§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Commander Eyres Monsell.]
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
The matter I wish to bring to the attention of the House refers to the arrest of the ex-Maharajah of Nabha on 19th February last, and his deportation to South India, 2,000 miles away from his wife and five young children, who are anxiously watching his fate. I under- 510 stand the warrant for his arrest was issued under Regulation 3 of the Act of 1818. This Act should be as obsolete as its use is barbaric in the 20th century. Under this warrant no charge is made against him, and it would appear the Government of India do not intend to place him on trial. It appears their policy is to detain him indefinitely. I put the following supplementary question yesterday:whether the arrest of this man and Isis detention without any charge being brought against him, has not caused considerable dissatisfaction in India, especially in the Sikh community, of which he is the reputed leader?The Noble Lord replied:The only dissatisfaction caused in India has been among the notorious and disloyal agitators."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1928; col. 179, Vol. 216.]That insinuation is entirely untrue, because many of the Indian papers made strong protests about it, and strong resolutions have been carried at many public meetings in some, of the largest assemblies all over India with regard to this action of the Government. The question was raised in tile Legislative Assembly on 22nd February, not by notorious disloyal agitators but by some of the most prominent and respected leaders of Indian political opinion. A Motion for the Adjournment of the House on a definite matter of urgent public importance was moved, for instance, by Sardar Gulab Singh, the only Sikh representative in the Legislative Assembly. It was natural that he should move the Motion because the the ex-Maharajah is a Sikh prince and a religious leader of the Sikh community. Another man, who cannot be said to be a notorious agitator, Mr. 511 Srinivasa Iyengar, the Member for Madras, also protested strongly against this action of the Government. He was also the President of the All-India National Congress in 1926. He is an ex-Advocate-General of the Madras Government. I mention that because obviously he cannot be charged by his Government with being a notorious agitator, disloyal to the Crown. Another well-known National Leader, Pandit Malaviya, the Member for Allahabad, also protested very strongly against this action. He certainly is one of the most orthodox Hindu leaders in India, and to suggest that Pandit Malaviya, of Allahabad, is an agitataor, disloyal to the Crown, is equivalent to saying that the Noble Lord himself is an agitator. Mr. Lajpat Rai, the leader of the Nationalist party, also protested.
Lastly, I would call attention to the fact that one who is reputed to be with the Government, Sir Hari Singh Gour, member for the Central Provinces, a very big barrister, who has a reputation as an authority on Indian penal laws, also protested very strongly that this action was illegal. I mention these circumstances to rebut the insinuation made yesterday by the Noble Lord, and to point out that there is a considerable and growing feeling in India about the injustice of this action. The Chamber of Princes at Delhi is powerless, as a legislative assembly, to deal with the case because the Government of India opposed discussion of it in India. They were afraid to face the music and sheltered themselves behind the technicality that the Parliament of India has no jurisdiction over the native States and princes. Therefore, we are left to bring the matter before the British Parliament, who in the last resort are responsible for the good government of British India; and also at the request of several of the prominent Indian leaders I have mentioned and members of the Sikh community itself. It is the duty of the Government of India to prove, and not merely to assert, that this man has been disloyal to the Crown. In 1915 Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who was then Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, admitted frankly in a Report submitted to the Government of India, that as far as the Maharajah himself was concerned he was 512 quite loyal to the Crown, and we have yet no evidence that he is not loyal. His chief crime appears to have been what is regarded as a virtue in any Britisher. He has refused consistently blind obedience to the political agents of the Viceroy. For the last, 20 years he has been persecuted for his independence of mind, and his frank aid of the Nationalist cause in India. It is because he has not readily come under the pressure of the bureaucrats that this thing has been done against him. Six days ago I submitted a series of questions to the Noble Lord, which I asked him specifically to answer, and I understand that he is prepared to do so to-night, namely:
I trust we shall have answers to these questions to-night. I urge the British Government to reconsider their attitude and make up their mind to state the definite charges of disloyalty they have against him, and grant him what is the elementary right of British justice—a fair and an open trial. I submit that on grounds of justice and public policy a demand for a fair and an open trial cannot be refused. What have the Government of India to fear from such a trial? if they can prove their case, they will have vindicated their action, and it will clear the air. But if they cannot; if they 513 refuse such a trial, then they are open to the charge that they are afraid to face the facts. Although I have a great deal more to say, I will leave it there, in order to give the Noble Lord time for his reply.
- "(1) The Maharajah of Nabha having been arrested under Regulation 3 of 1818, and that being a Regulation of the Government of India, why are questions with regard to the matter forbidden in the Indian Legislative Assembly?
- (2) Is the ex-Maharajah regarded as a foreigner, and, if so, is there anything to prevent his moving for a writ of habeas corpus in the High Court in India for his release, or applying to the Privy Council?
- (3) Will the Under-Secretary of State for India say whether he considers that Regulation 3 4 1818 applicable to ruling princes or to a prince or chief under the suzerainty of His Majesty?
- (4) Will the Under-Secretary inform the House of the case against the ex-Maharajah and whether it is proposed to bring any action in any Indian Court?
- (5) If not, for how tong do they intend to deprive him of his liberty, without any charge being brought against him?
- (6) On what grounds can the Under-Secretary of State for India defend the separation of the ex-Maharajah from his wife and five minor children?
- (7) Has the ex-Maharanee been induced or urged to write or sign any document since the arrest of her husband, and to what effect?"
