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cases were tried by juries in the seven districts during the years 1884-1889. In 325 of these cases, or just over 19 per cent. of the whole, the Sessions Judges disapproved of the verdicts; but in 114 cases only, or a little less than 7 per cent., considered it necessary to make a reference to the High Court. It does not appear what exactly was done in these 114 cases submitted to the High Court-in how many that Court took the view of the Judge; in how many that of the jury.
We have next certain figures given by the Calcutta Hindoo Patriot, which show 2,537 cases to have been tried by juries during the previous eight years. In 478 (which, as with the previous figures, is about 19 per cent.) the Sessions Judges disapproved of the verdict wholly or partially, but referred only 125 cases, or nearly 5 per cent., to the High Court. In 70 of the cases so referred, or about 2 per cent. of the whole number of cases tried, the High Court took the same view as the Sessions Judge; in 47 cases refused to interfere with the verdict of the juries; and eight cases had not been disposed of.
Lastly we have the figures given by the Government of India in their Despatch, which are as follows :—there were 1,489 cases tried by juries in Lower Bengal during the last five years. Of these, 698 came under heads now withdrawn from their cognizance, while 791 fall within those classes, which still remain triable by jury. In the former cases the Sessions Judges recorded their dissent from the verdicts in 97, or 13.8 per cent. of the cases tried ; but submitted the verdicts in 67 cases, or 8.8 per cent. only; and the High Court reversed or modified the verdicts in 34 cases, or 4.8 per cent. In the second class of cases the Sessions Judges dissented in 7.7 per cent., and submitted only 4'1 per cent. to the High Court, and that tribunal found it necessary to interfere in merely 13 cases, or 1.6 per cent. It may be observed that there is no material difference between the results obtainable from the three sets of figures, which, however, belong to different periods. The figures relied
upon by the Government of India are more precise, for they distinguish between offences now withdrawn from the cognizance of juries and offences still left triable by jury -very properly so, inasmuch as the figures relating to the former class of offences are alone concerned with the action of the Government, who have shown a wise discrimination in selecting those figures which supply the strongest argument.
Let us now examine this argument. The Sessions Judges recorded their dissent from the verdicts in 13.8 per cent. of the cases tried by jury; but in only 8.8 per cent. did they disagree so completely that they considered it necessary for the ends of justice to submit the proceedings to the High Court. Now it is not suggested, and it cannot be presumed, that the Sessions Judges did not properly exercise the discretion given them by law, and that the cases actually submitted formed a portion merely of what should have been submitted to the High Court. Indeed if the Sessions Judges have erred at all, the figures show that it was in the opposite direction, for the results prove that more cases were submitted than was necessary for the ends of justicealmost twice as many indeed as were necessary. per cent of the cases tried by jury, the High Court reversed or modified the verdict-in other words, in 4:8 per cent. juries had convicted where they ought to have acquitted, or acquitted where they ought to have convicted, and the High Court by the exercise of the ample powers, by which jury trial was safeguarded in 1872 and 1882, was enabled to remedy these defects of justice. There remains then not even a decimal of argument to support the affirmative of the only possible issue in the matter. The argument, used for abolition, is in fact an argument for retention and extension, if the subject were one which could properly be treated on the basis of statistics alone.
But in truth there are many other considerations which ought to be weighed in dealing with the question, and which doubtless would not have been overlooked if the Judges of
the High Court had been afforded an opportunity of expressing their opinions beforehand upon the course of action proposed to be taken. Were erroneous verdicts due in any respect to defective summing up ?* Were these again in any way the result of want of training for this duty, f of less acquaintance with the colloquial language than is necessary to explain law and summarize facts, or of translations of the Penal Code not quite intelligible to the people ? $ Could these difficulties be removed by a more careful selection of Judges for jury districts, regard being had to their experience and natural or acquired powers; and by popular translations of the Penal Code in which some attempt inight be made to amplify abstract language not easy to translate into Oordoo or Bengali ?|| Would not jurymen serve more readily and therefore more effectually if the Jury Lists were more carefully revised at the stated periods provided by law, so as to increase the number of jurors as education spreads, and so decrease the burden of this public duty by dividing it between more persons ? These and other matters ought fairly to be considered before it can be decided whether the success of the experiment has become impossible. Apart from these considerations, it is not fairly to be concluded that jury trial is more unsuitable at Howrah or Alipore than within the obsolete boundaries of old Calcutta.
