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India (Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act)

Volume 237: debated on Tuesday 25 March 1930

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(by Prix ate Notice) asked the Secretary of Stale for India whether lie is now in a position to make any statement of the Government's intention as to the continuance in force of the powers of arrest and detention without trial embodied in the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for this opportunity to reply also to questions asked on previous occasions on this subject. With the approval of His Majesty's Government, a Bill is being introduced in the Bengal Legislative Council to-day to amend the present Act, the five years' term of which ends on the: 23rd April. The effect of this Bill is to retain for five years more the provisions in the first 10 Sections of the Act for the trial of certain offences by a curtailed procedure. The remaining sections of the Act which grant the executive powers of arrest and detention without trial will be repealed; but, if the emergency recurs, these powers will be resumed. If I may, I will read to the House a statement which has been made to-day by the Governor of Bengal with the approval of the Governor-General and myself, and which explains the policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter. The following is the statement by the Governor of Bengal:

"After anxious thought my Government has decided not to propose, on the evidence at present before them, the continuance of that part of the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act which grants to the executive powers of arrest and detention without trial. These powers have unfortunately been found essential in the past, but for the last three years it has been possible to keep the situation under control without fresh recourse to them. My Government have desired to do everything they could to seek in co-operation with Indian opinion a solution of our present difficulties, and are therefore reluctant to invite the Legislature to continue in existence powers the occasion for the exercise of which we must all deplore. They sincerely trust that no emergency will necessitate their resumption, but they cannot conceal from themselves the possibility that such an emergency might again arise which might make it essential for them to be in possession of these powers. They have accordingly been in communication with the Government of India on this matter, and I am authorised to state that the Governor-General in Council and His Majesty's Government, if they are satisfied of the existence of such an emergency, will be prepared to approve the necessary steps for securing these powers to my Government again."

Since my right hon. Friend's reply indicates a return to the good British tradition of no imprisonment without trial, may I congratulate him?