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Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

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"Calcutta Diocesan Record" (Articles)


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has considered the reprint sent to him of the two recent articles in the "Calcutta Diocesan Record," regarding requests by the civil police that inhabitants of a residential district in Calcutta should move elsewhere, their houses being required for brothels for the military; and whether he will inquire into the circumstances in which such action was taken?

I have made inquiries and am informed that no brothels for troops have been provided by the authorities in Bengal and that there has been no question of turning residents out of their houses to make room for such establishments. The Government of India have recently stated in the Legislative Assembly that it is no part of the policy of the civil or military authorities to provide brothels for troops or to assist in such provision. Brothels in Calcutta are out of bounds to troops, and an old order to that effect was reaffirmed last June.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that, if a responsible church publication like this and the Bishop of Calcutta make detailed and grave charges of this kind, it is evident that some official who has made a blunder is being protected and the matter is being hushed up? Will he reinvestigate and make sure that, if people have been turned out of their houses, they shall be restored to them?

I have answered the Question in regard to the policy of the Government of India, otherwise administratively the matter is entirely within the province of the Government and Parliament of Bengal.

Can it really be left at that? Can this country disclaim responsibility for the disgraceful state of affairs indicated in this very serious report?

The matter is one entirely within the powers which Parliament a good many years ago gave to the Indian Provinces.

Convicted Prisoners, Kayyur


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any further information respecting the convicted prisoners in the Kayyur case?

The facts of the case to which the hon. Member refers are that an Indian police constable who was visiting the village of Kayyur in Madras for the execution of a warrant was attacked by a mob. He was beaten and thrown into a river and then stoned until he sank and died. A number of persons were arrested and tried and four of them were sentenced to death by the Sessions Judge. The sentences were confirmed by the High Court of Madras, and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has recently considered and dismissed an application for special leave to appeal. A remark by the Sessions Judge that "it may be that the person who dealt the mortal blow could not with certainty be picked out of the group, or perhaps is not even before the Court" has given rise to a wholly mistaken impression that there has been a miscarriage of justice in this case. Once it is established, as it was in this case, that the act which extinguished the life of the victim was done by one or more persons in furtherance of the common intention of them all, each of them is guilty of murder even though it can never be known by whose hand life was actually extinguished.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a certain parallel between this case and a somewhat similar case in Northern Ireland, Where some of the convicted prisoners Were reprieved? Could he say therefore whether the attention of the Viceroy has been drawn to this, and will he inquire of the Viceroy whether clemency is likely to be exercised?

No, Sir. A petition for mercy can always be sent in on behalf of the person concerned.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the legal position in which a man can be condemned to death for murder even though it has not been proved that he committed the murder?

Any question of an appeal for clemency goes to the Viceroy. I am not aware that such an appeal has been made.

Are we to understand that all who participated in the affair were equally guilty of murder but that only four are being executed? If four are being executed, why not execute the whole lot?

Non-Congress Leaders (Conference, Bombay)


asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has now considered the Report of the Bombay Conference of Non-Congress leaders; and what response has been made to their plea?

The resolution passed at the Bombay Conference contemplated an approach to the Viceroy. I am not aware that any such approach has yet been made, and in the meantime I am not prepared to make any further statement on the matter of the resolution.

If these non-Congress leaders desire contact with the Congress leaders, does the right hon. Gentleman know whether the Viceroy will allow contact to be made?

We had better wait until the resolution has been presented and then have the Viceroy's opinion on the matter.

Whatever the outcome of this resolution, will the right hon. Gentleman say that he continues to welcome the efforts being made by Indian leaders to get an understanding in India?

The hon. Member raises a broad question of policy which, I understand, must be debated shortly.