Speeches & Writings
Legislative Councils - Tentative Suggestions
IN supporting the following resolution of the second Indian National Congress held at Calcutta in 1886 Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said:
That this Congress is of opinion that in giving practical effect to this essential reform, regard should be had (subject to such modifications as, on a more detailed examination of the question, may commend themselves to the Government) to the principles embodied in the following tentative suggestions :-
(1) The number of persons composing the Legislative Councils, both Provincial and of the Governor-General, to be materially increased, Not less than one-half the Member's of such enlarged Council to be elected. Not more than one-fourth to be officials having seats ex--officio in such Councils and not more than one-fourth to be Members, official or non-official, or nominated by Government.
(2) The right to elect Members to the Provincial Councils to be conferred only on those classes and member of the community, prima facie capable of exercising it wisely and independently. In Bengal and Bombay, the Councillors may be elected by the Members of Municipalities, District Boards, Chambers of Commerce and the Universities, or an electorate may be constituted of all persons possessing such qualifications, educational and pecuniary, as may be deemed necessary. In Madras, the Councillors may be elected either by District Boards, Municipalities, Chambers of Commerce and the University, or by electoral Colleges composed of Members partly elected by these bodies and partly nominated by Government. In the North-West Provinces and Oudh and in the Punjab. Councillors may be elected by an electoral College composed of Members elected by Municipal and District Boards, and nominated, to an extent not exceeding one-sixth of the total number by Government, it being understood that the same elective system now in force where Municipal Boards are concerned will be applied to District Boards and the right of electing Members to these latter extended to teh cultivating class. But whatever system be adopted (and the details must be worked out separately for each province) care must be taken that all sections of the community and all great interests are adequately represented.
(3) The elected Members of the Council of the Governor-General for making laws, to be elected by the elected Members of the several Provincial Councils.
(4) No elected or nominated Member of any Council to receive any salary or
remuneration in virtue of such Membership, but any such Member, already in receipt of any Government salary or allowance, to continue to draw the same unchanged during Membership, and all Members to be entitled to be reimbursed any expenses incurred in traveling in connection with their membership.
(5) All persons resident in India to be eligible for seats in Council, whether as electorates or nominees, without distinction of race, creed caste or colour.
(6) All legislative measures and all financial questions including all budgets, whether these involve new or enhanced taxation or not, to be necessarily submitted to and death with, by these councils. In the case of all other branches of the administration any Member to be at liberty, after due notice, to put any question he sees fit to the ex-officio Members (or such one of these as may be especially charged with the supervision of the particular branch concerned) and to be entitled (except as hereinafter provided) to receive a reply to his question together with copies of any paper requisite for the thorough comprehension of the subject, and on this reply the Council to be at liberty to consider and discuss the question, and record thereon such resolution as may appear fitting to the majority. Provided that if the subject in regard to which the inquiry is made involves matters of Foreign policy, Military dispositions or strategy, or is otherwise of such a nature that in the opinion of the Executive, the public interest would be materially imperilled by the communication of the information asked for, it shall be competent for them to instruct the ex-officio Members, or one of them, to reply accordingly and decline to furnish the information asked for.
(7) The Executive Government shall possess the power of over-ruling the decision arrived at by the majority of the council, in every in which in its opinion the public interest would suffer by the deceptance of such decision; but whenever this power is exercised, a full exposition of the grounds on which this has been considered necessary, shall be published within one month and in the case of local Governments, they shall report the circumstances and explain their action to the Government of India, and in the case of this latter, it shall report and explain to the Secretary of State; and in any such case on a representaion made through the Government of India and the Secretary of State by the ruled majority, it shall be competent to the standing Committee of the House of Commons (recommended in the third Resolution of last year's Congress which this present Congress has affirmed) to consider the matter, and call for any and all papers or information, and hear any persons on behalf of such majority or otherwise, and thereafter, if needful, report thereon to the full House.
After the very able and eloquent speeches to which you have already listened, it may seem almost superfluous to add any thing as to the expediency, as to t necessity, of the reform contemplated in the fourth resolution. It seems, however, necessary to show to the Government and to the public at large that it is not only by the people of a certain limited portion of the country that the principle of representative government is understood and approved, but that in every presidency and province, of this vast Indian continent, the people equally appreciate it and are equally anxious for its introduction into the administration. Delegates from Calcutta. Bombay, Madras, Patna, Fyzabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Dacca, have already endorsed this fact. Let me a humble delegate from Allahabad confirm their testimony. (Cheers) It is not to the great British Government that we need demonstrate the utility, the expediency, the necessity of this great reform (Cheers). It might have been necessary to support our petition for this boon with such a demonstration were we governed by some despotic monarch, jealous of the duties, but ignorant and careless of the rights of subjects; but it is surely unnecessary to say one word in support of such a cause to the British Government • 'r the British nation-to the descendants of those brave and great men who fought and died to obtain for them- selves and preserve intact for their children those very institutions which, taught by their example, we now crave (chem's), who spent their whole lives and shed their hearts blood so freely in maintaining and developing this cherished principle. (Loud and prolonged cheers).
