HC Deb 19 November 1940 vol 365 cc1856-7W
Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for India how many prisoners have been convicted, and are now serving sentences, for offences of a political character in India; how many have been charged but have not yet been tried; whether his attention has been drawn to charges and convictions related to newspaper headlines being too bold; and how many of these charges and convictions have taken place?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Member will appreciate that "offences of a political character" is not a term that can be precisely defined, and also that in the four Provinces where responsible Ministers are now functioning the whole matter is one in regard to which Ministers are answerable to the Provincial Legislatures. Complete information is not available in this country. I am informed that on the 1st October last 911 persons were in prison in India, on conviction in respect of charges under Sections 124 (a) (sedition) and 153 (a) (fomenting communal enmity or hatred) of the Penal Code or under the Defence of India Rules. Of this number 323 were in the Provinces of Bengal, Punjab, Assam and Sind, where responsible Ministries held office. It will be appreciated that the Defence of India Rules, as their name implies, cover a large range of offences prejudicial to defence measures, public safety or order, and the efficient prosecution of the war. Information is not available as to the extent to which cases under these Rules relate to offences that could in any sense be described as "political" or to other offences. There were no cases relating to newspaper headlines among these figures, but some warnings have been given on the subject.