Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo
THE BANDE MATARAM CASE
EXTRACTS FROM THE DIARY OF HEMENDRA PRASAD GHOSE
8 June 1907
30 July 1907
2 August 1907
16 August 1907
17 August 1907
19 August 1907
21 August 1907
29 August 1907
30 August 1907
10 September 1907
19 September 1907
23 September 1907
EXCERPTS FROM KINGSFORDS JUDGMENT
The three accused are charged under Sec. 124A I.P. Code with having attempted to excite sedition against the Government established by law in British India by the publication of certain articles in the Bande Mataram newspaper.
The accused Arabinda Ghose is alleged by the prosecution to be the editor of this paper, and the accused Hemendra Nath Bagchi and Apurba Krista Datt [Bose] are admitted to be respectively the manager and printer. The charges concern an article entitled Politics for Indians which appeared in the town edition of 27th June and the Dak Edition of 28th June, and the republication on 26th July of certain seditious articles which originally appeared in the Jugantar newspaper.
[The magistrate then dismisses two points raised by the defence, viz. (1) that the sanctions for prosecution are invalid and (2) that the publication is not seditious. He finds the general tone of the Bande Mataram not seditious, but considers that the publication of the translations of the seditious Jugantar articles was not innocent in its intention, and that the language of Politics for Indians is seditious.]
I now pass to the evidence upon which the prosecution relies for the purpose of showing that Arabinda Ghose is the editor of the Bande Mataram, or if not the editor that he is so closely identified with the publication of this paper that his cognisance of the issue of this seditious matter may fairly be presumed. This evidence is to the effect that Arabinda is a share holder in the paper, that he took the chair at a preliminary meeting held in October, the minutes of which show that he and Bepin Chandra Pal were appointed Joint Editors, that a notice was printed in the issue of the paper of 12th December to the effect that Arabinda was the editor, that this was followed on 17th December by another notice announcing that Bepin Chandra Pal had terminated his connection with the paper, that Arabinda was in Calcutta from April to July and was attending at the Bande Mataram office, that his name was entered at the head of the list of Editorial Staff in the pay Register for January, February, March, which entries were subsequently erased, and that he received a sum of Rs. 50 in payment for services in July. There is further the evidence of Anukul who was a member of the Editorial Staff to the effect that Arabinda was the editor.
The defence is that Arabinda was not the editor but that he has been employed as a member of the staff; his sole duty being to supply contributions to the editorial columns of the paper.
[The magistrate then decides that resolutions passed at the October meeting were not binding on the Company.]
The next piece of evidence, viz. the notices of 12th and 17th December, is of much greater importance, for these go to show that the resolution as regards the Joint-editorship was carried into effect and that upon Bepins ceasing his connection with the paper Arabinda became editor.
The explanation given by the staff and supported by Arabinda himself for the notice of 12th December is that it was proposed in consultation by the secretary Sukumar Sen and others of the staff that Arabindas name should be published as the editor in order to improve the circulation of the journal; nothing was said on the subject to Arabinda but Sukumar sent the notice to the printer for publication and then went and consulted Arabinda who strongly objected on the ground that he was ill and had other duties to which he must attend. Sukumar however forgot to recall the notice and accordingly it appeared in the issue of the following day. It was never repeated and it was never withdrawn.
This explanation is extremely absurd, and the fact is that the witnesses have involved themselves in a difficulty. If they admit that the notice represents facts, then Arabinda was at that time the editor of the paper; if the notice did not represent facts then they committed a fraud upon the public by publishing and never withdrawing a misrepresentation which was intended to induce the public to buy the paper.
[The magistrate notes the witnesses unwillingness to damage Aurobindo and passes briefly over the suspicious erasures.]
I turn now to the evidence of the witness Anukul, who says that he was employed in this office during a portion of December and January and again for 5 or 6 days in May and that on both occasions he knew Arabinda as editor. It is shown in evidence that Arabinda was ill and absent at Deoghur from the beginning of December until April with the exception of about 10 days in the end of December and beginning of January when he came to Calcutta to attend the congress meeting. He was then living at Bhowanipore and is not likely to have concerned himself to any great extent with the business of the newspaper.
But Anukuls evidence is that he used to send telegrams to Arabinda to be edited during these few days and that he saw him at the office on 5 or 6 occasions, and he says that telegrams used also to be sent to Arabinda for the same purpose in May, though he admits that he did not send them himself; he also says that he went to the office on one occasion about the middle of July and saw Arabinda in the room which was set apart for the editorial staff. He admits however that he had no personal dealings whatever with Arabinda.
Now taking this evidence as a whole (and without entering into any discussion of the reasons put forward by the defence as to why Anukul should be discredited,) I find that it amounts to no more than this, that Arabinda was known as the editor of the paper. The duties which the witness describes Arabinda as having performed are those which would naturally be ascribed not to an editor but to a sub-editor. And on this point Anukul makes a very important admission, for he says that the duty of the editor was to write articles for the paper and this is the only duty that he is aware of.
But to say that a mans duty consists in this and this only and at the same time to call him editor is to make a meaningless assertion.
As regards the second point it is to be remembered that Arabinda is a man of exceptionally good attainments, who was interested in the promotion of this paper and had differentiated himself from the ordinary staff by refusing to take any fixed salary for his labour. It was not unnatural in these circumstances that his name should be entered at the head of the editorial staff. I have already pointed out that the announcement of December is capable of two interpretations, and the inference I draw is that the evidence is inconclusive. I find in it nothing which is materially inconsistent with the theory that Arabinda is a mere member of the editorial staff and that he is without responsibility for and without cognisance of the articles charged. I therefore acquit him.
[The magistrate, after noting the inadequacy of the Sedition Law, acquits the Manager, Hemendranath Bagchi.]
As against the printer and publisher Apurba Krisna Bose, the evidence is clear. Publication of the articles has been proved, and under the Press Act there is a statutory liability which amounts to this that Apurba having declared himself under the provisions of the Press Act to be the printer and publisher of this paper he is to be held to have printed and published every portion of the same.
It is argued that Apurba is an illiterate man and his knowledge of English very imperfect, but so far as I can gather from Mr. Roys address it is not seriously contended that before a conviction of the printer can be had, some direct evidence is requisite to show that he was cognisant of the matter which he was printing and publishing. The provisions of the Press Act were designed in order to place the responsibility upon the declarant, and it must therefore be held that it is his duty to know what is passing through his hands and the presumption is that the duty is performed.
Apurba must accordingly be convicted, and in passing sentence upon him I have regard firstly to the fact that this newspaper being in English is designed for a more intelligent and better educated public than that to which appeal is made by the vernacular papers, and its readers are therefore both better capable of estimating seditious utterances at their true value and less likely to be seduced from their allegiance to the Government or excited to acts of violence; and secondly to the nature of the articles charged. One of these is a mere reproduction. There is no evidence before me to indicate that the Bande Mataram habitually publishes seditious matter, and I must therefore assume that the articles charged form an exception to its general tone. I must also differentiate this case from the second Jugantar prosecution. Apurba is a printer and nothing more, whereas the evidence in the Jugantar case indicated that there was no editorial staff and that the accused combined the dual functions of editor and printer.
Under the circumstances I think it is proper to pass a lenient sentence upon Apurba, and accordingly I direct that he be rigorously imprisoned for three months.
[Re the imprisonment of the printer of the Bande Mataram, a simple workman who could not speak a word of English and had no knowledge of the contents of the paper.]
The printer was in fact only someone who took that title in order to meet the demand of the law for someone who would be responsible for what was printed. He was not always the actual printer.
A note written by Sri Aurobindo