Officially called the Criminal Procedure Amendment Code Bill, the Ilbert
Bill (popularly known so after Sir Ilbert, then Law member in the
Governor-General’s Executive Council) was introduced in February 1883.
Its aim was to give Indian district magistrates and sessions judges the right
to try European and British offenders. Further, it also aimed at authorising
the local governments to appoint Justices of the Peace from among the
Indian civil servants on the basis of merit alone. The concurrence of even
the secretary of state was obtained for the proposed changes.
     But the bill provoked an unprecedented storm of indignation and
protest from European officials and non-officials alike. By forming a
‘European and Anglo-Indian Defence Association’, the latter sought to
protect their rights and privileges. The Indians, on the contrary, welcomed
the measure and organised an all-India campaign in support of the bill.
The stage was thus set for an open confrontation. Though Ripon refused to
withdraw the bill, he agreed to a compromise. The amended bill was
passed in January 1884.
     Under the new law all district magistrates and sessions judges would
be ex-officio Justices of the Peace, authorised to try European and British
subjects, and pass a sentence. But, and herein lay the compromise, a
European or British-born subject could claim the right to trial by jury, half
of which was to consist of Europeans or Americans. The compromise was
thus a virtual negation of the essential part of the original bill.
     The success of the European organised protest against the original bill
hastened the development, of Indian national consciousness, resulting
soon enough in the foundation of the Indian National Congress.
Organisation                     Founder(s)                  Year   Place
Landholders’ Society             Dwarakanath Tagore          1830   Calcutta
British India Society            William Adam                1839   London
Bengal British India Society     Not available               1843   Calcutta
British India Association        Devendranath Tagore         1851   Calcutta
(Result of the merger of the
first two organisations)