MR. E. N. FOWLER
rose to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into whether the procedure adopted in the case of the Nawab of Tonk is conformable to recognized principles of justice, and calculated to insure that a right decision be arrived at,but said that, as the House was aware, the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Charles Wingfield) had an Amendment proposing to refer the question to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and if Her Majesty's Government would accept that Amendment, he should be very willing to withdraw his own Motion in favour of it. The Nawab of Tonk might or might not have been unjustly treated; but at any rate he had been treated without any thorough investigation of his case. The Nawab of Tonk was a Mahommedan Prince whose territory was situated in the midst of the Rajpoot States, and the Rajpoots being Hindoos, the difference of religious opinion led to dissensions. The father of the Nawab stood loyally by England in our troubles in 1857, for which we owed him a debt of gratitude. In 1866 Lord Lawrence held a Durbar at Agra, and recommended reforms, which were carried out by the Nawab. The causes which led to the dethronement of the Nawab were these—The Chief of Lawa was the greatest tributary of the Nawab, and was stated to have been a notorious freebooter. He was a Hindoo, and difficulties had arisen between him and his Sovereign. He was invited to Tonk by Hukeem Surwah Shah, the Nawab's 771 Prime Minister, and proceeded there at the end of July, 1867. It was alleged on the Lawa side that on the evening of the 1st of August he was summoned, to the house of the Hukeem, that he did not go himself, but deputed his uncle, Rewut Singh, and his cousin, with 16 officers and retainers, who were attacked in the Prime Minister's house, and all, except one man, were treacherously murdered. On the other hand, it was stated by the people of Tonk that Rewut Singh and his party spontaneously went to the Hukeem's house, and attempted to force an entrance, after being informed that Surwah Shah was too ill to see them; that an affray sprung up, a general melée ensued, and that the Thakoor and nine of the Lawa party were killed, while seven were sacrificed by the Tonk people. The occurrence was investigated by Captain Bruce, who acquitted the Prime Minister of any intention except to seize some of the Lawa people. Colonel Eden, on the other hand, held there was a treacherous intention on the part of the Tonk authorities. Lord Lawrence adopted Colonel Eden's view, and decided that Lawa should be detached from Tonk, that the Nawab should be dethroned, and that his son should be substituted for him. In addition to this, the Prime Minister, Surwah Shah, not being a British subject, was imprisoned in the fortress of Chunar, the hottest place in India. Lord Lawrence's decision was confirmed by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote). Now, the Nawab asserted that he was ready to give a complete and satisfactory answer to all the charges made against him. It appeared to him that this Prince had been condemned by a secret tribunal worthy of the worst days of the Council of Ten, while the evidence on which the judgment was founded was of a character as contradictory as that which is now exercising the learning of a Court on the other side of Westminster Hall, and might well task the judicial acumen of the most eminent lawyers. And yet it was only sifted by men who, though distinguished in the military profession, were unused to judicial inquiries. Captain Bruce acquitted the Nawab of the charge; and his opinion was overruled by Colonel Eden. He (Mr. Fowler) thought, therefore, that the case deserved to be investigated by men of legal experience. 772 Another question he had to submit to the House was—Was the Nawab an independent Prince, or a British subject? If he was independent, what right had we to interfere? If he was a British subject, what right had we to refuse him a fair trial? The fact seemed to be that Colonel Eden condemned him, Lord Lawrence supported Colonel Eden, and the Secretaries of State and Lord Mayo followed Lord Lawrence. Now, he did not think that this House was bound by Colonel Eden's decision. Nor were the Government bound to uphold the conduct of their officials whatever the circumstances. He did not ask the House to give an opinion on the guilt or the innocence of the Nawab of Tonk in regard to the charges made against him; but he did ask them to give him that which every subject of of Her Majesty, and everyone under British protection was entitled to—an impartial trial. He asked for this unfortunate Prince a fair field and no favour; and, believing in the justice of Englishmen, believing especially in the justice of that House, he submitted his Motion to their consideration with confidence. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. MORRISON
