§ Sir Charles Forbes
presented a Petition from the Hindoos, Parsees, and Mahometans—natives of the East Indies, and inhabitants of the island of Bombay, praying, that all his Majesty's subjects, being natives of India, should be declared eligible to serve on Grand Juries; that the Trial by Jury in civil cases, in his Majesty's Courts of Justice in the three presidencies, should be established; that the natives should be declared eligible to serve on such Juries, as they at present did on Petit Juries, in all criminal trials in his Majesty's Courts in India; and that they might be allowed to act as Justices of the Peace, in conjunction with British Magistrates. He considered them better qualified for that office than young men, recently arrived in India from England, without any practical knowledge of the country, or the manners, customs, and habits of the natives. He had in his possession letters from native Parsees, which showed them to be fully qualified for any civil situation, and they felt the distinction which was made between them and the natives, not being allowed to sit on Juries when Christians were tried. They were calculated by habit to exhibit the utmost patience, and were free from the prejudices which he had often witnessed in Grand and Petty Juries at home. Some further protection should also be afforded to the natives against arbitrary imprisonment. The Governor and Council had the authority to imprison, and no writ of Habeas Corpus was available against their authority.
§ Sir John Malcolm
admitted, that the persons who had signed the petition were as well known for their respectability and intelligence, as for their wealth. Some of them had been, for many years, amongst his best friends. He wished, therefore, to see them favoured in their just sphere. He believed that they were well qualified to act in the capacity of Jurors, and he was also of opinion they ought to be allowed to act as Justices of the Peace. They could easily make sufficient advancement in the knowledge of law to render it perfectly safe to permit them to act in that capacity. He had himself recommended them to be joined in administering the law, with reference to those police matters of which they had acquired competent knowledge. Indeed in Surat a Parsee had been for many years a police Magistrate, and had conducted himself with so much ability, in that difficult station, that the government of Bombay thought proper to invest him with an honorary title, and a real estate, which had been considered by the natives as a most enviable mark of distinction, and with which they were much delighted. He regretted, however, in a petition which contained so much to be commended, there were certain statements, relating to the provincial administration of India, which they considered defective. He could assert, however, that it had been formed, with reference to the state of the varied countries over which Great Britain ruled, and there was no country in which the administration of justice, in all its branches, was more ably or honourably conducted. During the time he had been governor of Bombay, no instance of the kind of arbitrary imprisonment mentioned by the hon. Baronet, had taken place; and if such a practice did exist, it was unknown to him. He, however, heartily concurred in the principal points contained in their petition.
hoped, as he saw the right hon. the President of the Board of Control in his place, that he should hear the intention of Government to extend to the population referred to in the petition, those privileges which the petitioners prayed the Legislature to confer on them.
was exceedingly glad to hear the statements of the petitioners fully confirmed by the hon. and gallant Officer. He thought the most strenuous efforts ought to be made to remove those grievances of which they complained. It 958 was quite obvious that the system of administration of Justice in India afforded no adequate protection for the rights of property, and scarcely any remedy for personal wrongs. There could not be a more horrible libel against the English Administration, than the state of India with respect to the administration of the law. The petitioners were grateful for very trivial matters, and all they now asked was, that the natives of that country might be declared eligible to serve on Grand Juries, and that Trial by Jury in civil cases might be established in his Majesty's Courts of Justice at the three Presidencies. Such a measure had been already adopted at Ceylon. Sir Alexander Johnstone—a person to whom humanity was deeply indebted—had there tried the experiment, and it had turned out eminently successful. The administration of justice in that country, he was informed had given great satisfaction. The petitioners stated distinctly, that their highest ambition was, to be placed on a level with European subjects, and they considered the distinctions made between them and Europeans as amongst the greatest evils they had to endure. There was an immense number of the human race—80,000,000 or 100,000,000—connected with this country, and whose land was made a matter of traffic for the purpose of raising a land revenue. A petition, speaking the sentiments of such a body, was surely deserving of every attention. He was aware of the press of business before the House, but he could not avoid expressing his sympathy with a class of people so numerous and so interesting.
