Investigating Agencies not obliged to submit translation of charge sheet in language of the Court: Supreme Court

translation of charge sheet

Supreme Court: In twin appeals filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI') against the High Court order allowing translation of two charge sheets in VYAPAM Scam case, the Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka* and Rajesh Bindal, JJ. held that there was no specific provision for translation of charge sheet in the language of the Court and allowed the instant appeals.

The instant matter roams around State government's power to determine the language of each Court within such State, other than the High Court, for the purposes of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, such Courts including Sessions Courts, Judicial Magistrates of First Class, Metropolitan Magistrates, Judicial Magistrates of Second Class and Executive Magistrates.


The matter relates to charge sheets filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in Madhya Pradesh's VYAPAM Scam involving various offences under Sections 419, 420, 468, 467 and 471 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC') and Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Examinations Act, 1937. An application was filed by one of the respondents before the Judicial Magistrate seeking a direction to supply a Hindi translation of the charge sheet filed by CBI in English, since he was unable to understand the same.

The Judicial Magistrate rejected the said application while stating that the respondent was an educated person having knowledge of English language being a Science graduate, having filed Vakalatnama in English language signed by him in English only, and the Advocate representing him having sound knowledge of English language. The said order was confirmed by the Sessions Court in revision. However, the High Court interfered with the same and held that Hindi was the only language of Criminal Courts in Madhya Pradesh, and that the respondent was entitled to seek translation of the charge sheet into the Court's language.

Another accused in VYAPAM case made a similar application before the said Magistrate which was also rejected. Hence, he challenged the said order before the High Court whose Division Bench held that “when a charge sheet was filed in the language unknown to the accused, he was entitled to translation of the charge sheet in the language which he understands.” The two orders of the High Court were challenged by CBI in the instant matter.

Court's Analysis

Explanation of Section 272 of CrPC — Language of the Court

The Court pointed towards the notification dated 28-03-1974 issued by MP government while exercising power under Section 272 of CrPC, declaring Hindi as the language of each Court in the State except the High Court. The Court explained that the scheme of CrPC does not only regulate the procedure before Criminal Courts but also the procedure followed by police and other investigating agencies. It further finger pointed towards Chapters 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of CrPC in this regard, and Section 173 which contains provisions related to a police report, more popular as ‘charge sheet'.

Pointing towards the provision of Language of Courts in Chapter 23 – Section 272 of CrPC. It concluded that the power of State government under CrPC was restricted to determination of language of the Courts within the State, except the High Court, and not a power to decide language used by investigating agencies or police for maintaining investigation records.

The Court noted that “wherever legislature intended, specific provisions have been made incorporating the requirement using the language of the Court. Some of these provisions also deal with situations when the accused is unable to understand the language of the Court.”

The Court summarized the relevant provisions of CrPC related to ‘language of the Court', explaining Section 211(6), 215, 228, 240, 272, 277(b), 279, 281, 353, 354, and compared provisions under Chapters 16, 19, 20 and 21 of CrPC dealing with sessions triable cases, warrant triable cases, summons triable cases and summary trials. The Court concluded that “wherever the legislature intended, there is a specific provision incorporated requiring the Court to mandatorily use the language of the Court in the proceedings” and no such requirement was provided in respect of report/charge sheet under Section 173 of CrPC.

Scanning of Section 173 of CrPC

The Court scrutinized Section 173 of CrPC in detail putting an obligation on the officer in charge of the police station to submit a report before Magistrate in the form prescribed by the State government. It further cited Section 173(5) applicable in case governing Section 170 of CrPC, when it appears to such officer in charge that there is sufficient evidence or reasonable ground justifying forwarding of the accused to the Magistrate. The Court explained that “In such a case, along with the report, the officer in charge of the police station is bound to forward copies of the statements recorded under Section 161 of all the persons whom the prosecution proposes to examine as its witnesses. It also enjoins the officer in charge of the police station to forward all the documents or relevant extracts thereof on which the prosecution proposes to rely upon other than those already sent to the Magistrate during investigation.”

