HL Deb 20 March 1929 vol 73 cc762-4

LORD LAMINGTON rose to ask the Secretary of State for India whether, following on his undertaking given on the 5th of December, 1928, to consider how the Feudatory Chiefs may make representations during the discussions on Indian reforms, he will now make a statement on the subject; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion which stands in my name is simple in character, and I will briefly state to what it refers. These feudatories are sub-chiefs of the greater chiefs scattered throughout India, and possess certain privileges. Those privileges vary one from another, and very often difficult questions arise in regard to the interpretation of the privileges. These feudatories, by reason of their position as sub-chiefs, are not able to make representations before the Simon Commission, just as they were debarred from appearing before the Butler Committee. They do think that in this re-settlement of the Indian Constitution they ought to have the opportunity of appearing before some body so as to secure their own position, otherwise they would be worse off than the meanest low caste mail. They have no locus before the Simon Commission, and could not appear before the Butler Committee, and all they ask is to have some chance of making representations, so that they should not lose their rights through any default of action on their part. That is a very simple proposition. I admit that it may be a rather difficult one for the Government of India to deal with, but I think it is a very simple proposition to put before your Lordships' House. I beg to move.


My Lords, I think I should explain to your Lordships that since I gave an undertaking on December 5 last I have had an opportunity of consulting the Government of India on this rather complicated subject. I should like to make it clear by way of preface that my reply to the noble Lord refers only to those feudatories with whom I understand his inquiry is concerned—those Jagirdars or feudal tenants of certain Indian States such as the Kolhapur State for example, who by agreement of usage have acquired a special right of intervention on the part of Government in regard to their position and privileges. I also understand that by "discussions on Indian reforms" the noble Lord does not refer particularly to discussions following the Report of the Statutory Commission under Sir John Simon which is now conducting inquiries in British India, but rather that he has in mind the Report of the Committee under Sir Harcourt Butler, which was charged amongst other things to report on the relationship between the Paramount Power and the Indian States. As your Lordships are aware, the Butler Committee has recently presented its Report, but until a preliminary examination of the Report has been made it is impossible to say whether the recommendations of the Committee will be found to have any bearing upon the relations between the Jagirdars to whom I am referring and their rulers.

I should like, however, to make it clear that this question of the relation of such feudatories with their suzerains is itself outside the scope of the inquiries conducted by the Committee. If, however, the Government of India had any reason to believe that any change which they might contemplate as the result of the Report would react upon the position of the Jagirdars they would consult the durbars specially on the point, and arrangements would be made to enable such Jagirdars to submit representations. It is open to such Jagirdars to make representations to their durbars with regard to apprehensions which they may entertain with regard to their privileges. I can assure the noble Lord that, if such representations are made, the Government of India's political officers will not remain in ignorance of them, and it would be the duty of these officers to keep the Government of India informed of the progress of such representations. I trust the answer which I have given will commend itself to my noble friend.


My Lords, I am afraid that what the noble Viscount has said is no answer at all. I do not think the Jagirdars enter into the question at all. It is extremely unsatisfactory to the section of the Indian people to which I am referring to have no chance of seeing where they stand under any reform system. They want at least some chance of appearing before some tribunal. All they ask is that they should have some chance of making representations so that they may have some idea of where they stand under any Indian reform scheme. I do not think my noble friend has given me any answer. He refers to the Jagirdars, but I think my noble friend Lord Harris will agree with me that they have no bearing on the case.


My Lords, I do not remember the title Jagirdars being used in Western India at all. They were chiefs or sub-chiefs, and I am bound to say that I agree with my noble friend on the Front Bench that they have ample opportunity of dealing with the Government of India. I should imagine that if no provision has been made for their representations being put before any Committee they would have full right of appeal through the political department of the Province in which they are living, and full opportunity of representing their case to the Government of India directly. I should not have thought it necessary for them to go to a Committee at all.


My Lords, I shall not press my Motion but I hope my noble friend will bear this point in mind. At present I think his answer is extremely unsatisfactory.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.