Mr. Charles Grant
did not at present mean to enter into the details connected with this subject. There was, he understood, another petition about to be presented by the hon. Gentleman opposite (the member for Middlesex), from the same parties, or from parties similarly situated, which petition embraced not only the same topics, but also others of a very important nature. He was very glad to perceive, that these petitions from the East Indies were addressed to the House of Commons, because it proved that his Majesty's subjects in the East looked with confidence to Parliament for an amelioration of their condition; and he trusted that they would find, that their expectations would ultimately be disappointed. Hon. Members must be aware, that, at 959 the present moment, an inquiry was in process up-stairs, which entered deeply into all the great and important topics to which this petition referred—that of extending the Trial by Jury, the general judicial system of India, the establishment of the King's Courts throughout that country, and the adoption, as far as possible, in these Courts, and throughout India, of the English language—all the topics were embraced by that inquiry. These subjects naturally occupied much of the attention of the Committee up-stairs; nor was the minor subject—the right of; serving on Grand Juries, though comparatively of less importance—forgotten. Upon this latter subject, if the pressure of business had not prevented it, he had meant to have made a proposition, as well as with reference to another point, namely, the admission of natives to serve on Juries for the trial of Christians. Those two points were omitted in the Act of Parliament, and it was his intention to supply the deficiency, by repealing the third clause. The state of public business would not permit of his bringing in a bill for that purpose at present, but he did not hesitate to say, that it was his intention to bring in a bill to admit natives to serve on Grand Juries, and on Juries for the trial of Christians. As to the employment of the natives as Magistrates, that was a subject on which he could not undertake to give any pledge; but it was under consideration, and there was every disposition on the part of his Majesty's Ministers, in this, and in every other case in which it could be done without injury, to accede to the reasonable wishes of the natives of India. The original cause which occasioned the right to sit on Juries to be so much restricted, was, the actual paucity of persons who were supposed to be fit to serve on Juries. He was most anxious to contribute, by every means in his power, to raise the character of his Majesty's subjects in the East, by extending to them, in every proper and practicable case, British privileges; and, with this feeling, he concurred in the propriety of the petition.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, he felt much gratification at the announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control; for he could, of his own knowledge, declare, that the omission, which the right hon. Gentleman meant to remedy, had excited much dis- 960 content among the natives of India. He was convinced that their talents might be usefully employed to a much greater extent than had hitherto been made available; but how far the Government ought to go, was a question of such immense importance, as required the most cautious consideration. He must totally deny an allegation that had been made, and repeated—that the natives had no adequate protection for their property, or security for their persons. The administration of the law in India was necessarily imperfect, but it was wonderful how well it had answered. The persons who were intrusted with the judicial administration, from necessity, were only acquainted with European ideas, and were ignorant of the laws, languages, and habits of the natives. The great difficulty, therefore, was, how local knowledge could be associated with that general knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence, which it was so necessary for a lawyer to possess. The administration of India was, in his opinion, capable of being improved; but great caution was necessary. Very considerable benefits had been obtained by the establishment of the King's Courts, by which a system of peculation and misrule had been stopped by the Judges who presided, and before whom any native might bring his case, and be sure of obtaining redress; for the Judges had a merciful leaning in favour of the defenceless natives. Nothing but the coercive power of those Judges could have afforded protection to the natives. He could not concur, therefore, in the opinion, that there was no protection for the property of the natives.
said, in the few remarks he had made, he had not alluded to the administration of justice by the superior Courts, but solely to its administration by inferior Courts, in the interior of the country, which he still considered capable of much improvement. He was happy to observe the spirit in which this petition had been received by the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control.
§ Petition to be printed.
in presenting a similar Petition from 4,000 Christians, Hindoos, Parsees, Mahometans, and Jews, natives of his Majesty's territories in the East Indies, and inhabitants of the island of Bombay, stated, that the petition had been transmitted from India to this country 961 so far back as the month of January last, but that its presentation had been delayed in consequence of the pressure of business in that House. The situation of the Committee now sitting on East-India affairs, however, rendered it desirable that the presentation of the petition should be no longer delayed. The petition was in English, but it had been translated into the languages of the natives, and was signed by many of them. He should be happy to see in the House an efficient Representation of India; and he had heard with great satisfaction, what the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control, had said about the natives looking up to that House. He regretted to hear from any person, that these people were not fit to administer the justice of the country; for men of higher honour, or purer feelings, were not to be found in the world. The hon. Member went, in detail, through the different parts of the petition, which was as follows, corroborating its statements by his own assertions:—To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled;The Humble Petition of the