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Convicted Prisoners, Kayyur

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

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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?