Punjab and Haryana High Court sets aside conviction of foreign national due to language barrier in investigation : The Tribune India

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Punjab and Haryana High Court sets aside conviction of foreign national due to language barrier in investigation

Ruling came on appeal filed against the judgment, by Jalandhar Special Judge, whereby accused was convicted under provisions of NDPS Act

Punjab and Haryana High Court sets aside conviction of foreign national due to language barrier in investigation

The Bench observed that the accused was subjected to an investigation where crucial documents were prepared in Punjabi and English without any verification of her understanding. Tribune file



Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, May 20

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has set aside the conviction and sentence of a Kenyan national in a narcotics case after making it clear that significant language barrier vitiated the entire investigation process.

The Bench observed that the accused, unable to comprehend Hindi, Punjabi, or English, was subjected to an investigation where crucial documents were prepared in Punjabi and English without any verification of her understanding.

The ruling by Justice Deepak Gupta came on an appeal filed against the judgment dated July 30, 2021, by Jalandhar Special Judge, whereby the accused was convicted under the provisions of the NDPS Act before being sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

Justice Gupta asserted the record did not reveal that the accused was aware of Hindi, Punjabi or even English. All the material documents were prepared either in Punjabi or in English.

A police officer admitted that he did not know the language in which the accused signed the non-consent and consent memo. He admitted that he did not mention in the documents that the same were explained to the accused in her language.

He also admitted that none of the memos mentioned that the accused knew English or Punjabi.

The police officer also admitted that he was not aware of the language known to the accused. Another police official categorically stated that accused did not know Hindi, Punjabi or English. She only knew Kenyan and was speaking in that language. She also disclosed that police party did not know the language spoken by the accused-appellant.

“In view of the facts and circumstances, it cannot be stated that fair trial has been conducted. The entire investigation is held to be vitiated on account of the accused not understanding any communication made to her by the police party,” Justice Gupta asserted.

The Bench also took note of “numerous material contradictions” surfacing in the statements of prosecution witnesses. Setting aside the judgment of conviction and order of sentence, Justice Gupta asserted it created doubt about the prosecution case’s truthfulness.

“The conviction of the appellant-accused as recorded by the trial court cannot be sustained in the eyes of law. Consequently, the appeal is allowed… The appellant-accused is directed to be released immediately, if not required in any other case,” Justice Gupta concluded.

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