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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission upon Decentralization in Bengal, volume 4 — [London?]: [House of Commons?], 1908

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Calcutta, Friday, 27th December, 1907.

C. E. H. Hobhouse, Esq., M.P., Under-Secretary of State for India, Chairman.
Sir Frederic Lely, K.C.I.E, C.S.I. W. S. Meyer, Esq., C.I.E., I.C.S.
Sir Steyning Edgerley, K.C.V.O., U.I.E., I.C.S. W. L. Hichens, Esq.
R. C. Dutt, Esq., C.I.E.

The Hon. Mr. E. A. Gait, C.I.E., was called and examined.

14238. (Chairman.) You are Chief Secretary to the
Government of Bengal ?—Yes.
I am not in favour of any wholesale alteration in
the relations which exist between the Supreme and the
provincial Governments in regard to financial matters.
The present system is, on the whole, a good one. The
changes which seem desirable are in the direction of
allowing to the Local Governments more latitude than
they now enjoy in the application of the rules con-
tained in the Codes of the Financial Department. The
Government of India should lay down principles
and leave to Local Governments their application to
particular cases. No wholesale revision of the restric-
tions imposed on the Local Government by the Civil
Service Regulations or the Civil Account Code is
required, but the rules in the Codes are, in some cases,
too detailed, and they are interpreted with too great
rigidity. In many cases, the Local Government might
be empowered to make exceptions for special reasons.
The powers of the Government of India in respect
of new appointments and deputations have recently
been enhanced by the Secretary of State, and the
powers of Local Governments might be enhanced to
the same extent.
In all matters, the Government of India should
exercise a general control and supervision, and all
questions of general policy should be decided by them,
but they should avoid interference in matters of
detail. If the Government of India have any criti-
cisms to make regarding the details of a scheme, it
should ordinarily suffice to state what the objections
appear to be, and then to leave it to the Local Govern-
ment to decide whether it will modify its scheme
accordingly or not.
It is desirable, in many cases, to relax statutory
restrictions as to details imposed on Local Govern-
ments. This might be done by a general Act of dele-
gation, like Act V. of 1868, but it would be necessary
to provide safeguards and restrictions. In cases where
the question as to what authority should exercise a
particular power has formed the subject of animated
discussion in Council at a time when an Act was under
consideration, it would be inexpedient to provide for
a delegation of that power otherwise than by means of
an amending Act.
The extent to which the influence of the Depart-
ments of the Gove lament of India is carried in the
direction of excessive rigidity or uniformity varies
from time to time. It is a matter in which the per-
sonal element enters very largely. At one time, the
tendency towards rigidity or uniformity is marked in
1250 Wt T L 261 12/08 D & S 6 33263

one department; and at another time, in another.
When Local Governments are overruled in matters of
detail, they should have a right to ask for a recon-
sideration of the matter ; and if they do so it might
be made the practice to lay the case before the Executive
Council. If the Legislative Councils are enlarged, so
that each Government has an official member, that
member might, with advantage, be employed as the
representative of his Government with the Govern-
ment of India ; and when cases sent up by the Local
Government are under discussion in the Executive
Council, he might be allowed to attend and state the
case of the Local Government.
The proper sphere of work of special officers under
the Government of India should be inspection, com-
munication of information, and advice. These officers,
however, not only correspond with departmental officers
in the different provinces direct, but they also act as
advisers to the Government of India. In their latter
capacity, they may be responsible to some extent for
the interference in details which undoubtedly occurs
at times.
Local Governments should not be given power to
introduce reforms of an important or far-reaching
character, if any considerations of general po'icy are
involved, without the previous sanction of the Govern-
ment of India. It should, however, be recognized that
proposals should not be negatived merely on theo-
retical grounds, or because they differ from the existing
practice elsewhere.
I do not think there is much need for curtailing the
right of appeal to the Government of India or to the
Local Government in respect to administrative action.
It should, however, be clearly recognized that the
Government of India should not interfere with the
Local Government unless there are strong grounds for
so doing. It should not do so merely because some
other course of action seems slightly preferable, but
only when the orders of the Local Government appear
to be seriously wrong.
Appeals against dismissal or reduction should lie to
the Government of India only in the case of Gazetted
Officers drawing a salary of Rs. 500 and upwards a
month. No appeal should lie against a refusal to
appoint or promote otherwise than from grade to grade.
As regards appeals to the Local Government the rules
were revised only three years ago, and I do not think
that any further alteration is necessary.
I do not think that there has been any serious
increase in recent years in the demand for returns and
information from Local Governments.

The Hon.
Mr. E. A.
27 Dec., 1907.