What is an Englishman without representative institutions ? Why, not an Englishman at all (cheers), a mere sham (cheers), a base imitation (cheers), and I often wonder as I look round at our nominally English magnates how they have the face to call themselves Englishmen and yet deny us representative institutions, and struggle to maintain despotic ones. (Loud cheers.) Representative institutions are as much a part of the . true Briton as his language and his literature. Will anyone tell me that Great Britain will, in cold blood, deny us, her freeborn subjects, the first of these when, by the one gift of the two letter, she has qualified us to appreciate and incited us to desire it? (Cheers).
No taxation without representation. That is the first commandment in the Englishman's Political Bible; how can he palter with his conscience and tax us here; his free and educated fellow-subjects, as if we were dumb sheep or cattle? But we are not dumb any longer, India has found a voice at last in this great Congress, and in it, and through it, we call on England to be true to her traditions, her instincts, and herself, and grant us our rights as freeborn British citizens. (Pro-longed cheering.)
Representation is a thing required in every part of the world, as soon as a nation emerges from barbarism, even where rulers and ruled are one people, having- one common language, domicile, religion, literature, and what not, and how much more so is it needful in this country? We know that the English people, true to their higher instincts, have-introduced here so much that is good, that to them we owe many and great blessings. (Cheers) We acknowledge these blessings with gratitude: we owe a heavy debt of gratitude to the English people, and there is no fear of our ever forgetting our' obligations to them. (Loud cheers) But while we are thus deeply grateful for the blessings we enjoy we cannot but feel that there are still man y points in which our condition can be and ought to be improved, and we see first and foremost that the system of administration, that now obtains, is despotic (loud cheers), and is deficient in the principle of representation, the fundamental characteristic of a free government. (Cheers) There is not a true-born Englishman who would not be horrified if told that the Government of India dealt with the whole people of India as slaves, and yet, if any Stich man will fairly face the facts of the case, he will be compelled to admit that, despite all other good gifts, in this matter of excluding us from all share in the government of our own country, the government is really treating us as mere slaves. The right to be represented is inherent in every educated free-born British subject. (Loud cheers) Gentlemen, we all recognize the great Proclamation of 1858 as our Magna Charta, and in that Proclamation Her Gracious Majesty was pleased to assure us solemnly that she would regard all her subjects of whatever race, creed or colour with an equal eye, and consider the welfare of all equally. Her Majesty's Indian subjects were therefore to be regarded in the same light as her subjects in any of her other colonies and possessions. But how can it be said that we are treated in the same way when we are not allowed the slightest voice in the administration, (Cheers), when we are not allowed the opportunity of saying one word as to our sentiments in regard to the laws and edicts which year by year are flung forth over the land, and under which we have to live and suffer? (Cheers.) I ask you if that is regarding us with an equal eye, if that is treating us as those of the English race in other possessions of Her Majesty are treated? (Cheers.)
I am sorry that time does not allow me to speak fully and freely, on this great subject, but after all in, the present day it is almost a waste of time to prove either the reasonable character or the justice of our claim. Every cultured mind admits this, at any rate as an abstract proposition. It is always imaginary practical difficulties, or our supposed incapacity, that is urged. But when you see Indians competing with Englishmen in every walk of life to which they can find or force an entrance, and not unfrequently emerging triumphant from the friendly contest (loud cheers), it is extremely inconsistent to say that they are unfitted to assist in the consideration and preparation of laws for their own people, and incapable of joining in that great work of administration, which has, or should have, for its sole object the prosperity of their native land (cheers); and I ask every generous English mind to say whether we have not a strong ground for complaining· against the exclusion as a piece of un-English injustice. Surely it is the desire of every generous hearted Englishman who loves liberty to confer the freedom. he himself enjoys, on all-
"For he," as an English Poet says, "that values liberty confines "His seal for her predominance within
" No narrow bounds; her cause engages him
"Wherever pleaded. "Tis the cause of man." (LOUD CHEERING).
But our President signs that I am exceeding the allotted period, and I will only add may the cause of the people of India, the cause of liberty and right, engage the attention, heart and soul, of every honest Englishman in India and in England and may each true Briton, who values the rights, the privileges, the freedom which have made him and his country what they are, aid us, like true Britons, to the fruition of our aspirations for equal rights, equal privileges and equal freedom. (Loud cheers.)