Record testimonies in witnesses’ language: SC to trial courts | New Delhi

All the trial courts in the country should record witnesses’ testimonies in the language they speak instead of reducing the depositions to the translated memorandum in English, the Supreme Court noted while underscoring the significance of evidentiary quality attached to the original version.

A bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi highlighted the mandate of Section 277 in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which guides the trial judges about the manner in which the evidence in a case should be recorded if the witnesses testify in languages ​​other than English.

“The text and tenor of the evidence and the demeanor of a witness in the court could be appreciated in the best manner only when the evidence is recorded in the language of the witness. Even otherwise, when a question arises as to what exactly the witness had stated in his/her evidence it is the original deposition of the witness, which has to be taken into account and not the translated memorandum in English prepared by the presiding judge,” said the bench.

Section 277 of the CrPC states that the state government shall determine the language of all courts other than the high courts. This essentially means that the language used in the district courts shall be in the regional language as the state government directs. English, however, has been recognized as the primary language of the Supreme Court and the high courts under the pertinent constitutional provisions as well as the Official Languages ​​Act.

Expressing concerns that some of the trial courts are recording the depositions of the witnesses not in their language but only in English — as may be translated by the presiding officer, the top court noted that Section 277 clearly lays down that the testimonies have to be recorded in the language of the court if the witness is also conversant with that language.

However, where a witness testifies in some other language, his or her deposition should be recorded in the same language and a true translation in the language of the trial court could be subsequently prepared under the attestation of the presiding judge.

“It is only when the witness gives evidence in English and is taken down as such, and a translation thereof in the language of the court is not required by any of the parties, then the court may dispense with such translation,” said the court .

It added that the evidence of the witness has to be recorded in the language of the court or in the language of the witness as may be practicable and then get it translated in the language of the court for forming part of the record.

“However, recording of evidence of the witness in the translated form in English language only, though the witness gives evidence in the language of the court, or in his/her own vernacular language, is not permissible,” stressed the bench.

The judgment, thus, said: “It is therefore directed that all courts while recording the evidence of the witnesses, shall duly comply with the provisions of Section 277 of CrPC.”

The bench passed the directive after it came across a rape case in which the trial judge recorded the testimony of the complainant in English though she had testified in a different language. While the case resulted into the acquittal of the accused since her complaint regarding the relationship on a false promise of marriage was found meritless, the court set down to remind the trial courts of the letter of the law with respect to the recording of evidence .

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