Throughout the discussion which has arisen an idea appears to pervade many minds that trial by jury is an
* Justices Ghose, Norris, and Bannerjee suggest that they were.
† Sessions Judges do not rise from the Bar to the Bench, and have not, therefore, had previous training-.necessary to proficiency_in public speaking
| Sessions Judges have usually to sum up in the vernacular. No interpreter is employed as at the Sessions in the Presidency towns.
§ A letter from Patna to the Calcutta Englishman says that the law is there read from the authorized Oordoo translation, which is full of Arabic and Persian words, and as intelligible to the average juryman as Chinese.
|| The definition of murder, and the distinction between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder, are exceedingly difficult of explanation in the vernacular to the average juryman.
institution, of which the operation ought to be as regular as that of nature, the results as uniform as those of a machine, and the effects as satisfactory as abstract justice could desire. Such, however, has not been the proved experience of any country in which it has existed, of England, of Wales, * of Ireland, or of America. Social prejudices, personal feelings, differences of opinion in creed or politics, erroneous ideas, and hopes or fears excited by recent events have ever been disturbing elements operating at one time against the accused, † at another time in his favour. To mention all this, however, is merely to say that trial by jury
-like every other form of administering justice, and like all things human—is not perfect. But it is due to those responsible for the existing system of administration of criminal justice in India (and to the memory of such of them, as are no longer with us) to say, that the safeguards there provided (which would gladden the soul of an Irish Attorney-General) have proved effectual to remedy failures or perversions of justice, such as in our native land have passed irremediable.
At a public meeting of the native community held in Calcutta on the 20th December last, the following resolutions were adopted :-(1) That this Meeting desires to enter its respectful but firm protest against the withdrawal of the most serious offences from trial by jury in the districts to which that system was extended thirty years ago — such withdrawal being contrary to the principles of British law
* The story of the Welsh jury, who acquitted the prisoner, but warned him not to do it again, even if not capable of authentication, is at least ben trovato, and some evidence of the popular estimate.
† This personage, though he has supplied all the figures, does not appear to have received in the controversy that amount of consideration to which he is fairly entitled, and the operation is certainly against him when dacoity is rife and juries in a funk. For a parallel, Macaulay, describing the state of things in the North of England during the seventeenth century, says :"Juries, animated by hatred and by a sense of common danger, convicted house-breakers and cattle-stealers with the promptitude of a court-martial in a mutiny; and the convicts were hurried by scores to the gallows.” —Chap. iii, p. 140, of the popular edition.
and tending to disturb the trust of the people in the Government; (2) that this Meeting also desires to enter its emphatic protest against the manner in which a valued right has been withdrawn—by Executive order, without giving an opportunity to the people to consider the matter and submit their views to the Government; (3) that the Criminal Procedure Code be so amended that the Local Government may not be able in future to take away one of the greatest safeguards of liberty by executive order ; (4) that a memorial be sent to the Secretary of State, and that a Committee be appointed for the purpose of bringing about the withdrawal of the order."
These moderate propositions are the natural and legitimate fruit of the education which we have given to the people of Bengal, of the ideas which we have instilled into the minds of her children. Let no man contemn this public utterance, saying that it expresses the mind of a few only, of a mere clique. It is the voice of that select few whom we ourselves have educated to be the leaders of the mass, and throughout history the mass has been led by the few. Neither let any unthinkingly smile at the talk about safeguards of liberty. Self-government does not yet exist in India ; and throughout the length and breadth of the land the work of administration is carried on by a strong and vigorous Executive, always meaning well, but sometimes high-handed, sometimes wanting in tact even where right, sometimes wrong in its estimate of facts, sometimes mistaken in gauging the feelings of the people, and too often forced to rely upon native subordinates not animated by the spirit of their superiors. How many acts of misguided energy and seeming oppression are patiently submitted to, because under the constitution which we gave to the country by our earliest laws, redress can be sought in the Courts of
* This would well have been done in 1882. The powers very properly conferred upon the local government at the inauguration of the experiment in 1862, became inexpedient and impolitic after a twenty or thirty years' prescription.