In the recent case of Agisilaos Demetriades v. Union of India & Ors., the Bombay High Court bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Prithviraj Chavan ordered the release of a foreign national accused in a drug case after concluding that the grounds for detention provided to him were in Hindi, which the accused could not understand.
The court stated that it is a highly valuable constitutional right to disclose the reasons for the detainee’s custody.
“Non supply of translated version of the ground of detention would indeed tantamount to not serving the grounds of detention to the detenu and would, thus, vitiate the detention”.the Court held
Agisilaos Demetriades, the defendant, is the brother of Arjun Rampal, a Bollywood star, and has been held by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) since April 2022.
He was charged in accordance with the Preventing Illegal Traffic in Drugs and Psychoactive Substances Act (PITNPSA). The accused was taken into custody by the NCB in 2020 after 0.8 grammes of hashis/charas were discovered on him.
Following then, the investigating agency took 15 tables of Alprax from the accused’s home. After a month, he was given bail, and the Department of Revenue (PITNDPS Unit) issued the detention order in September 2021.
The accused contested this in High Court through attorney Kushal Mor, arguing that the petitioner was a foreign national who did not speak Hindi.
He was unable to read, write, or comprehend Hindi as a result, and the documents used as justification for his arrest were written in Hindi and had not been translated. It was contended that as a result, the petitioner was unable to establish a persuasive case in its entirety.
The petitioner had been represented by an attorney, according to NCB’s attorney Shreeram Shirsat, who had the Hindi documents translated into a language the petitioner could understand.
The accused refused to sign certain pages in the panchnama while obtrusively attesting, “I am being forced to sign this document on the 22/04/22,” the court observed from the panchnama.
The Bench concluded that this refuted NCB’s claim because the accused had no other grounds to support it as stated above.
The aforesaid documents nowhere clarify as to in which particular language the detenu was made to understand the contents thereof. This speaks volumes. Be that as it may. Endorsement made by the detenu is significant in light of the attending circumstances,” The Court held
The Court noted in another panchnama submitted the next day that the accused had stated he had received all documents and understood their contents, but that this looked unlikely given that a crucial document was written in Hindi.
The key piece of evidence was a drug dealer’s statement in which he claimed to have twice given the accused Ganja.
This statement essentially is in Hindi language. There is absolutely nothing on record to indicate that this particular document/statement had been translated and explained to the detenu in the language which he understood,”the court held
It further ruled that the authorities should have made an affidavit stating that translation was provided in panchnama rather than only asserting that it was.
After making these findings, the Court moved to reverse the September 2021 detention order and ordered the accused’s immediate release.