undersigned Christians, Hindoos, Parsees, Mahometans, and Jews—natives of his Majesty's territories in India, and Inhabitants of the island of Bombay:Most Humbly Showeth—It is with confidence and satisfaction that we address ourselves to your honourable House: It is to Parliament that the natives of his Majesty's territories in India are indebted for the public institutions, intended to prevent injury and insult to them, and to raise them in the ranks of society; and we acknowledge with gratitude the efforts of your honourable House to promote those good purposes. It is principally to inquiries pursued by your honourable House, that the natives of India owe their earliest protection from injustice and degradation, by the establishment of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta. From that origin have successively proceeded the Recorders' Courts, and the Supreme Courts of Judicature, at Madras and Bombay: those Courts have ever fulfilled the duties intrusted to them by our gracious Sovereign Lord the King; they have acquired the confidence and esteem of the natives of India, and attached them to the British Government. At Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, are the most numerous assemblages of the natives of India, and of foreign countries in Asia; they are of every variety of religion, cast, and sect; diversified in sacred rites and observances, and in social manners and usages. The Supreme 962 Courts of Judicature, where they have jurisdiction over the matter to be tried, whether civil or criminal, have also power to summon witnesses, and to execute all their orders and judgments, whether by arrest of the person, or by seisure and sale of property, throughout the whole of the territories under the Presidencies at which those Courts are respectively established. Those Courts, in the execution of their processes and orders, have always been scrupulously observant of the religious doctrines, rites, and observances, and of the manners and usages of the natives. The experience of more than half a century at Calcutta, and of more than a quarter of a century at Madras and Bombay, has proved that life, property, character, and personal liberty, can be protected by his Majesty's Courts of Justice, without violation of the religions, manners, and usages of the natives. We appeal to that evidence, to contradict erroneous reports, which have been sedulously propagated, and have too long been acquiesced in, that the introduction of Courts of Justice into India, strictly administering the law for the protection of life, property, character, and personal liberty, is incompatible with the religions, manners, and usages of the natives, and would be highly offensive to them. Miserable, indeed, would be the condition of mankind, if the duties of Judges could not be executed without offending the religions, manners, and usages of those over whom they have jurisdiction. Reports also have long prevailed, and been acquiesced in, that the religions, manners, and usages of the natives of India repelled their employment in judicial functions, and that they had not capacity to perform them. The unprejudiced mind of Sir Alexander John stone controverted the truth of that report; and the experience of five years at Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, has demonstrated the willingness of the natives to aid in the administration of justice, even in the unpleasant office of Jurors on trials for crimes, and their utility as Jurors has been repeatedly declared by the Supreme Court at Bombay.By the Charters of Justice of all the Supreme Courts of Judicature in India, and of the former Recorders' Courts at Madras and Bombay, all British subjects, and all natives, who, directly or indirectly, are employed in the service of his Majesty, or of the United Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies, or of any of his Majesty's British subjects, are subject to the Civil Jurisdiction of those Courts, in all actions for wrongs or trespasses; and the same persons, by the Acts 4 Geo. IV. c. 71, and 9 Geo. IV. c. 74, and the Charters of the Supreme Courts, are subject to the jurisdiction of those Courts, for the crimes specified in 9 Geo. IV. c. 74. In those provisions we recognize the wisdom, justice, and humanity of our gracious Sovereign Lord the King, and of the two Houses of Parliament. It was apprehended, that persons ex- 963 ercising public authority would injure the natives, and, for civil torts, and for crimes, the whole of them arc placed under the jurisdictions of the Supreme Courts. But those laws have been little more than a dead letter; they are unknown, except at the Presidencies and in their vicinity. We, therefore, earnestly entreat, that whatever laws may be enacted for the amelioration of the condition of the natives of India, that effectual means may be provided to ensure the real and practical utility of those laws, and that they may not be, as some Acts of Parliament have been, mere nominal benefits to the natives.By several Acts of Parliament, the Governments at Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay have authority to frame regulations for the Provincial Courts, and which his Majesty in Council may disallow or amend; and if not disallowed within two years, they are to be of force and authority to direct the Provincial Courts, according to the tenor of the said amendment; and those regulations are annually to be laid before the two Houses of Parliament. In those enactments we again perceive the desire of Parliament to benefit the natives of India, by administering justice to them according to their own laws, and with a scrupulous attention to their religions, manners, and usages; and the Governments in India, from a supposition of their having the most correct knowledge on those matters, were intrusted with the execution of that power, subject to the revision of his Majesty in Council. But that power has been the great cause of the degradation of the natives. The uniform construction of those enactments has been, that it authorizes the Governments in India to make and repeal laws, civil and criminal; to make and annul Courts of Justice, civil and criminal; and to legislate absolutely over the natives residing beyond the ordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Courts, wherever there is no specific enactment of Parliament on the subject. It is from the existence of that power, that laws have been enacted for the natives, and Courts of Justice established to administer them, that