The Court expressed that Section 173 of CrPC has to be read with Section 207 which mandates the Magistrate to furnish copies of police report, FIR and statements under Section 161(3) free of cost and without any delay after taking cognizance of the offence, except the portion wherein there is an order passed by the said Magistrate while invoking powers under Section 173(6), confessions and statements recorded under Section 164 and copies of documents/relevant extracts forwarded with the police report as per Section 173(5). For statements of witnesses or documents under Section 173(5) being bulky, the Magistrate has discretion to allow the accused and his advocate to inspect the documents instead of providing copies. The Court highlighted that there was no provision under Chapter 12 or 16 of CrPC making it an obligation to file charge sheets or reports in the language of the Court.

Discussion on other provisions regarding translation of charge sheet

The Court hinted towards the two provisions in CrPC dealing with the effect of error, omission or irregularity in trial proceedings — Section 464 and 465 dealing with the effect and test of omission to frame/absence of/error in charge. The Court clarified that “If something which CrPC specifically requires to be done in the language of the Court is done in any other language, per se, the proceedings will not be vitiated unless it is established that the omission has rested in failure of justice. While deciding the issue of whether there is a failure of justice, the Court will have to consider whether the objection was raised at the earliest available opportunity.”

The Court also pinpointed the lack of specific provision in CrPC requiring the investigating agency/officer to file the final report/charge sheet in the Court's language determined as per Section 272 of CrPC, and that the proceedings under Section 173 will not be vitiated if the report was not in such language, and that the test of failure of justice will have to be applied in such a case as laid in Section 465 of CrPC. Throwing light upon the provisions allowing the accused to raise objection to his inability to understand the language of final report/statements/documents, the Court said that such an objection must be raised at the earliest. Subject to the accused satisfying the Court of his inability to understand the language, “if the accused is appearing in person and wants to defend himself without opting for legal aid, perhaps there may be a requirement of supplying a translated version of the charge sheet and documents or the relevant part thereof concerning the said accused to him.


The Court expressed that there will be no requirement of furnishing translations to an accused represented by an advocate fully able to understand the language of final report/charge sheet, since an advocate can explain its contents to the accused. If both the accused and his advocate are non-conversant with the language, the question of providing translation may arise because the accused must get a fair opportunity to defend himself by understanding the material against him in the charge sheet. The Court further mentioned the various software and Artificial Intelligence tools for making translations which ease the task.

The Court finally held that that a charge sheet filed within the period provided under Section 167 of CrPC or other relevant statute in the language other than that of the Court or the one which the accused does not understand, is not illegal and no one can claim a default bail on such ground. While considering the final reports filed by central agencies like CBI and National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Court said that these agencies investigate serious offences or those having wider ramifications, and that they will not be in a position to file the final report in the language of Court concerned.

Coming back to the instant case, the Court did not find any failure of justice by non-supply of translation of charge sheet and other documents to the accused persons in both the appeals, and therefore, set aside the impugned judgment while directing the Trial Court to expeditiously proceed with the trial.

[Central Bureau of Investigation v. Narottam Dhakad, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1069, decided on 25-08-2023]

*Judgment authored by: Justice Abhay S. Oka

Know Thy Judge | Justice Abhay S. Oka – Harbinger of Social Change and Preserver of Administrative Accountability

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioners: Additional Solicitor General Vikramjeet Banerjee, Advocate Rajan Kumar Chourasia, Advocate Navanjay Mahapatra, Advocate Padmesh Mishra, Advocate on Record Arvind Kumar Sharma

For Respondents: Advocate Piyush Lakhanpal, Advocate on Record Avinash Kr. Lakhanpal, Advocate Dhiraj Kumar, Advocate Navin Kumar, Additional Solicitor General Saurabh Mishra, Advocate Abhimanyu Singh, Advocate on Record Yashraj Singh Bundela, Advocate Pawan, Advocate Dileep Kumar Dubey

Buy Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973  HERE

Code of Criminal Procedure

Buy Penal Code, 1860   HERE

penal code, 1860

Must Watch

maintenance to second wife

bail in false pretext of marriage

right to procreate of convict

Criminology, Penology and Victimology book release

Join the discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.