HL Deb 16 May 1887 vol 315 cc5-12

, in rising to present a Petition; and to ask the Secretary of State for India, If it was true that at Mussoorie there were three men in possession of a cultivatory holding of 200 bighas, at a fixed rent of Rs.5 to Rs.8 a-year, and of very considerable value. The land was taken away by Government under the Land Acquisition Act, and Mr. Laidman assessed the compensation to be given. In the result he awarded Rs.3,300 to the person entitled to receive the rent, and Rs.2,400 to the tenants, and out of this Rs.2,400 he gave all but Rs.900 to the creditor of one of the tenants, so that the three, who wore formerly in a position of comparative opulence, were turned out upon the world as beggars; and, if it is true, whether he will direct that these men be compensated; also, if he will inquire whether Mr. Laidman's Court was one duly qualified under the Land Acquisition Act for hearing the case; and whether the public notices and proclamations required by the Act had been made; also to ask the Secretary of State if he will inquire into the conduct of the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Provinces, Sir Alfred Lyall—(1) in respect to the Arni Ghat expropriation; (2) his ordering Mr. Laidman to prosecute Captain Hearsey; (3) his promotion of Mr. Laidman after the trial; (4) the secret Circular to his judicial subordinates commenting adversely on the judgment of the Chief Justice? said, according to the Notice, he had the honour to present a Petition from Captain Hearsey, asking for redress on account of the acts of the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Provinces. Captain Hearsey's family had been attainted in 1745 on account of the presence of some of them at the Battle of Culloden. Since then they had settled in India, and 10 of his rela- tives had served in the Indian Army. His father was General Sir J. B. Hearsey, who played a considerable part in the Mutiny. The case which he had to lay before the House consisted of two separate complaints—first, with regard to the spoliation of the Arni Ghat Zemindars for the purpose of providing a better botanical garden for Mussoorie; and, secondly, with respect to the conduct of Sir Alfred Lyall, as it arose out of the spoliation of these Zemindars. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cross) would not be able to deny the description of the injury suffered by these Zemindars given in the Notice Paper, because these words were taken from the summing up of the Chief Justice in a trial arising out of the first wrong done to the Zemindars. This Chief Justice was then the Chief Justice at Allahabad, and he had since become the Chief Justice of Calcutta. The wrong done to the three brothers who owned Arni Ghat was that they were forcibly deprived, under the Land Acquisition Act, of land and houses valued at Rs.22,000 for a nominal sum of Rs.5,700. That this sum was entirely inadequate was clear from the fact that the three assessors of all the parties agreed in stating that this property, which was irrigated, could produce 400 maunds of wheat per annum besides other crops. At the price for wheat in the locality, at 20 years' purchase—the basis laid down in the Land Acquisition Act—this gave Rs.20,000 and Rs.2,000 for the houses on it. Another proof consisted in the fact that the old discarded botanical garden had since been sold for Rs.10,000; yet it must have been inferior to Arni Ghat, or it would not have been abandoned for Arni Ghat. There was yet a further injustice done to these unfortunate Zemindars. A certain mohunt or priest had a chief rent of Rs.5 on Arni Ghat, the payment of which should have been continued by the Government on behalf of the botanical gardens, as would have happened in the case of a Scotch for or an English chief rent; or the chief rent might have been extinguished at 25 years' purchase, which would have been Rs.125; but, instead of that, Mr. Laid-main, the Judge of the Small Causes Court which settled this case, assigned Rs.3,300, or the larger half of the purchase money—Rs,5,700—to the mohunt or owner of the chief rent of Rs.5. He must explain an apparent discrepancy between Rs.5 and the Rs.5 to Rs.8 a-year mentioned by the Chief Justice. By the deed—of which he had in his hand a translation— The high priest and ruler and chief mohunt of the Gurn Guddee, by name Saroop Dass, gave a grant by deed of the village of Ami Ghat to Dilloo, for which the ruler of the Gurn Guddee shall receive year by year the sum of Government rupees five only. If any Zemindar shall disturb or annoy Dilloo (in his possession) the ruler (of the Gurn Guddee) shall fine that individual: all other claims (with the exception of the five rupees) are given absolutely and free by the ruler of the Gurn Guddee. The other Rs.3 referred to by the Chief Justice as occasionally given were a "nuzzur," or voluntary offering to the priest. The motive alleged for this gratuitous injustice was that this mohunt was in the habit of lending elephants, carriages, and other conveniences to Indian officials. Of the remaining sum of Rs.2,400, the Judge assigned the greater part to the creditors of one of the three brothers or owners, and he also ordered Rs.234 to be deducted for Government costs, though it was said that this was contrary to the Land Acquisition Act, and some Rs.900 was all that was left for the owners. It might be asked why the three dispossessed Zemindars did not avail themselves of their right of appeal? It