, in seconding the Motion, said, the chief facts of the case were these. The fray took place on August 1st. Captain Bruce arrived in Tonk on the 15th, and reported on the 26th; and that Report was the ground of the decision arrived at; and though a parade might be made of the agreement of Colonel Eden, the Governor General in Council, and two Secretaries of State, practically they would find that they confirmed the opinion arrived at by Captain Bruce; and in his Report presented to Parliament they had the whole grounds of their decision, and were capable themselves of coming to an independent judgment on it. Now, Captain Bruce came to the conclusion that the ex-Nawab was guilty of endeavouring to entrap the Thakoor, but that the Minister was responsible for the murder alone, while Colonel Eden argued that the Nawab must have been privy to the whole plot. The hon. Member proceeded to examine and comment upon the statements contained in the Papers laid before Parliament, and said that if, as he thought he had proved, Captain Bruce had shown, within the 773 four corners of his Report, his deficiency of the power of seeing obvious and patent flaws in the evidence, the House should pause before they accepted his decision as final, and deprived the Nawab of his throne, and consigned his Minister, Surwah Shah, to life imprisonment, on evidence which would not, in an English Court, convict the humblest criminal. Had he been a Native of the British territory in India he would have had the opportunity of cross-examining witnesses face to face, and all the protection of the forms of law; and, whatever the truth might be, there seemed to him ground for an examination afresh into the whole case, either through a Committee of the House, or, as proposed by the hon. Member for Gravesend, by the agency of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire whether the procedure adopted in the case of the Nawab of Tonk was conformable to recognised principles of justice, and calculated to ensure a right decision being arrived at,"—(Mr. Robert Fowler,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR CHARLES WINGFIELD
, who had given notice of an Amendment—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying tier to refer the case of the Nawab of Tonk for consideration by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, under the provisions of the Act of the 3rd and 4th years of Will. 4, c. 41, s. 4, commonly called the Privy Council Act,said, he did not mean to pronounce an opinion as to the nature of the occurrence which led to the deposition of the Nawab, nor as to what degree of culpability, if any, attached to him—he confessed himself quite unequal to the task; but, looking at the conflicting nature of the testimony, and to the fact that the conclusion which had been formed adverse to him rested entirely on presumption, he was of opinion that the case was one which a judicial authority was alone competent to deal with. Briefly stated, the Lawa story was that they were invited to the Minister's house, and there treacherously murdered. The Tonk story was that the Lawa people came uninvited, 774 and that a quarrel ensued, which ended in loss of life. If the Lawa version was correct, there had been an act of foul treachery and murder. If the Tonk version was the true one the affair was merely an affray, for which the Nawab could not be in the slightest degree responsible. The hon. Member for Falmouth (Mr. R. N. Fowler) had explained the course of procedure adopted. The Political Agent and the Governor-General both submitted Reports on the subject. They both admit there is no judicial proof; and they both agree in thinking that the Lawa party were invited to the Minister's house with the Nawab's sanction; but while Captain Bruce thinks the intention was only to secure their persons, and there was no intention to kill them, and that the loss of life ensued from the bungling execution of the plot, Colonel Eden comes to the conclusion that the purpose of the invitation to the Minister's house was to murder them, and they were massacred in pursuance of this design. The Government of India adopts the conclusion of Colonel Eden, and the Secretary of State says he has no reason to doubt this is the right one, and approves the deposition of the Nawab. Now, it was merely but fair, before condemning the Nawab, to send him copies of the Reports of Captain Bruce and Colonel Eden, and to allow him to offer any explanation or defence to the conclusions therein formed of his guilt. But it was not till one year after he had been deposed that copies were furnished to him. The hon. Baronet having reviewed the facts as detailed in the Reports, and the competency of the officers engaged in the investigation, said he had now to ask the House to contrast the course pursued in this case with that which would have been adopted had this occurrence taken place in British territory, and the parties had been British subjects. An experienced magistrate, who had passed examinations on the Law of Evidence and the Criminal Procedure Code, would have conducted the preliminary investigations; the case would have been tried by the district judge, a judicial officer of many years standing; counsel would have been heard on both sides; then it would have been submitted, either on appeal or for final orders, to the High Court of Justice, composed of barristers and civilian Judges. Finally, the Executive 775 Government could, on review of the proceedings, have exercised, had it seen fit, its prerogative of pardon or mitigation of punishment. Of course, the Nawab, being an independent Prince, could not have been tried in the British Courts; but that was no reason why the common safeguards of justice should have been denied to him which were accorded to the meanest British subject. He thought the Government should have appointed a Commission of one or more Judges to hear and pronounce an opinion on the case; or they might have referred the Exports of Captain Bruce and Colonel Eden for the opinion of one of the High Courts, at the same time allowing the Nawab to be heard by counsel in his defence, before coming to a decision in the case. It was now too late to take this course in India, but it was not too late to obtain a judicial opinion from one of the highest and most competent judicial tribunals in this country—the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He did not think a Committee of this House possessed the necessary qualifications to deal with a case of this kind, whereas the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council