have stamped upon the natives of India the character of a conquered, distinct, and degraded people. The Criminal Code in force under this Presidency is among the records of your honourable House, and we refer to it in confirmation of our assertions, that it is vague in its language—that it regulates too much in detail the actions of the natives—that it abounds in severe discretionary punishments, by way of fine or imprisonment, or both—that it has an endless repetition of commutation of imprisonment for a fine—that the truth of facts is left to the decision of the British Judge, without any effectual control in persons of the decription of the accused—and that the Judge has no sympathy with the persons subject to his criminal jurisdiction. Throughout the judicial regulations of the Bombay Government, there is not one on the principle of the writ of 964 Habeas Corpus ad subjiciendum; and, we believe that the same observation applies to the judicial regulations framed by the Governments at Calcutta and Madras. Your honourable House well understands the extensive range of human happiness that is protected by that writ: all there is in strong contrast with the Criminal Jurisdiction at the Presidencies. The gentlemen appointed Judges in the Courts, Civil and Criminal, are extremely deficient in the knowledge necessary to perform their duties. Courts of Justice are principally constituted for the security of life, of property, of character, and of personal liberty; and your honourable House well knows the great and various qualifications that are required in a Judge, to perform those duties. But the Judges of the Provincial Courts, Civil and Criminal, have no strong motive to stimulate them to acquire those qualifications. This is a fundamental and incorrigible vice in the judicial system. The change from one department of the civil service to another, is also too frequent to admit the acquisition of the necessary ability in the Judge: at one time he is in a Ministerial office at the Presidency; at another, he is in the Judicial department in the Provinces; at another he is in the Collectorate in the Provinces; and at another, he is in the Political department. At this time, the Chief Judge of the Sudder Dewannee Adawlut, and the Sudder Foujdaree Adawlut at Bombay; that is, of the Supreme Courts of Appeal in Civil and Criminal cases, is a gentleman who never was in the Judicial Department until he was made the Chief Justice of those Courts. The Civil Courts are also extremely defective, from the almost total absence of the intelligence of the natives, in the ascertainment of facts. The defects in the judicial system which we have noticed, we presume to hope, would attract the attention of your honourable House, even if the Judges always meant to do right; but the truth is, that those Judges are the principal instruments of wrong, particularly of false imprisonment, to the natives; and those acts of injustice are committed with ostentatious indifference to the feelings of those who suffer, and to the opinion of the native community. We particularly allude to the false imprisonment of Balloo bin Hurryram Sinday, Hindoo; of Ransord Kessowjee, Hindoo; of Narroba Govind Oughtia, Hindoo; and of Dhondoo Bullol, Hindoo; all proved in the Supreme Court of Judicature at Bombay. The two former committed at Tannah, within fifteen miles of the island of Bombay; and the other two at Poonah, within 100 miles of Bombay, and between both which places and Bombay there is a constant intercourse. It is, therefore, no exaggeration in us to affirm, that the laws administered to the natives beyond the Presidencies, and the Courts of Justice appointed to administer those laws, stamp upon the natives the character of a conquered, distinct, and degraded people.965It is true, that the impartiality in the Courts of Justice, that we have presumed to solicit and enforce, will be offensive to some of the connections and adherents of former Sovereigns, who had privileges in some respects exempting them from the jurisdiction of Courts of Justice; as, for instance, the Sirdars in the Dekan, whose privileges have been conceded to them by a Regulation of the Bombay Government—Regulation 29, A.D. 1827. But we arc sure that your honourable House will not expose the meanest of his Majesty's subjects in India to injury in life, property, character, or personal liberty, in complaisance to the vicious pride of those personages.We implore your honourable House, earnestly and without prejudice, to reflect on the condition of the natives inhabiting his Majesty's territories in India; in number, they exceed sixty millions; the greater part of them are his Majesty's natural-born subjects, and almost all the rest are denizens. This immense population, who have strong natural and legal pretensions to participate in the advantages of society, are almost entirely excluded from offices of trust and emolument. It is impossible for your honourable House to credit misrepresentations, obviously originating in prejudice and self-interest, that confound the whole native population into one mass of ignorance and corruption. The natives of the territories now British India were highly civilized, and, by their various manufactures, largely contributed to the splendour of Thebes, of Palmyra, and of ancient Alexandria, when the inhabitants of one of the most powerful and illustrious kingdoms of modern Europe lived in woods, and fought with bows and arrows and clubs. Whatever injury has been done to their understandings and moral principles, by the long continuance of despotism, will easily and rapidly be rectified by Courts of Justice intelligently and impartially administering justice among them; and by their admissibility into honourable and profitable offices in the Judicial, Territorial, and Financial Departments, being made to depend on their intellectual and moral character. The dynasties of the Sovereigns of the territories conquered by the British arms were of very short duration; those Sovereigns never had a strong hold on the affections of their subjects, and since those conquests, the natives have always manifested a desire to coalesce with the Crown of the United Kingdoms:—their wishes to do so have been repelled even with contumely. Upwards of sixty millions of his Majesty's subjects are at this time disjointed, loose, and floating on the surface of India. Nothing is more easy than to consolidate this immense population into one mass of cohesion with his Majesty's territories; administer