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What Raised Controversy Over the Ilbert Bill?

Sir Courtenay Pergine Ilbert wrote the Ilbert Bill, which came into existence in 1883 during Viceroy Ripon’s tenure. The act provided for Indian judges to try Europeans.

A significant debate at the time surrounded this, the consequences of which would have far-reaching implications in Indian history. This article discusses the critical facts about Ilbert Bill in detail, which is essential for the IAS Exam. Aspirants can read the paper while keeping the UPSC prelims and primary structure in mind.

What exactly is the Ilbert Bill?

Before the bill’s introduction in 1873, British subjects were exempted from trial by Indian magistrates. A higher court could only hear cases involving death or transportation.
The Ilbert Bill was introduced in 1883 and changed this scenario.

According to the bill’s provisions, British and European subjects would now be tried in session courts by Indian judges who were senior enough in the civil service to preside over such proceedings. This provision would elicit a great deal of resentment from the European Union.

Also Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilbert_Bill

What was the source of the debate over the Ilbert bill?

Indians, whom the Europeans view as inferiors, were outraged and resentful at the mere prospect of a European being tried by one. The bill sparked outrage among the Calcutta European business community, which included tea and indigo planters.

Many officials expressed covert sympathy as well. The racial prejudices at the time were the root of the controversy. The propaganda that Indian judges were untrustworthy cases involving English females contributed significantly to the bill’s defeat.

English women who opposed the bill also argued. Because Bengali women, whom they stereotyped as “ignorant,” are neglected by their men. They should not be allowed to preside over cases involving English ladies. Bengali women who supported the bill argued that They had a better education than English women who opposed it.

The statement pointed out that more English women received an education than Bengali women. Indian women were more educated than British women at the time, alluding to the fact that the University of Calcutta was one of the first universities to admit female graduates to its degree programs in 1878 before any British university did the same.

What was the outcome of the conflict over the Ilbert Bill?

The bill’s subsequent widespread rejection by a majority of British people, particularly women, compelled Viceroy Ripon to pass an amendment requiring a jury of 50% Europeans if an Indian judge was to face a European on the dock. A solution is found to give European and Indian District Magistrates and Session Judges the authority to try Europeans.

However, in all cases, a defendant would have the right to a jury trial, with at least half of the members being European. The bill was passed on January 25, 1884, and went into effect on May 1, 1884.

The compromise and subsequent controversy exacerbated animosity between the British and Indians. The Indian National Congress would be formed in the next two years as a precursor to the many revolutionary movements that would spread in India later, setting a new stage for the Indian Freedom Struggle.

Who was against the Ilbert bill?

English women opposed the bill, claiming Bengali women, whom they stereotyped as “ignorant,” are neglected by their men. Bengali babu should be educated and not be allowed to judge cases involving English women. The bill’s most vocal opponents were the owners of British tea and indigo plantations in Bengal, led by Griffith Evans. The British press in India spread wild rumors about Indian judges abusing their authority.

What were the goals of the Ilbert bill?

The bill sought to empower Indian judges and magistrates to try British offenders in criminal cases at the District level. British in Britain and India vehemently opposed the bill, exploiting racial tensions.

Who was the author of the Vernacular Press Act?

The act, proposed by Lord Lytton, then viceroy of India (reigned 1876-80), was intended to prevent the vernacular press from criticizing British policies, particularly the opposition that had grown since the start of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The act made English-language publications illegal.

Why did the Europeans who were still in India protest the Albert bill?

Indian native judges could not try the Europeans in court as of 1883 when the Ilbert Bill was introduced. Lord Ripon recognized the need to change this provision. As a result, all Europeans in India organized lobbying and opposition.

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