The Supreme Court, in a recent ruling, determined that there is no explicit requirement within the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) mandating investigating agencies to submit a charge sheet in the language of the court. The decision, handed down by a bench comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Rajesh Bindal, came as a response to an appeal by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), challenging an order from the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The origin of the case lies in the Vyapam scam, a scandal involving the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board. This scam, which erupted in 2013, involved bribery of officials and manipulation of exams through the use of imposters to write answer sheets. The central agency took over the investigation in 2015, following a Supreme Court order, uncovering the involvement of politicians, senior officials, and business figures, PTI reported.
Addressing the issue of language used in the final report or charge sheet under Section 173 of the CrPC, the Supreme Court bench clarified that the CrPC lacks a specific provision that demands the submission of such documents in the court's designated language according to Section 272. The court emphasized that even if such a requirement were implied, procedural integrity wouldn't be compromised if the report isn't in the court's language.
Furthermore, the court stipulated that if a CrPC-mandated action meant to be executed in the court's language is carried out in a different language, the proceedings wouldn't be invalidated unless it's proven that this deviation resulted in a miscarriage of justice. The court stressed the importance of raising language-related objections at the earliest possible juncture.
The Supreme Court clarified that the power vested in the State Government by Section 272 pertains to establishing the language of courts, rather than dictating the language used by investigating agencies or police to document investigations.
In terms of procedure, the bench highlighted that under Section 207, Judicial Magistrates are required to provide accused individuals with a copy of the charge sheet and related documents. Similarly, in cases falling under the jurisdiction of the Court of Sessions, Section 208 empowers judicial officers to furnish the accused with copies of statements and documents.
The court also acknowledged that when a charge sheet and its accompanying documents are supplied to the accused under Sections 207 or 208, the accused has the opportunity to contest their comprehension of the language used. If the accused is self-representing and lacks legal aid, providing a translated version might be necessary if the accused and their advocate aren't proficient in the charge sheet's language.
The court emphasized that this approach is rooted in the accused's right to a fair defense, in alignment with Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India. Notably, the availability of translation tools and Artificial Intelligence software has made translation more feasible.
The Supreme Court underscored that a charge sheet submitted within the prescribed timeframe, even if not in the court's language or a language understood by the accused, is not unlawful. The ruling also considered the practicality of central agencies like the CBI or the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which often handle cases with significant complexity or broad implications, submitting reports in the court's designated language according to Section 272.