I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India with regard to the Bill called the Procedure Bill, which has recently been before the Supreme Legislative Council of India, which proposed, among other things to give the Courts power to prevent decrees for restitution of conjugal rights being enforced by the imprisonment of the wife, will he explain why the Government abandoned this clause, which was supported by many members and only opposed by three, one of whom was the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal; whether the present law that any wife in India, even though she be a child, may be imprisoned for not living with her husband has only been in force for about 18 years; and whether the Government will again introduce the proposed reform into the Supreme Legislative Council and endeavour to carry it?
This clause was unanimously struck out by a Seclect Committee of seven members, four of whom were natives of India, on the ground that the country was not yet ripe for such a change; and a motion to restore it was lost in the Legilsative Council by 15 votes to 2. Under the present law a wife cannot be imprisoned until the Court has heard and considered all objections raised by her, and I am advised that a plea of childhood, if established, would lead to the dismissal of the suit. It is the case that imprisonment in these suits was not prescribed by law until 18 years ago, but I believe that other methods, not less objectionable, of enforcing conjugal rights were in force before that time. I have no reason to think that the Government of India propose, in the circumstances which I have stated, to re-introduce the measure at present, but I have no doubt they will do so as soon as they consider that it can be passed with due regard to the state of public opinion in India.