justice to them wisely and impartially, and reward intellectual and moral merit with honourable and profitable offices, both at the Presidencies and in, the Provinces, and the 966 principle of cohesion will circulate through the whole body.With a view to the same principle of cohesion, we venture to suggest, that it is highly politic to introduce the English language into the vernacular languages of India; and, with that intention, for Parliament to enact, that no native, after the period of twelve years, shall be admissible into any office in the Judicial, Territorial, or Financial Departments, unless his competency in reading, writing, and speaking the English language, has been certified by a Committee appointed for his examination. The children of the natives of India have great aptitude in learning to read, write, and speak the English language. Since the institution of Schools for the instruction of the natives in the English language, under the advice and patronage of the honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay, many of the children of the natives read, write, and speak the English language with facility and fluency. Besides the principle of cohesion which we have noticed, a knowledge of the English language, extensively dispersed among the natives of India, will afford great facilities for the future improvement of the Judicial System in India.Illustrious Legislators! Benefactors of the Human Race !—Your persevering and intelligent exertions to abolish the trade in slaves, have spread the fame of your humanity over the whole world. The destiny of upwards of sixty millions of human beings depends upon your Councils; they are the natural-born subjects, or the denizen subjects, of your own Sovereign. We are sure that you will be eager to redress the wrongs we have submitted to you.Knowing, as we do, the propensity to misrepresentation that will be active against the natives of India, and that it will be suggested that this petition does not contain the real opinions of all who have signed it, we have taken the liberty to subjoin to it a translation into the Goozaratte and Mahratta languages—the languages in most frequent use in Bombay; and if, in having so done, we have transgressed any of the rules of your honourable House, we crave your indulgence and pardon.And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.Bombay, 25th January, 1831.
(Signed by) "HORMUZJEE ROMANJEE, Committee "JAHANGHEIR NASSERVANJEE, "JEEJEBHOY DADABHOY, "CURSETJEE MUNCHERJEE,and by upwards of four thousand respectable native inhabitants of Bombay, of every religion.
Mr. Charles Grant
regretted that so important a subject should be brought under the consideration of the House at a time when it was impossible to bestow upon it the consideration it deserved. 967 Conceiving any discussion at that time to be premature, he should cautiously abstain from giving any opinion on the great question, though he begged leave to assure the House, that he was perfectly alive to its importance; and he hoped the petitioners would not judge of his opinion as to the subject by the brevity of his observations. He was happy, indeed, to conclude, from the petitioners' remarks on the use of the English language, that they were anxious to maintain their connection with this country. He would enter no further into the subject, except to assure the hon. Member, that the Government was extremely desirous to do whatever it could, to improve the condition, and promote the welfare, of the natives of India.
§ Sir John Malcolm
must express his regret, that this discussion had gone to such an extent. He was not one of those who thought it necessary that the sentiments of the House, upon the great question of Indian government, should have been anticipated on the present occasion. He only saw this petition a few minutes before he came into the House, but had since heard all that had been stated upon the subject. The hon. and learned member for Kerry did him a very great injustice when he supposed that he spoke in taunt, when he told him that he must study more than he probably had done, the comparative condition of the community in Ceylon, to that of our extended possessions in India. He only meant that the subject required more attention than his other avocations were likely to leave him time to devote to it; for the slightest shades of difference in these societies would often influence the decision on points connected with their administration. He said thus much, because he desired to avoid all personal allusions, and every ground of irritation. In the discussions which might take place upon the subject of India, it would, therefore, be his care to preserve that calmness of tone which should convey no offence to any individual, whatever might be his opinions. He desired nothing more than that the same indulgence might be extended to him, when expressing sentiments which the experience of his life had taught him to entertain. He confessed he was never more surprised than when the hon. member for Middlesex said, that he objected to the natives of India holding offices. He simply said, that the natives of Bombay 968 justly estimated themselves in not desiring to become Magistrates, unassociated with Europeans; because, their education had not given them a competent knowledge of British law to enable them to fulfil that duty. The hon. Member might have judged, from all that he had ever said, written, or lone, that few men, during a long life of public service, had striven more for the attainment of an object than he had striven to elevate the character, and advance the interests, of the people of India. The hon. Member complained that the natives were not admitted to any share in the administration of justice. He would find on inquiry, that in the interior provinces of Bombay, there was not one civil case which was not originally tried by native Judges. These possessed the confidence of Government—and had liberal salaries—and as the suitors might appeal to the Session Judge of the province, and from him to a superior Court of circuit and appeal, the success of such a system, which avoided delays, and secured all the ends of justice was not doubtful. He should not detain the House further than to state a very few facts in reference to the observations of the hon. member for Middlesex, upon the petition which he had presented. The hon. Member, notwithstanding that act of the British Legislature, by which the Government of India was empowered to make laws and regulations