsistent with the Riots Act and the Press Act.


That disposes of the new Clauses.

First and Second Schedules agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time to-morrow (Friday).