WITH the announcement of the decision of the Special Bench of the High Court in the Pratap Forfeiture of Security Case, the curtain falls on an extraordinary chapter in the history of a legislative measure. The Press Act was so conceived that it was impossible for even a body of angels to work it without causing grave injustice from time to time, and when worked by a bureaucracy like ours, which owes no responsibility to the people, it was bound to become, as it did become in many cases, even worse in its actual operation. But we venture to think that in the history of the administration or mal-administration of this measure in various parts of a country as big as a continent, there had never been a case of such injustice as was perpetrated by the Punjab Government when in the exercise of its powers under this Act, it declared the security of the Pratap to be forfeited. The first public step it took in the process showed the mentality of those responsible for the action. The Punjab Secretariat thus justified the forfeiture:--“Two vernacular newspapers have published distorted accounts of the incident at Ferozepore Jhirka, with exaggerated statements of the casualties among rioters and accompanied by articles of which the intention was to arouse hatred and disaffection against the Government. A notice is, therefore, being issued under Section 4 of Act 1 of 1910 to the keepers of the presses at which those newspapers are printed declaring their security to be forfeited.” It was pointed out both in these columns and elsewhere that so far as one of the two papers — the Pratap — was concerned, the statement in the official communique that it had published articles to “arouse hatred and disaffection against the Government” was incorrect; that it had published no article at all, and that, therefore, the very basis of the official action was wrong.
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