18 March 1922, Bombay High Court, Bombay, India
In March 1922, Gandhi was tried before Mr. Broomfield, I.C.S., District & Sessions Judge of Ahmedabad, for sedition in respect of two articles, which he had written in his paper "Young India". The charges related to sedition and non cooperation.
Gandhi: I would like to state that I entirely endorse the learned Advocate-General's remarks in connection with my humble self. I think that he was entirely fair to me in all the statements that he has made, because it is very true . . .that to preach disaffection towards the existing system of Government has become almost a passion with me. The Advocate-General is also entirely right when he said that my preaching of this disaffection did not commence with my connection with "Young India" but much earlier. . . . It commenced much earlier than the period stated by the Advocate-General. I wish to endorse all the blame that the Advocate-General has thrown on my shoulders in connection with the Bombay occurrences, Madras occurrences, and the Chauri Chaura occurrences. Thinking over these things deeply. . . I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible for me to dissociate myself from the diabolical crimes of Chauri Chaura or the mad outrages of Bombay. The Advocate-General is quite right when he says that as a man of responsibility, a man having received a fair share of education and experience of this world, I should know the consequences of my acts. I knew them. I knew that I was playing with fire. I ran the risk; and if I am set free, I would still do the same. I wanted to avoid violence. Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is the last article of my faith. But I had to make my choice. I had either to submit to a system which I considered has done an irreparable harm to my country, or incur the risk of the mad fury of my people bursting forth when they understood the truth from my lips. I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am deeply sorry for it; and I am, therefore, here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest penalty. The only course open to you, Mr. Judge, is, as I am just going to say in my statement, either to resign your post or inflict on me the severest penalty.
Judge: Mr. Gandhi, you have made my task easy in one way by pleading guilty to the charge. Nevertheless, what remains, namely the determination of a just sentence, is perhaps as difficult a proposition as a Judge in this country could have to face. The law is no respecter of persons. Nevertheless, it would be impossible to ignore the fact that you are in a different category from any person I have ever tried or am likely ever to try. It would be impossible to ignore the fact that in the eyes of millions of your countrymen you are a great patriot and a great leader; even all those who differ from you in politics look up to you as a man of high ideals and of noble and even saintly life. I have to deal with you in one character only. It is not my duty, and I do not presume to judge or criticise you in any other character. It is my duty to judge you as a man subject to the law, who has by his own admission broken the law, and committed what to an ordinary man must appear to be a grave offence against such law. I do not forget that you have consistently preached against violence, or that you have on many occasions, as I am willing to believe, done much to prevent violence.
But having regard to the nature of your political teaching and the nature of many of those to whom it was addressed, how you can have continued to believe that violence and anarchy would not be the inevitable consequence, it passes my capacity to understand. There are probably few people in India who do not sincerely regret that you should have made it impossible for any Government to leave you at liberty. But it is so, I am trying to balance what is due to you against what appears to me to be necessary in the interest of the public; and I propose, in passing sentence, to follow the precedent of the case, in many respects similar to this case, that was decided some twelve years ago, the case of Mr. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, under the same section. The sentence that was passed upon him as it finally stood, was a sentence of simple imprisonment for six years. You will not consider it unreasonable, I think, that you should be classed with Mr. Tilak; and that is the sentence two years' simple imprisonment on each count of the charge, six years in all, which I feel it my duty to pass upon you. "The Judge added, "if the course of events in India should make it possible for Governmentto reduce the period and release you, nobody would be better pleased than I