for the administration of all the provinces beyond the limits of his Majesty's Courts established at the presidencies, had justified the expression in the petition from the natives of Bombay, "that the laws administered beyond the presidencies, and the courts of justice appointed to administer those laws, stamp upon the natives the character of a conquered, distinct, and degraded people." He was happy to think, that if these were the sentiments of those who had signed this petition, they certainly were founded in ignorance, and were not shared by the other natives of India. He desired that the House would always bear in mind a most important distinction, which must be observed in all discussions upon this subject. The inhabitants of the presidencies, within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Courts, were as distinct in feelings, and ideas, and in everything but dress and language, from the natives of the towns and villages beyond the presidencies, as the inhabitants of any part of England were from those of the remotest part of 969 Hungary. Within the presidencies, the population consisted of Europeans, of different classes of Indo Britons, with a large motley, though respectable population of natives of all castes and tribes. In these great communities, schools had been instituted for the promotion of general education, a number of the scholars learnt English, and all of them formed rather of a European than an Indian society. To such a population the forms of his Majesty's Courts and the laws of England might be perfectly intelligible, and, perfectly applicable; but to extend them beyond these districts, where the communities consisted wholly of natives, to whom education had not yet reached, would be he thought mistaking the character and condition of those people. He entreated the House to recollect what a vast difference there was between England and India. Though it might have been deemed wise and expedient to introduce English law into the presidencies of India, where the population, from their comparative local circumstances, and their great commercial concerns, required such laws, it would be the deepest wound the Legislature could give to the British empire in Asia, to extend them further. England, in the highest state of civilization, required an endless multiplication of laws to protect the various interests of its inhabitants; but who could consider its statutes suited to the simple habits and more limited concerns of the natives of India? He certainly did, and must ever deprecate such an attempt. The whole code of laws which were administered at Bombay, was comprised in one volume, which had been translated into the vernacular languages of the country. There could be nothing more desirable in the law, although perhaps there was nothing connected with it more difficult of attainment, than that it should be rendered intelligible to all to whom it was administered. He stated with great satisfaction, that in consequence of the exertions of Mr. Elphinstone, and of the judicial officers in the presidency of Bombay, a plain and simple system of laws had been fully established in its provinces, which must soon be perfectly understood by all who came within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Courts in that country. That being the case, he need hardly say, that it was most appropriate to the character and condition of the community. He was perfectly willing, however, 970 that this and every petition from India, should be received and printed for that House. A petition very similar to the present one was addressed to a Judge of Bombay. He need not mention any name, but merely state, that it had been translated into the vernacular tongue, and sent to Poonah, near which city he happened to be residing. Its arrival created the utmost sensation. There were at Poonah a number of men of high rank, as well as many of wealth and respectability. These were in the habit of attending a levee which he held weekly, and which took place the day after that occurrence. There had been, consequently, no time for deliberation; and as the public officer, whose duty it was, to communicate with them, was absent, and did not return till immediately before the levee, the natives at Poonah had little, if any opportunity of consulting him. He mentioned these facts to prove, that an address made by them to him on that occasion was the honest effusion of the moment; and he also mentioned them as an excuse for some of the expressions in this Address, which, though quite sincere, were, as far as related to English lawyers, of a character which he of course could not approve; but when those who presented it crowded round him in numbers, and evinced real alarm, he could not criticise their language, and had only to answer their address, by assuring them that they should continue to live happy as they had done under the established rule, and that they need fear no change. He must, after the two petitions which had been presented that day, read, with the permission of the House, a literal translation of that address. It was given to him on the 17th of September, 1830, signed by all the principal inhabitants, and 2,000 others, and he was satisfied, that it expressed not only their sentiments, but, as far as he had the means of judging, that of all the natives of the territories of Bombay, not residing at the presidency. It ran as follows:—We, the undersigned inhabitants of Poonah, have heard that, on the 10th or 11th instant, an address was presented by certain persons at Bombay, to a Judge of the Supreme Court, in, which it was stated, that the extension of the jurisdiction of that Court over the provinces, would be gratifying to all the population of the country, who were most desirous of such a measure being adopted.We have received this intelligence with 971 dismay and grief. If this statement should find its way to England, and it should be believed there that such are the real sentiments of the people of this country, measures may be adopted in conformity thereto. Our respectability and privileges will then cease to exist; lawyers will come and devour our substance, and destroy the community.When these provinces fell into the hands of the British Government, a resolution was issued, guranteeing to the inhabitants the preservation of their laws and customs. Subsequently, special regulations have been enacted for the maintenance, and dignity, and honour, of the ancient Sirdars of the country. These are now in force. Trusting to their