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COPY of CORRESPONDENCE between The DIRECTORS of the East India
COMPANY, and The COMMISSIONERS for The AFFAIRS of the East Indics, on the INDIA JURY Bill.
- No. 1.
East India Company, enclosing Copy of a Bill relative to the appointment of
India Board, 16th September 1831. I Beg to inclose for your inspection, a Copy of a Bill which I propose to submit to Parliament, relative to the appointment of Justices of the Peace and of Juries, in the East Indies.
I am, &c. &c.
LETTER from Robert Campbell and John G. Ravenshaw, Esqrs. to the
Right Hon. Charles Grant, M. P. &c. &c. &c.
East India House, 22d September 1831. WE have had the honour to receive your Letter dated the 16th instant, communicating the Draft of a Bill which you propose to introduce into Parliament, relating to the appointment of Justices of the Peace and of Juries, in the East Indies.
Whilst the Court are most anxious to promote the advancement of the Natives of India to offices of trust and responsibility, they very strongly feel the necessity of exercising much caution in the adoption of measures for that purpose. To proceed too rapidly in such a case, would ultimately retard, instead of promoting the object sought to be attained.
The office of Justice of the Peace is one which we have hitherto considered to partake of the character of a King's Magistrate appointed to administer British Law; and if your wish be to invest the Natives of India with that character, it is a step which the Court confess they are not prepared to adopt without much more consideration than that which they have been enabled yet to bestow upon it. You are aware that the Court have encouraged the employment of Natives in the administration of Indian Law. The entrusting them with the administration of British Law, involving a power to take cognizance of charges against European Functionaries, even of the highest class, is a very different matter.
The Court observe, that by the Indian Jury Act, passed in 1826, Juries for the trial of Christians, must consist wholly of Christians.
It would have been satisfactory to the Court to have been favoured with a communication of your reasons for proposing the repeal of that provision, which seems to the Court to be essential for guarding against the possibility of Christians, European or Native, being tried upon questions involving life or death by Hindoos and Mussulmen.
We trust, Sir, that upon further consideration, you will abstain from pressing this Bill at present, the subject of which it treats being of such a nature as to call for much reflection before they become matters of legislation.
We have the honour, &c. &c.
Deputy Chairman of the East India Company.
India Board, 15th October 1831.
The reasons for which I am desirous to see this measure adopted, are chiefly those which apply in every country that has reached an adequate degree of civilization. If it should appear to you that there are any particular grounds of exception in the present instance, I trust I need not add, that on being communicated to me, they will receive the fullest attention of His Majesty's Government.
In consequence of your having stated that the step is one which the Court of Directors cannot adopt without more consideration, than that which they have yet been enabled to bestow upon it, I deferred the immediate introduction of a Bill founded upon the Draft I submitted for your information,
Although the delay was undoubtedly due to the convenience of the Court, yet in the absence of any ostensible objection, and not myself perceiving that any political danger is to be apprehended from the measure, I should under such circumstances be
very unwilling to protract that delay; and I will therefore request you to have the goodness to bring the subject under the full, and, above all, the immediate consideration of the Court.
It will not escape your observation, that it is only eligibility which it is proposed to confer, and which of course would be susceptible of regulation under due responsibility I have the honour to be, &c. &c. &c.
LETTER from Robert Campbell and John G. Ravenshaw, Esquires, to the Right Hon. Charles Grant, M. P. &c. &c. &c.
East India House, Sth December 1831. We have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Letter dated the 15th October, upon the subject of the Bill which you propose to introduce into Parliament to auihorize the appointment of Natives of India to be Justices of the Peace, and to repeal that clause of the Indian Jury Act, which requires that Juries for the trial of Christians shall consist wholly of Christians.
In making the communication contained in our Letter dated the 22d of September, the Court were fully aware that it was only eligibility which the Bill proposed to confer ; but we would submit to you, that while the Bill professes to confer a boon upon the Natives of India, all the local Governments, in the exercise of their discretion, might decline to act upon it; in which case there would be created feelings of dissatisfaction towards those Governments, who would thus incur the odium of refusing or restricting, without the credit of bestowing, an important distinction.
The Court much wish that you had explained the reasons which have led you to propose this Bill; you merely say they are chiefly those which apply in every
country that has reached an adequate degree of civilization;" which general principle the Court understand to be, that the natives of every country sufficiently civilized, should be deemed eligible to fill important and responsible offices in the administration of its affairs ; a principle, upon which, as you are aware, the Court have practically acted as respects the Natives of India, who under existing regula.
tions (which moreover may be modified or extended without any further legislative
It will hardly be contended that the Natives of India are now, or are likely at an
It is further important to observe, that the office of Justice of the Peace involves direct cognizance of the conduct of Europeans; a power which, if committed to the Natives, will, the Court conceive, have an injurious effect in lowering that estimation of the European character which has had so important an influence in upholding our Indian Empire.
The Court do not question the intelligence and capacity of the Natives, but they consider them defective in many qualities, particularly firmness of character, which are so necessary to inspire confidence, and so essential to enable them to discharge the duties of a Justice of the Peace with usefulness and with credit.