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Earl Winterton)
I must express my gratitude to the hon. Member for the courtesy he has shown me in consenting to postpone this discussion in order to suit my convenience, and because I was suffering from a slight indisposition before the Easter Recess; and, in the second place, for his courtesy in sending me in advance the questions he proposed to ask on this matter to-night. I have only a few moments in which to deal with this important case, but before I come to the specific questions put to me, I should like to recall to the attention of the House—the matter has been dealt with by question and answer already—the circumstances which arose in the past in this matter. In the year 1923 an inquiry was held into the administration of the Nabha State and as a result charges brought against the Maharajah of Nabha by the Patiala Durbar were found to be well founded. Grave eases of injustice were disclosed in the Nabha State; eases which would not receive support from any hon. member in the House. No hon. Member could possibly support the very serious cases of mat-administration that had gone on in that State, and for which it was held the Maharajah was very largely responsible. In consequence, he was divested of his administrative powers in the State, although he retained certain prerogatives, but he retained those prerogatives on the distinct understanding and undertaking which he gave to refrain from certain actions, which I mentioned in answer to a question the other day. The first, question which the hon. Member asks is:The Maharajah of Nabha having been arrested under Regulation ITT of 1818, and that being a Regulation of the Government of India, why are questions with regard to the matter forbidden in the Indian Legislative Assembly?The hon. Member said that the Government of India had sheltered itself behind a technicality. That is entirely unfounded. They never raised the matter at all. The President of the Assembly, 514 Mr. Patel, gave his ruling on the question—I have not time to quote it, nor do I propose to comment upon it—but I hope the hon. Member will not attempt to suggest that Mr. Patel was actuated in any way by the attitude of the Government. He gave his ruling, and it was not in order to discuss it. It could not be discussed. It was like a ruling of Mr. Speaker in this House, and I hope the hon. Member does not suggest that he was actuated by any other motive than giving a ruling on the Standing Orders. The second question which the hon. Member asks is:Is the ex-Maharajah regarded as a foreigner, and, if so, is there anything to prevent his moving for a writ of habeas corpus in the High Court in India for his release, or applying to the Privy Council?It is expressly provided in Section 491 of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure that the powers of the High Court in India as to Habeas Corpus do not apply to persons detained under the Bengal Regulation, and therefore he could not make an application. The third question which the hon. Member asks is:Will the Under-Secretary of State for India say whether he considers that Regulation III of 1818 is applicable to ruling princes or to a prince or chief under the suzerainty of His Majesty?When the ex-Maharajah severed his connection with the State in 1923, he ceased to be a ruling Prince. There was, therefore, no question as to his deposition in February last. He was merely deprived of his remaining rights, privileges and dignities, to which I have referred already.
The fourth question was:Will the Tinder-Secretary inform the House of the case against the ex-Maharajah and whether it is proposed to bring any action in any Indian Court?I have given the gravamen of the charge against him in reply to a question put by the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) yesterday. It was that the Government of India had evidence that the ex-Maharajah has been flagrantly and continually violating the obligation of continued loyalty to the British Government which he voluntarily gave in 093, also violating thereby the Sanad which was given to the rulers of Nabha in 1990. The Government of India had evidence that he has been actively engaged in propaganda and has associated with 515 notorious agitators, and has spent considerable sums in Press campaigns in several provinces to that end; and has held meetings and demonstrations in various places to arouse public sympathy in his favour, all of which acts constitute a breach of the undertaking which he gave in 1923. It is not proposed to bring any action against the ex-Maharajah in an Indian Court of Law.
The fifth question was:How long is it intended to deprive him of his liberty without any charge being brought against him?I have also replied to that question in my answer to the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). I said the ex-Maharajah was informed of the facts stated in the communiqué of 19th February. No period has been fixed for his detention, which must obviously depend on his future conduct: I was also asked on what grounds can I defend the separation of the ex-Maharajah from his wife and five minor children. The Government of India have passed` no Order enjoining separation from his wife and children. The Maharanee is free, if she so chooses, to visit him in his place of detention and to take her children with her. The hon. Member smiles, but she is perfectly free to do so if she chooses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Is there room for them to stay there?"] The last question was:Has the Maharanee been induced or urged to write or sign any document since the arrest of her husband, and to what effect?The Maharanee has nut been induced or urged by the Government of India to sign any document. She has exchanged kharitas with the Viceroy in which she has expressed the desire to remain for the present devoted to her 516 children instead of taking her son to Nabha for his intallation as ruler of the State, as the Viceroy suggested. As the hon. Member is aware, the son of the ex-Maharajah is the ruler of the State. I think in the short time at my disposal I have answered the questions put to me fairly fully. All I can say is that if hon. Members opposite knew the full story—
§ Earl WINTERTON
They can have it by the very simple process of reading the history of the case which has been published in the communiqué from the very start. I supplied a copy to the hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench. If they studied that communiqué, and if they knew the evidence which was produced at the committee of inquiry, they would not be here supporting a man who, in the administration of his State, showed gross injustice to subjects, behaved scandalously to a neighbouring State, and generally showed himself utterly unfitted to rule. It is very curious that the only ruling Prince in India to get any sympathy from the Labour party is the only ruling Prince who has been a disloyal subject of the King Emperor.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
May I say that many of the replies that have been given are misleading and untrue, and I hope we shall have a further opportunity to discuss this matter? The point is, why do you not give this man the opportunity to face the statements which you are making, and rebut them if he can?
§ It being Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.