did possess these qualifications in the highest degree, numbering as it did among its members Judges who had presided over the Supreme and High Courts of the Presidencies, and had been accustomed to weigh native testimony. It would, perhaps, be said that this course would not be acceptable to the native Princes themselves, because it would be to make them amenable to a municipal court, and thereby derogate from their independence. But a moment's reflection would show that he did not propose to subject the Nawab to the jurisdiction of a Court of Law—he only asked that the Executive Government should be guided in its decision in a most difficult judicial case by the best judicial advice available; indeed, it was a sufficient answer to say that the Nawab in his appeal to this House asked that a Commission might be appointed to hear his case, and he (Sir Charles Wingfield) knew his representatives in this country would gladly accept a reference of the case to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as he proposed. But it might also be said that to adopt that course would be to restrict the exercise of the Sovereign and paramount power of the British Government over the feudatory 776 Princes which was so essential to the preservation of peace in India. Now, there would be force in this argument if the offence with which the Nawab was charged was one against the British Government; that was to say, if he had been accused of treason or disloyalty to the Government. In such a case the Government could allow no one but itself to be judge. But the offence with which he was charged was one against his own subjects; it was essentially a criminal, not a political offence. The distinction was clear, and in practice it would be always easy to draw the line. Lastly, it might be said that the authority of the Government of India would be weakened if the decisions of two Governors General and two Secretaries of State were to be submitted to review by even so high a body as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Now, in the first place, he demurred to the orders of the present Governors General and Secretaries of State in the appeal of the Nawab being treated as decisions. Naturally they would be averse to reversing the decisions of their predecessors. But, secondly, he emphatically protested against the doctrine that the authority of the Indian Government could be impaired by giving a man the opportunity, which had as yet been denied him, of defending himself against a charge on which he had been punished without a hearing, or by recognizing an injustice if he had sustained any. Ever since the assumption of the Government of India by the Crown, the chiefs and people of India had looked on Her Majesty as the authority to whom they could in last resort apply for the redress of grievances; and this feeling on their part was one to be encouraged rather than repressed, because it was a safety-valve against discontent and the sense of wrong, which, if denied a legitimate outlet, might ultimately find vent in insurrection. The doctrine that the Governor General must be supported at all risks, however questionable, or even indefensible, his act, was one which, if it could ever justly be maintained, was quite untenable at the present day, when education had given the upper classes a sense of their legal rights, and the freest criticism of the acts of the authorities was permitted in the public press, and it had, in fact, in numerous instances been set aside. He was informed that he could not, in accordance 777 with the forms of the House, move the Amendment of which he had given Notice; but he hoped Her Majesty's Government would not object to adopt it. So strongly, however, did he feel that the Nawab had not had fair treatment, and that, if his prayer to be allowed the hearing which had improperly been denied to him was refused, it would shake the confidence of the chiefs and gentry of India in the justice of the British nation, of which they entertained so high an opinion now, that if Her Majesty's Government refused to accept his Amendment, he should vote for the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth, if he went to a division—as he hoped he would.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE moved the adjournment of the debate. The Motion had been brought forward under circumstances which made it impossible to discuss it fairly and fully, for there were papers bearing upon the case which were not yet before Parliament, and the right hon. Member for Devonshire (Sir Stafford Northcote), who shared part of the responsibility, was not now in the country, and therefore not in a position to offer any explanations to the House. The question was, whether the principles of justice had been maintained in the manner in which the inquiry was conducted, and he confessed that, on the face of it, it did seem hard that a Sovereign Prince should be dethroned on an inquiry conducted by a subordinate officer; but the whole question was so intricate and so difficult that it should not be decided upon while there was further information yet to be obtained with regard to it.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, that complaints had been made of the way in which the case of the Nawab had been tried; but the House was now trying the Member for North Devon, who was responsible for this matter, and was in a distant land on public business, and unable to answer for himself. He quite admitted that the Princes of India should feel that they could appeal to Parliament; but the House would do wrong unless they could discuss the question fully and carry it to an issue, and that could not be done in the absence of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.