With respect to the trial of Christians by Natives of India who are not Christians, the Court had always considered, that it was a principle of the Law of England, that there should be some community of feeling between those who were to try and him who was to be tried; and they cannot but entertain grea: doubt of the propriety of departing from that principle upon this occasion. There ought, the Court think, to be some reality in the maxim, that men are to be tried by their Peers, by what the English Law, with strong meaning, calls the “ Country.” But what Country, to an Englishman and a Christian, is it to be tried by Hindoos and Mussuimen? What community of feeling,
interest or habitude, can subsist between such parties ? The idea of being tried by Hindoo or Mussulman Jurors must he intolerable to every Englishman. It is true the anomaly exists, in subjecting Hindoos and Mussulmen to be tried by Christian Jurors; but that is only a consequence of the system under which the Government of India is held, and does not seem in any degree to require the establishment, by way of compensation, of the new anomaly, of allowing Hindoos and Mussulmen to try Christians.
Upon the whole, after the maturest consideration, the Court remain of the opinion expressed in our Letter to you of the 22d September last, that, however “ anxious they are to promote the advancement of the Natives of India to offices “ of trust and responsibility, they very strongly feel the necessity of exercising “ much caution in the adoption of measures for that purpose. To proceed too
rapidly in such a case, would ultimately retard, instead of promoting, the
object to be attained;" and we cannot help feeling, that to hold out the least prospect of a boon, which the people are not in a state to accept with any probability of advantage to themselves or benefit to the State, would be a delusion. The Court, therefore, beg leave to decline being parties to the Bill which you propose to bring in; and they would earnestly suggest to you the expediency of your abstaining from carrying the proposition into effect, without a previous reference of the whole subject to the consideration of the Bengal Government; upon whose proceedinys, hitherto, there is not to be traced the slightest indication of an opinion favourable to the measures which you contemplate.
We have the honour, &c.
John G. Ravenshaw.
LETTER from the Right Hon. Charles Grant, M. P. to the Chairman and
Deputy Chairman of the East India Company. GENTLEMEN,
India Board, 6 March 1832. I Have the honour to address you in reference to your Letter of the 8th December 1831, on the subject of the proposed Bill to amend the Law relating to the appointment of Justices of the Peace and of Jurors in the East Indies.
In answer to the remark made in my Letter of the 22d September, that eligibility is all that the Bill proposes to confer, you observe, that “ all the local “ Governments, in the exercise of their discretion, might decline to act upon it; in “ which case,” you add, “ there would be created feelings of dissatisfaction towards " those Governments, who would thus incur the odium of refusing or restricting, " without the credit of bestowing, an important distinction.'
To this observation I can only reply, that I trust and believe that the local Governments will by no means conceive it to be a just exercise of their discretion, systematically to debar the Natives from that to which the Law pronounces them eligible. It will be for the Governments at home and in India to lay down precise rules as to qualification for admission to the exercise of the duties in question, and to adhere to those rules; but we must not suppose the possibility of any attempt on the part of the local Governmerits to defeat, by practical exclusion, the intentions of the Legislature.
I acknowledge with pleasure the correctness of the statements in your Letter, respecting the general principle upon which the Court has acted in reference to the Natives of India. Their eligibility“ to fill important and responsible offices in the “ administration of the affairs ” of their country, being therefore established as a general principle, the propriety of excluding them by law from particular offices can only be maintained, by showing with respect to each office a special case of exception.
I proceed, therefore, in the first place, to examine the reasons assigned by the Court for the exclusion of Natives from the office of Justice of the Peace.
The first objection is, that “it is not to be expected that Natives will voluntarily " sacrifice the time and expense which would be necessary to acquire an accurate “ knowledge of the English Law Books and Acts of Parliament, in which the “ duties of Justices of the Peace are laid down, for the mere distinction of acting as unpaid Magistrates."
In answer to this argument, I have first to remark, that if the Natives would not make the sacrifice of time and expense which would be necessary to enable them to learn the duties of the Office, they would not possess the qualifications pronounced indispensable by the Public Authorities, and would consequenly be still inadmissible. Their exclusion from the office, however, could not in that case be regarded as a grievance; they would be excluded, as individuals, by their own choice, and not as a body, by an indiscriminate legal enactment.
But in the second place, I must own that it seems to me a gratuitous assumption, to suppose that no Natives, otherwise qualified, would make the sacrifice in question. The degree of knowledge of the English Laws which could be reasonably required as a qualification for the office, is found to be easily attainable by those gentlemen who are now appointed to fill it, without the previous advantage of a legal education; and there is no reason why the acquirement of the same degree of knowledge should be regarded by intelligent and respectable Natives as a matter of formidable difficulty. In the pursuits of private life, as well as in those branches of the public service in which they have hitherto been permitted to engage, the Natives of India have evinced no deficiency, either in habits of application to business or in the skill and acuteness required for its successful prosecution; nor can it be maintained that they are insensible to that stimulus to exertion which arises from the hope of honourable distinction. Those Natives who are entrusted with the administration of justice, and the collection of the revenue, in the interior, qualify themselves for those duties by studying the Regulations of the Government under which they are to act. Why, then, should we anticipate a different result in the case now under consideration ?
2dly. “ The Court are of opinion that Natives would be deterred from undertaking the duties of the office, on account of the responsibility under which they would be placed to the Supreme Court, their liability to penalties for illegal conduct,