The Historic Trial of Gandhi

The Historic Trial of Gandhi

This was Mahatma Gandhi’s first trial in Indian Court after he was arrested for civil disobedience movement in the country, that started with his non-violent beliefs.

Mahatma wanted to try out mass civil disobedience at Bardoli taluka, near Ahmedabad, so that he could see that the campaign remained non-violent and Lord Reading, the Viceroy, was informed of this plan on 1st Feb 1922. On 5th February, however, in Chauri Chaura, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, the police opened fire after mob were scattered by the police lathis. The mob in turn set fire to the police station and burnt alive twenty two constables. Mahatma received the news in Bardoli on 8th February. He suspended the Bardoli campaign.

Mahatma Gandhi who was strictly against violence, halted the non-cooperation Movement at the national level on 12 February 1922, and was arrested from Sabarmati Ashram on 10th March 1922, as a direct result of this incident. The charges were that three writings in Young India have resulted to the violence. The writings were Tampering with Loyalty, The Puzzle and its Solution and Shaking the Manes, all published in Young India between 29th September 1921 and 23rd February 1922.

In the Court, Mahatma read out his statement – “ I owe it perhaps to the Indian public and to public in England to placate which this prosecution is mainly taken up: that I should explain why from a staunch loyalist and cooperator, I have become an uncompromising disaffectionist and non- cooperator. To the Court too, I should say why I plead guilty to the charge of promoting disaffection towards the Government established by law in India……The Section 124 under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by Law. If one has no affection for a person or system one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite violence. But the section under which Mr. Banker and I are charged is one under which mere promotion of disaffection is crime……. In my humble opinion, non-cooperation has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evil doer. I am endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent cooperation only multiplies evil and that as evel can only be sustained by violence, withdrawal of support of evil requires complete abstention from violence. Non-violence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-cooperation with evil.I am here, therefore to invite and submit cheerfully 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 a citizen…..”

The judge reluctantly convicted him to six years in jail. He said- “I think that you should be classed with Mr.Tilak ie. a sentence of two years in simple imprisonment on each count of the charge, six years in all, which I feel it my duty to pass upon you.”

This trial brought the central issue, whether men can be governed by the law of the jungle (where the lion prevails by force of his sinews), is right or the weak who have no power to resist but only to protest with their cries in pain. Mr. Justice JM Shelat, then Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court wrote—“Barring the trial of Socrates, there is no trial in the history of mankind comparable to that of Gandhiji, which stimulated so much interest and whose influence in the life of humanity has been so profound, involving, as it did, the issue of morality versus law.”

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