The Bombay High Court has allowed a litigant who said she was not familiar with Marathi, Hindi or English to depose in Tamil during the recording of evidence. It also granted her permission to use an interpreter.

Koothayee Adimulam Harijan had moved the High Court after the sessions court rejected her request to record her evidence through an interpreter since she only spoke Tamil.

Justice R.P. Sondurbaldota, in her order, said Ms. Harijan’s long stay in Mumbai may have given her some working knowledge of Hindi. “But when she has to depose in a court of law, in proceedings initiated on her complaint, it is necessary that she gets an opportunity to depose in a language she is most comfortable in.”

Ms. Sondurbaldota said section 277 of the code of criminal procedure, 1973, made a specific provision for the purpose. “Sub-section (b) thereof requires that if a witness gives evidence in any language other than the language of the court, it may, if practicable, be taken down in that language.” If it that was not practicable, a true translation of the evidence in the language of the court should be prepared during the examination of the witness. “Such translation is required to be signed by the Magistrate or the presiding judge, which would then form part of the record,” she said.

The accused told the sessions court that Ms. Harijan had appeared before other courts earlier and communicated in Hindi. The judge too noted that the applicant had been residing in Mumbai for the last 23 years and it was highly improbable that she did not know the language. Moreover, she had written to the Malvani police station in Hindi. Ms. Harijan’s counsel Mahesh Vaswani told the High Court that the letter was written by another person she had merely signed it.