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Press Act, 1910

Volume 65: debated on Tuesday 28 July 1914

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14.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he has now received the report of the judgment of the Chief Court of the Punjab in the appeal brought by the proprietor of the "Zemindar Press" of Lahore against a declaration of forfeiture made under the Press Act, 1910; whether, as the result of this appeal, the proprietors of this newspaper are penalised by a fine of £800 and the total loss of printing presses, together with the payment of costs on account of certain articles, which were held to be likely to spread dissatisfaction; whether he is aware that one of these articles was in effect a criticism of the Prime Minister and Lord Crewe for declining to see two representative Mahomedans who had come to London at the request of a large body of fellow Mahomedans to complain of the operation of the Press Act; whether any of the articles contained any incitement whatever to violence or disorder; and whether, in view of all the circumstances of this case, the Secretary of State will take any action in the matter?

The answers to the first, second, and third parts are in the affirmative, except that there were two orders of forfeiture and two judgments of the Chief Court. In regard to the fourth part, the Chief Court have upheld the local Government in its view that the articles were likely to bring into hatred and contempt and to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in British India. The Secretary of State does not propose to interfere in this case.

Can the hon. Gentleman say why the Secretary of State refused to see these two men who came over purposely as representing the people in India? The Secretary of State is paid a big salary, and is it not part of his duty?

I think the Secretary of State, in his discretion, did not see any occasion for seeing these gentlemen.

Was it not admitted that this paper is generally conducted on lines which are perfectly compatible with loyalty to this country, and that these were exceptional articles rather in the nature of criticism than incitements to sedition?

I cannot accept that version of the judgment. The view expressed by the judgment was that the tone of the articles must be regarded as being characteristic of the paper as a whole.