was the extreme poverty to which they were reduced which deprived them of this resource. They had not the means to fee counsel to place their case before the High Court. Captain Hearsey's letter says of the eviction, after the decree of Mr. Laidman— In the beginning of November, 1882—the men had refused, at my advice, to quit their houses and homes—the superintendent of the Dhoon sent for all the males of the village to his office, which was in Mussoorie, about four miles off, and, as in duty bound, they attended. It was a cold winter day, alternate heavy showers of sleet and rain deluged and froze the earth, the wind cut like a razor. During the absence of the men, at the order of the local authorities, certain Mahomedan coolies, Awghanies, broke open their doors, thrust the women and children out into the cold winter blast, and pitched their clothes, bedding, cooking utensils, and stores of food after them into the rain and sleet. When the men returned late in the afternoon from the superintendent's office, they found their women and children waiting in the open in the soaking rain for their arrival, their winter store of food damaged by rain, and they and their wives and little ones homeless and shelterless. I believe for that night they took shelter in the Barlow-gunj bazaar—a small bazaar belonging to a member of our family. This is the action of the myrmidons of the State landlord, the Government of India. This description might possibly remind their Lordships of the Glenbeigh evictions; but there was this difference—the person who caused those evictions was owed five years' rent, and would have taken half-a-year's rent, so that he was evicting for a 10th part of what was his own; but the Government of the North-West Provinces had evicted for what was not their own, and for which they had not paid a 22nd part. He was sure that his noble Friend the late Secretary of State for India would not defend this eviction, because he and others were pledged by their Leader to the doctrine that evictions justified the Plan of the Campaign. He was not aware that there was any record of any public utterances of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India as to evictions; but he was too faithful and devoted an adherent of the Prime Minister to separate himself from his policy; and he only asked the noble Viscount to carry out in India the admirable provision of the Land Bill for Ireland, which would shortly be before the House, for paper evictions by legal process converting a tenant into a caretaker, and that no actual evictions should take place in India under the Land Acquisition Act until all the appeals had been heard and the cases legally concluded. There were two things which the India Office might suggest to the Secretary of State in answer to the case he had now stated. One was, that the three brothers were not the owners, but only occupancy tenants; and the other, that whatever was done to them was done in due course of law. It would be a mere quibble, which the Secretary of State would not succeed in inducing anyone to believe, to assert that a chief rent of Rs.5 constituted the owner of it the owner of the whole property; or considering the deed granting Ami Ghat in perpetuity for a chief rent of Rs.5, that the owner of the chief rent had any further interest in or claim to interference with the property; or that persons owning land in perpetuity, subject to the trifling chief rent of Rs.5, were not the real owners. Those who received the chief rents of Scotch feus were termed superior landlords, but they had no rights over the land beyond receiving those chief rents. The mohunt, therefore, ought not to have had an assessor to value Arni Ghat; but this was done in order to give the Government of the North-West Provinces an extra voice against the Zemindars' assessor. As to this expropriation having been carried out according to law, it was stated, in opposition to that view, that the Small Causes Court in which this spoliation was decreed was not a Court competent under the Act to try such a case. It was also stated that the notices and proclamations required by the Act were not made in this case. Notice had to be given in the Government Gazette, and also by beat of drum, or by notices posted on the buildings on the estate or elsewhere, that the land is to be so taken. That many abuses had taken place under this Act was shown by the Circular recently issued and published last month by the Board of Revenue, calling upon the collectors and commissioners to exercise more personal supervision in cases arising out of the Land Acquisition Act. Now, though this expropriation took place a good while ago, it was only comparatively lately that the affair got into the Indian newspapers; and the late Secretary of State for India knew nothing of it, and it was never brought under his notice. The whole responsibility of this injustice and oppression, if it should be upheld, would, therefore, belong to the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India. By responsibility, he did not mean responsibility to Parliament, which was an obsolete and unmeaning phrase, but that responsibility in the next world which could not be evaded, and which the noble Viscount would not be inclined to deride. He would now relate the administrative abuses and arbitrary conduct to which this spoliation led the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Provinces. Mr. Laidman, who had decided this case against the three