HC Deb 13 October 1942 vol 383 cc1569-71

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

Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)

I wonder whether the Secretary of State could make a little clearer the effect of this Clause. We all feel regret that there should be at least the appearance of a withdrawal of a right which might be of immense importance to the individuals concerned. I am sure that my right hon. Friend desires to see that the review which will be held in all cases where the capital sentence is inflicted under the Emergency Provisions should be considerate and impartial. Is there no way in which there could be a similar method of appeal in India to that of asking for leave to appeal to the Privy Council. If such provision were made there would not be a long delay but there would be a guarantee of the same rights of leave; to appeal as apply in other cases.

The Secretary of State for India and Burma (Mr. Amery)

Under this Clause the special emergency courts set up in areas of special danger are empowered to pass the death sentence for certain offences as they are under the war zone courts legislation that was passed here some time ago—such as sabotage, looting and other offences that would require to be dealt with immediately. Any sentence of death imposed by one of these courts will be subject to review by a special tribunal which must include a judge of the High Court.

Mr. Harvey

Will that allow representation by counsel of the person concerned?

Mr. Amery

I imagine so, yes. It does not exclude any petition on grounds of mercy or compassion in the individual case. That will go to the Viceroy as it always has done. What it does exclude is a practice which has grown up in certain parts of India over a number of years of putting in an application for special leave from the Privy Council to make an appeal. Of some 570 applications which have been made during the last six years only five were allowed, and in the case of only two of these did the Privy Council find that there was a case for an appeal and granted it. The thing has become even in the ordinary course of law in India something in the nature of a scandal. We did not think it right at a time like this to attempt to introduce changes in the ordinary law. On the other hand, in the case of serious disturbance with the enemy actually in the immediate neighbourhood it was thought to be very undesirable that sentences of death, imposed largely for their deterrent character, should have to wait for three or four months for their certain confirmation. The present Clause is provided to deal only with an emergency situation.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.