The Supreme Court has held that non ­supply of translation of the charge sheet and other documents to the accused will not occasion a failure of justice. The Supreme Court was dealing with the appeals filed against the order of the High Court where it had ruled in favor of the first respondent, an accused requesting a Hindi translation of the charge sheet by the CBI, claiming inability to understand English.

A two-judge Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rakesh Bindal observed that “coming to the issue of the language of the final report/charge sheet under Section 173, there is no specific provision in CrPC which requires the investigating agency/officer to file it in the language of the Court determined in accordance with Section 272 of CrPC. Even if such a requirement is read into Section 173, per se, the proceedings will not be vitiated if the report is not in the language of the Court.”

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed charge sheets related to the VYAPAM Scam in Madhya Pradesh. The charge sheets were in English. The trial court rejected the request based on the respondent's education and English knowledge, the Sessions Court upheld this decision. However, the High Court intervened, stating that Hindi was the sole language of the state's criminal courts, allowing the translation. Another accused made a similar request, and the High Court ruled in favor of translation for the accused who didn't understand the charge sheet's language. The CBI had appealed against both High Court rulings.

Advocate Vikramjeet Banerjee (ASG) appeared for the Appellants and Advocate Piyush Lakhanpal appeared for the Respondents.

The appellant argued that the accused, being highly educated and English proficient, wouldn't suffer prejudice from English charge sheets in the VYAPAM Scam cases. They also highlighted the time and cost of translating extensive charge sheets to Hindi. The accused's stance is that under Section 272 of CrPC, the State has declared Hindi as the sole language for Criminal Courts, making it necessary for charge sheets (Section 173 of CrPC) to be in the Court's language. The accused believed that a charge sheet in an unfamiliar language impedes their ability to comprehend police statements and evidence during defense.

The Court noted that the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) regulates criminal court procedures and investigations by police and other agencies.

The Court explained that the CrPC covers various aspects of criminal procedures, including arrest, court appearances, production of evidence, peacekeeping, and public order. These powers are exercised by courts or Executive Magistrates.

Section 173 of the CrPC concerns the completion of investigations and submission of police reports or charge sheets. It outlines the process, including timeframes, forwarding reports to magistrates, and communicating actions to informants. Section 173 mandates that investigations under this chapter must be completed promptly. It also specifies a time frame for investigations related to specific offenses, the Court explained.

The Court further stated that Section 272 empowers state governments to determine the language of each court within the state. It relates only to the language used in courts, not investigations.

“Thus, the power of the State Government is to determine for the purposes of CrPC what shall be the language of the Courts within the State other than the High Court. The power under Section 272 is not a power to decide which language shall be used by the investigating agencies or the police for the purposes of maintaining the record of the investigation.”

The Court emphasized that CrPC provisions explicitly requiring the language of the court are present, but no such requirement exists for the language of investigation reports.

The Court outlined various CrPC sections requiring the use of the language understood by the accused, ensuring a fair defense. The Court reiterated that CrPC lacks a specific requirement for investigation reports to be in the language of the court.

“There is a specific provision incorporated requiring the Court to mandatorily use the language of the Court in the proceedings.There is no such requirement laid down in respect of the report/charge sheet under Section 173 of CrPC.”.

The Court said that the trial court can direct the provision of a translated charge sheet when needed, ensuring the accused can understand the material against them. The court should ensure the accused's understanding of proceedings and may provide translations if necessary.

The Court explained that a charge sheet in a language other than the Court's language is not illegal, and failure to provide translations won't necessarily lead to default bail.

The Court acknowledged that the trial court had recorded a finding that the first respondent accused was a science graduate having knowledge of the English language. Moreover, his advocate was conversant with the English language.

The Court ruled that in these cases, a lack of translation doesn't necessarily lead to failure of justice, and non-supply of translations won't affect the appeals' outcome.

The Court allowed the appeals, and the trial court was directed to proceed with the trial without considering the non-supply of translations as a failure of justice.

Cause Title: Central Bureau of Investigation v. Narottam Dhakad & Anr.

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