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53. A Hard Case

I have received the following telegram from the families of Messrs Bugga and Ratanchand:

Bugga and Ratto under orders transfer Andamans. Bugga, suffering hernia and piles since ten years. Was operated upon. Ratto aged over forty and therefore should not be sent Andamans under Jail Manual Rule 721.

The readers will remember that these were the accused on whose behalf appeals were made to the Privy Council in common with others and whose appeals were rejected on technical grounds. (See "The Amritsar Appeals", Young India, 3-3-1920)
The Hon'ble Pandit Motilal Nehru has analysed the cases and shown that they are no more guilty than the others who have been discharged. But several who were originally sentenced to death had their sentences commuted to imprisonment and arc now set free. What is it that distinguishes these two cases from the others? Is it the fact of the appeal itself? If they had not appealed, or rather, if a philanthropic lawyer out of pity had not taken up their case, fought for them against tremendous odds, they would not have escaped the hangman's noose. H. H. the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab has been showing a generous discretion in releasing many who suffered between April and June last year. Although he had the opportunity, after the dismissal of the appeal, to hang Messrs Bugga and Ratanchand, H. E. the Viceroy, it is equally true, has commuted the sentence of death to one of transportation. But I venture to submit that if the Royal Proclamation is to be given effect to in the fullest measure, Messrs Bugga and Ratanchand are entitled to their liberty. They are no more a danger to the State than Lala Harkishen Lai, Pandit Rambhuj Dutt Chowdhari and others of that distinguished company. But for the time being, strong as the case is for their discharge, I am pleading not for a complete release but for keeping them in the Punjab and if they have been sent away already, for bringing them back, if for nothing else, out of consideration for the wives of these poor men. Let not the public think that the acts of the Government of the day are dictated only by fear and expedience, not by logic and high principles of justice.

Young India, 26-5-1920