permanence, we have lived in security and happiness.Last year, when a process of the Supreme Court was issued against Pandurang Ramchunder Dhumderry, a representation of our fears of the infringement of our privileges was made to the Government, the Government were pleased to answer us by an assurance that our fears were groundless; and the subsequent measures adopted, and which saved the honour of the house of Dhumderry, inspired the community with confidence.Since yesterday, we have heard this news from Bombay, and we are again plunged into anxiety for the result. We have, therefore, hastily written this address, and implore you to lose no time in transmitting to the highest authorities in England our prayer, that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Bombay may not be extended to this province.He trusted the House would give him credit for not having brought forward this address unnecessarily. But he would not enlarge upon the subject; the impolicy of such a course did not depend upon his testimony; the same opinion was evinced in all past Acts of the Legislature; and he was satisfied, that the more the matter was investigated, the more would the House be satisfied, that there was not the slightest foundation for the allegations which these petitioners had brought against the Judicial Courts of India, and the high and competent public officers who presided in them. It had been urged on that occasion, that the people had not been properly educated, and that no means had been afforded them of attaining a knowledge of the English language, He did not understand what the hon. member for Middlesex meant, when he talked about the want of education in India. Surely he did not mean, that the whole of the population, amounting to sixty or eighty millions, should be sent to school to learn English.
§ Sir John Malcolm
Then God forbid that he should be the schoolmaster. It was stated in the petition, as a glaring instance of the improper construction of the Provincial courts, that besides the general incompetence of the Judges, the Chief Judge of the highest Court in Bombay had never—before he was nominated to that station—been in the judicial branch of the service. By the present constitution of the government, a member of Council, in his capacity of Councillor, belonged to that Court, and at Bombay, the fact was as stated. The highly respectable individual alluded to, had not been in the judicial branch, but that objection was more to form than substance. All the judicial duties on the circuits, belonged to the four Judges of that Court, who were invariably selected from the oldest and most competent public servants in the judicial line. The House would perceive how a plain simple statement disproved the assertions of those natives. By an enactment or regulation, which, whether wisely or unwisely passed it was not for him at present to inquire, it was provided, that one of the members of the Council must always be appointed to the head of the Court of Appeal. He could say more, but would only add, to what he had before stated, that though there might be some defects, as there were in all institutions, no laws were ever better adapted to those for whose benefit they were framed, nor more ably and honestly administered, than those which had been so much attacked in this groundless petition. He could more fully I answer the allegations which that petition contained, but was unwilling, at that time, to trespass upon the House. He could not, however, refrain from saying thus much, in order that it might not appear that such observations as had been made, were suffered to pass by entirely without comment. He could only repeat his regret, that he had been called into the discussion at all, because he thought that any debate upon the subject at the present moment, was premature and ill-timed; and more particularly so as it was the cause of unnecessary delay to other matters of the greatest importance.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
was most unwilling to prolong the discussion; but having been particularly alluded to, he thought he might be allowed to offer a very few observations. The remarks which he made when the first petition was pre- 973 sented, were intended principally as an answer to the observation of the hon. and learned member for Kerry, that a general system of oppression prevailed in the administration of Justice in India, for which there was no remedy. Although he admitted that there might be some defects in the mode in which Justice was administered in India, still there were in all the presidencies, Courts of the last resort, filled by persons who were not only willing to listen to any complaints that might be brought before them, but who were also eminently qualified to give a correct decision upon them. However, upon this point he did not consider it necessary to say another word, because the hon. and gallant Officer who had just sat down appeared to him to have set it entirely at rest. His personal knowledge of India was principally confined to Bengal. Of the judicial bench there he could only say, that it was filled by men of the greatest eminence, of the highest attainments, and of the deepest learning. And when he mentioned the names of Mr. James Stewart, Mr. Colebrook, and Mr. Courtney Smith, three persons than whom none could be more eminently qualified to administer Justice in India, he thought he had said enough to show, that the natives of Bengal had nothing to dread from a partial or a negligent administration of the laws. With respect to what had been said of oppression, he would only observe, that in a great country like India, it could not be expected but that some individual cases of oppression must sometimes take place. The administration of Justice in such a country could not be made so perfect as positively to prevent occasional errors; but he must insist that the natives of India had, of late years, had much less cause of complaint upon this score than they had formerly. He certainly was sorry to hear his hon. friend express his concurrence in that part of the petition in which the petitioners stated that the Judges of India were, in truth, the principal instruments of wrong. He regretted to hear him express his assent to so general a censure upon the whole of that respectable body; but he was satisfied that when the proper opportunity arrived, he should be able to convince him, as well as the hon. and learned member for Kerry, that the statement was entirely without foundation.