Zemindars of Arni Ghat, in subsequent proceedings on the 9th of February, 1885, addressed these Rajpoots from the Bench with the words—"Soor! bad-mash! haramzadeh!" or, "Pigs! blackguards! bastards! you have appealed our decree to the High Court; "then he repeated the bad words, and told the peon to turn them out of Court. Captain Hearsey, who was present in Court, and who had befriended these Rajpoots, wrote a letter to The Statesman of Calcutta narrating these unseemly words from the Judicial Bench. For this, Sir Alfred Lyall directed Mr. Laidman to prosecute Captain Hearsey for defamation; he could not brook any criticism even of an unworthy member of the Civil Service. Accordingly, Captain Hearsey was prosecuted in July, 1885. The Chief Justice summed up against the prosecution, and the jury acquitted Captain Hearsey in five minutes. There were seven Christian and two Native jurors; the foreman was the local manager of the Agra Savings Bank, and another juror was connected with another bank. It was naturally to have been expected that Sir Alfred Lyall should have bowed to this judicial decision; but their Lordships would be astonished to learn that he replied by promoting Mr. Laidman to a higher post, with additional salary of Rs.300 a month, although he had just been shown to be unfit for the Bench, and tainted with perjury. It was also stated that he remitted, or ordered to be refunded to Mr. Laidman, the costs which had been given against him in the recent trial. If the Secretary of State should find that Mr. Laidman's costs had been repaid to him out of public money, would he direct that Captain Hearsey also should be reimbursed the Rs.3,000 that he had to pay for his defence? Not satisfied with that he wrote a Minute or Resolution, condemnatory of or adversely criticizing the Chief Justice's judgment, and sent it round in a semi-secret way to his judicial subordinates, for it was sent round to them by a messenger, with orders that they were to take note of it, but not take a copy of it. The Secretary of State would hardly be able to uphold or excuse this method of the Lieutenant Governor of a Province of securing the respect of the junior members of the Judicial Body for the Chief Justice. Their Lordships would probably be told—and, if so, he should entirely concur with the statement—that Sir Alfred Lyall was a man of great ability, culture, and energy, and an ornament of the Indian Civil Service; but he had the defect of caring more for the interests of the Civil Service than for the interests of the people of India; and in these affairs he seemed to have lost his judgment and to have exemplified the saying—Corruptio optimi pessima. Sir Alfred Lyall had, however, done an injury to the Indian Civil Service, since the Press had contrasted his conduct with that of Lord Reay in the Cambay case; and many would be led to say that the Lieutenant Governorships of Bengal and the North-West Provinces ought to be filled up by men fresh from England, and not by members of the Civil Service. The wrong done under the sanction of the Lieutenant Governor had borne fruit, and formed a precedent. Quite recently, the municipality of Mussoorie, when wanting a piece of land for the disposal of their sewage, offered Rs.10,000 to their Vice President for a piece belonging to him; later they wanted to take for Rs.1,000 only a plot from the villagers of Kiar Kuly, half the size of that for which they had offered Rs.10,000. These villagers escaped from expropriation, because the medical officer would not allow this land to be used for the purpose, as it would have contaminated the water going to the Goorkha lines. The municipality was now attempting to expropriate some other villagers for an inadequate price, and although the matter was not legally concluded, the municipality had taken possession of the land and placed its filth upon it. He concluded by moving for a copy of Sir Alfred Lyall's Resolution on the Judgment of the Chief Justice.

Moved, "For a Copy of Sir Alfred Lyall's resolution on the Judgment of the Chief Justice."—(The Lord Stanley of Alderley.)


, in reply, said, it was not his intention to enter into the subject of future legislation, or discuss the question generally; he would content himself with simply answering the Question put before him. On the first two clauses of the Question, it would be enough to say that the decision of the subordinate Judge of Dehra Dun in the case referred to by the noble Lord was appealed against in the High Court of the North-West Provinces by the tenants; that their appeal was dismissed with costs, their own counsel admitting that he had no case; and that if there had been in the decision appealed against either any failure in substantial justice or any defect in the form of procedure, it would certainly have been taken notice of by the High Court. As regards the third clause of the Question, Captain Hearsey stated, in a Memorial received from him, that he had sent to the Viceroy a Petition for transmission to the Secretary of State. He (Viscount Cross) did not propose to take any action, unless he received a representation on the subject from or through the Government of India in the ordinary course.


said, that he was satisfied with the noble Viscount's reply, as the matter was under the examination of the Indian Government, and he would withdraw the Motion. The noble Viscount, however, had been misinformed as to the appeal.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.