1. In this case the appellant was convicted of sedition under 8. 124-A, Penal Code, and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for one year.
2. The speech in which he made the remarks complained of was delivered at Shradhananda Park on 22nd November 1934. There was a meeting of the Bengal Youth League, and there was a red banner with hammer, sickle and star. The audience were composed mostly of Bengali youths of the student community and a number of speeches were made.
3. The accused moved a resolution, expressing emphatic condemnation of Government legislation as being calculated to gag the working-class movement in India, in declaring the Communist party of India and various trade unions and labour organizations illegal, while anti-working class organizations like the Indian National Congress and the Congress Socialist party had not been banned and had been allowed to prosecute their aims of sabotaging the real class struggle for emanicipating the toiling masses of India. The resolution also condemned the banning of the Communist party of India and other militant class organizations in the Punjab and Bombay.
4. In his speech the accused referred to these orders made by the Government, and explained that what was meant was that the Government by such banning of certain organisations were making it easier for the organisations which were carried on by the well-to-do and the capitalists, one of the aims of which was to put down the workers' movement to pursue the new reformist movements which were favoured by these other bodies. The rich, Gandhi and the Congress, were all lumped together by the speaker as being supported by the Government. Then he proceeded to deal with the Round Table Conference and pointed out that at one time the Government had declared the Congress illegal, but that it was the object of the Government, and by reference the speaker obviously wanted to include all Governments, to encourage the reformist movement as a method of checking the revolutionary movement represented by the Communist party, the Bolsheviks and others. The rest of the speech was a mere recital of facts, either of recent or past history. A great deal of it was obviously taken from well-known and quite respectable books which have been published recently about the world economic depression, the alleged failure of the capitalistic system, and the necessity of finding some other method for the distribution of goods. In fact all that the speech amounted to was a recommendation of the Bolshevik form of government as preferable to what is generally called the 'capitalistic' form of government, i.e., the present form of government, and all that the speaker did was to encourage the young men, whom he was addressing, to join the Bengal Youth League and to carry on a propaganda for the purpose of inducing as large a number of people in India as possible to become supporters of the idea of communism as represented by the present Bolshevik system in Russia,
5. It is really absurd to say that speeches of this kind amount to sedition. If such were the case, then every argument against the present form of government and in favour of some other form of government might be alleged to lead to hatred of the Government, and it might be suggested that such ideas brought the Government into contempt. To suggest some other form of government is not necessarily to bring the present Government into hatred or contempt.
6. The learned Magistrate, who tried the case, obviously takes a strong view with regard to Bolshevism. He does not like it; neither do I, nor do a very large number of sensible people. That does not mean that one may not make speeches of this kind. I do not like quite a lot of things the people do constantly from day to day. That is no reason for suggesting that those people are guilty of sedition or of attempting to bring the Government into hatred or contempt.
7. In my opinion it is not wise to institute prosecutions against the makers of speeches of this kind. The effect of it is to give the impression that the Government are desirous of taking the kind of steps which, we understand, have been taken in countries like Germany and Italy, where the right of free speech has practically disappeared. So far as we know, that is not the present position in India. In any case the present speech is a long way from coming within the provisions of Section 124-A, Penal Code. The conviction and sentence passed on the appellant are, accordingly, set aside and he is acquitted. The appellant who is on bail will be discharged from his bail-bond.
8. I agree.