stated, that the hon. and 974 learned Gentleman had entirely mistaken him if he supposed that he meant to cast a reflection on the Judges of India. Unacquainted as he necessarily was with that country, from never having resided in it, of course he would not bear any testimony as to the truth or falsehood of the allegations which were made in the petitions which had been presented. It seemed, however, that a large body of the natives of India conceived that they had reasonable grounds of complaint against the mode in which Justice was administered to them. Whether their complaint were well or ill founded, he still maintained that the subject demanded the deepest consideration of that House; because, where the interests, the welfare, and the good government of so many were concerned, it was of the utmost importance that the administration of Justice should not only be pure but unsuspected. It was, however, worthy of remark, that these petitioners named particular instances of what they conceived to be an oppressive administration of the laws, and which were now on their way to this country for final decision. But the petitioners also stated, that the manner in which the laws were administered beyond the presidencies, stamped upon the natives the character of a conquered, distinct, and degraded people. He should judge from this that the petitioners did not refer to the King's Judges in the Supreme Courts, but to those who were allowed to act in the judicial capacity beyond the presidencies. He must, in justice to his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, say, that he had received the same impression with respect to the hon. and gallant Officer as his hon. friend; namely, that he was inimical to the admission of the native Indians to any offices of trust or emolument. He was glad to find, by the speech which the hon. and gallant Officer had just made, that such was not the case.
§ Sir Charles Forbes
could not think, however anxious some hon. Gentlemen might be to proceed with the Reform Bill, that the two hours which had been consumed in the discussion of these petitions, in which the interests of 100,000,000 of fellow-subjects were involved, had been improperly spent. Would the House, for the sake of advancing the vile Reform. Bill, that hideous monster, the most frightful that ever showed its face in that House, refuse to devote a few minutes to the con- 975 sideration of two of the most important petitions that were ever laid on its Table? He claimed for the people of India a patient hearing. In justice to the hon. and gallant General, the late governor of Bombay, he must say, that he had understood, he followed up one of the regulations of the preceding Government, to a degree which, he thought, did him great honour—he meant the employment of natives in the judicial character in the interior of the country. He had no doubt that those who had been so employed would prove themselves worthy of the trust which had been confided to them. They had heard the opinion of an hon. Director opposite, as to the qualifications of the natives to fill such offices. He hoped he might be permitted to state to the House the opinions of one of his body who resided upwards of twenty years on the western side of India, and to whom he had sent the petition of the natives for perusal. In returning it he wrote as follows:—I have read the petition which you are commissioned to present to the House of Commons, from the natives of Bombay, with great satisfaction. I rejoice to see, that they sensibly feel their relative inferior position, and that in claiming the exercise of their natural rights, they are supported by reasoning conclusive in justice and good policy. It is not, as you know, a new sentiment with me, that our native fellow subjects should be admitted to a liberal participation in the government of their country. I have, from my earliest days in India, seen examples of talent, zeal, and integrity, among the natives not to be surpassed by Europeans; and I have known and experienced that, without their practical information and assistance, the most important results of our proceedings could never have been attained. The admission of the prayer of the petitioners to be made eligible to serve as Grand Jurors and Justices of the Peace, will be a desirable and important measure. I should not be disposed to qualify this concession with the condition of their acting in conjunction with a European Justice of the Peace, because I question whether some of the gentlemen officiating in those situations, and who are chosen indiscriminately from the service, are better qualified than many of the natives. It would be an incentive to others to qualify themselves for such honourable stations, and thus would commence that incorporation of the natives in the general system of the British Government, which would prove the best guarantee for its permanency.These were the sentiments of a man whom he had the honour to call his friend, who, for many years, filled the highly im- 976 portant situation of Political Resident at Paroda, and who, consequently, had the best opportunities of judging of the character and talents of the natives of India. He should be very sorry if the House were to suppose that he read the letter which he had received yesterday from Bombay, from any other motive than to shew the excellent qualifications of the natives. In conclusion, he had only to observe, that nothing should ever deter him from expressing his sentiments, when he conceived that the welfare, the happiness, and the prosperity of the people of the vast British possessions in India were at stake. To many of the natives of India he owed a debt of gratitude which he could never repay; and, therefore, as long as he had a voice to raise, or a vote to give, he would never abandon their interests in that House.
§ The petition to be printed.