Connection with Gandhiji
Gandhiji was tried for sedition charges in this court on March 18, 1922, and was sentenced to a prison term of six years. This was the first imprisonment of Gandhiji in India.
Three articles written by Gandhiji in Young India, a weekly published under his editorship, attracted the charges of sedition. The articles were ‘Tempering With Loyalty’ (Young India, September 29, 1921),‘The Puzzle and Its Solution’ (Young India, December 15, 1921) and ‘Shaking the Manes’ (Young India, February 23, 1922), The trial of Sessions Court was conducted against the writer of the articles, Gandhiji, and printer of the journal Shankerlal Banker.
- The trial started at the Sessions Court, Circuit House, Shahi Baug on Saturday noon, March 18, 1922.
- The charge was to bring or attempting to bring in to hatred or contempt or exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the British Government. Both were charged with three offenses under section124-A.
- Judge R.S. Broomfield asked both Gandhiji and Banker whether they plead guilty. Both pleaded guilty.
- After Advocate General and Special Public Prosecutor Sir J.T. Strangman’s general remarks, the court asked Gandhiji whether he wished to make a statement. Gandhiji sought permission to read a written statement.
- After getting permission, Gandhiji made introductory remarks and then proceeded to read the statement.
- In the introductory remarks, Gandhiji said, ‘I wanted to avoid the violence. Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed…I know my people have sometimes gone mad, and I am deeply sorry for it. I am, therefore, here to submit not to a light penalty but the highest penalty. I do not ask for mercy.’
- ‘I am here to invite and cheerfully submit to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime and what appears to me to be the highest duty of the citizen.’
- In a written statement, Gandhiji recollected his services to the empire during his South Africa days and subsequent disappointment after excesses of the Government in Punjab as well as breaking of Khilafat promise. He narrated systematic exploitation of the Indian masses by the British Government and the town-dwellers and termed it as ‘crime against humanity which is perhaps unequalled in human history.’
- ‘I have no personal ill will against any single administrator…But I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected towards a Government which is in its totality has done more harm than any previous system…I consider it to be a sin to have affection for the system.’
Judge Broomfield acknowledged the stature and principles of Gandhiji and clarified that ‘I have to deal with you in one character only.’ Citing the sentence given to Lokmanya Tilak in a similar case 12 years back, the judge declared a sentence of two years of simple imprisonment on each count of the charge totaling six years of simple imprisonment.
After the declaration of the sentence, the judge said, ‘If the course in the events in India should make it possible for the Government to reduce the sentence period and release you, no one will be better pleased than I.’