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“ recoverable in this country, and had transmitted copies of “ that evidence, with detailed instructions, to the Commis“s' sioners in India, directing them to lose no time in completing “ 'the investigation of the said claims, and in forwarding to us “ their reports thereon respectively.
“ In our Third Report, presented to this Honourable House
on the 6th of December 1826, we had the honour to present a “ list of claims preferred to the Commissioners in India, which “ they had transmitted to us, unaccompanied by evidence, and “the examination of which, in the first instance, must be con“ ducted in India; and further to state, that we had not received “ the result of the inquiries, which, in reference to that and the “ former list of claims, we had directed to be made by the Com66 missioners in India. We are in the same actual state at pre“ sent, owing to the delay which the said Commissioners expe“ rienced in obtaining the Mahratta records of the late Rajah “ Ameer Sing, and to their difficulty in finding an efficient Mah“ ratta translator; but in consequence of a despatch recently “ forwarded to us by them, we have reason to believe that these “ obstacles having been removed, we shall soon receive the “ Reports which they may have completed on the claims sub6 mitted to their investigation.
“ BENJAMIN HOBHOUSE, 6 Office of the Tanjore
« THOMAS COCKBURN, « Commissioners,
« ROBERT HARRY INGLIS.” “ Manchester Buildings, Westminster,
« 15th February 1828.”
In the month of March 1826 Mr. Secretary Peel drew the attention of the House of Commons to the state of the criminal law generally in this country. The subject had engaged the time and talents of the late Sir Samuel Romilly, and subsequently of Sir James Mackintosh, both of whom, at various periods, brought different propositions connected with it under the consideration of Parliament.
Mr. Peel's object was more extended: it embraced the consolidation of the various acts which related to offences against property, and which, in their then state, were considered to encumber the statute book, and to confuse each other. The multiplicity of provisions and the minute nature of the details, rendered it utterly impossible to carry the bill through that session; another bill was, however, introduced and passed, which had reference to the general subject of the criminal justice of England, but more particularly to amending the regulations relative to the admittance to bail in cases of felony. The clause making accessories before the fact liable to the same punishment as the principal felon, was opposed, but ultimately carried. A proposal for allowing the counsel of prisoners, upon their trial for felony, to address the jury on the evidence, though strongly supported, was rejected, and the bill was finally passed into a law.
In the following session Mr. Peel introduced four other bills, which, with the bill brought in the preceding session were passed into acts, viz., 7th and 8th Geo. IV., cap. 27, for repealing various statutes in England relative to the benefit of clergy, and to larceny and other offences connected therewith, and to malicious injuries to property, and to remedies against the hundred. By this act one hundred and thirty-seven different statutes, commencing with the Charta de Foresta, 9th Henry III. cap. 10, were repealed.
Cap. 28, for the further improving the administration of justice in criminal cases in England.
Cap. 29, for consolidating and amending the laws relative to larceny, and other offences connected therewith.
Cap. 30, for consolidating and amending the laws relative to malicious injuries to property, including machinery, manufactories, and mines; and
Cap. 31, for consolidating the laws relative to remedies against the hundred.
When Mr. Peel introduced those bills, it was found that, however useful and important many or most of their provisions would be if extended to the East-Indies, still there was so much which was inapplicable to Asiatic habits, and the inconvenience of declaring what part should, and what part should not extend to those countries, would have been so great, that it was deemed expedient not to notice the East-Indies at all upon that occasion. With the caution and foresight which has so eminently marked that distinguished statesman, he accordingly protected India from any of the doubts or difficulties which might have resulted from an unqualified repeal of all those old laws which, so far as England was concerned, he swept at once from the statute book, by expressly confining their repeal to England and the high seas, leaving India therefore subject the same code of criminal law by which it was then governed, in order that, upon mature consideration, a separate and distinct code for the administration of criminal justice there might be introduced in the following session.
Nor was such a measure expedient solely with reference to the consolidation and amendment of the criminal law as applied to the British territories in India. It appears that his Majesty's courts of justice there have been in the habit of deciding (as of necessity they must have done) what British statutes did and what did not extend to the persons and places within their respective jurisdictions; to remove all doubt and difference of opinion upon such a subject was a matter of no small moment, and while the act in question accomplishes all those objects, it provides for or corrects such oversights and inaccuracies in former statutes as experience has shewn to be so.
To prevent all doubt and misapprehension as to the places
or the persons falling within its provisions, its first section precisely defines both, by enacting that it “ shall extend to all
persons and all places, as well on land as on the high seas, over whom or which the jurisdiction of any of his Majesty's
courts of justice, erected or to be erected within the British “ territories, under the government of the United Company “ of Merchants of England trading to the East-Indies, does “ or shall hereafter extend." His Majesty's colonies, therefore, such as Ceylon and the Mauritius, are not included in its operation.
In addition to the introduction of all such of the provisions of Mr. Peel's acts of last session as were deemed fit to be applied to India, and of those also of the act introduced during the present session by that right hon. gentleman respecting offences against the person, the act in question includes likewise the provisions of that which was introduced during the present session by the Right Honourable Lord Tenterden, Lord Chief Justice of his Majesty's Court of King's Bench, for amending the law of evidence in certain cases, permitting Quakers and Moravians to give evidence on affirmation, instead of oath, in all cases, criminal as well as' civil. Following his Lordship’s principle, and wisely extending it to meet the scruples of the natives of Asia, some of whose castes are extremely reluctant to take an oath, this act declares, that every native of any country within the limits of the Company's charter, who may be required to give evidence in any case whatsoever, criminal or civil, may, instead of taking an oath in the usual form, be permitted to make a solemn affirmation or declaration, in such manner and form as the court shall deem sufficiently binding on the conscience. Under this head, too, it may be noticed that the act corrects an oversight which had crept into the East-India Mutiny Act, requiring that the oaths to be taken by members of general or other courts-martial, or courts of request composed of military officers, should be taken upon the Holy Evangelists, and enacts that such persons may, instead thereof, be sworn according to the forms of their respective religions. With a view to make the act as nearly as possible a complete code in itself, for the administration of criminal justice within the East-India Company's territories, it repeals the provisions in the act of 39th and 40th Geo. III. cap. 79, relative to transportation; and those of the act of 53d Geo. III. cap. 155, relative to the stealing securities for money, to forgery, and to counterfeiting coin; and incorporates them with the provisions of this act.
In giving this brief outline of the effect of this most important act, its minute and laborious details have not been noticed; but it may be observed, that few acts have probably ever passed which have been subjected to more patient or anxious consideration. When the subject was first brought to the attention of the Court of Directors, the Company's law officers were immediately instructed to afford every assistance that their knowledge or experience could devise, in furtherance of the important object in view: an assistance to which they not only assiduously devoted themselves during every part of the progress of this great measure, but in which they were honoured with the benefit of the practical and high legal knowledge of the Right Hon. Sir James Mackintosh, Sir Edw. Hyde East, Robert Fergusson, Esq., M.P., and Mr. Serjeant Spankie; the two former of whom have held the highest judicial stations, and the two latter the highest official stations in the law in the East-Indies. Mr. Williams Wynn, who had also devoted the utmost care and attention to the subject, obtained leave, on the 4th June, to bring in the bill upon which the present act is founded; and on that occasion adverted to the aid which he had received from the eminent persons alluded to, and was pleased to express his sense of the obligation which he felt under to the Company's law officers, for the assistance which they had rendered to him.
At the same time, and under the same auspices, was introduced another measure of no less importance than that to which we have just referred.
On the 6th of June Mr. Wynn introduced the bill, which on the 9th of July 1828 received the royal assent, and became an Act for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors.