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The Delhi High Court laid down the legal position regarding the detaining authority’s obligation to communicate the grounds of detention to the detenu. On Friday, the Delhi High Court held that the detenu has the Fundamental right under Article 22[5] of the Constitution of India to know the grounds of his detention and such communication has to be informed to him in a language that he understands.

The court rejected the stand that a person who has travelled abroad on multiple occasions should be fluent in English, and can understand the English language easily. The bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani quashed a detention order because it was not communicated [ explained, translated] in the language that the detenu was fluent in even after request was made by him and that was in violation of the Article 22[5] of the Constitution of India. They passed the directions to release him from Tihar jail.

The Delhi High Court held that a detenu has a fundamental right to know the grounds of his detention in a language which he understands.

The bench stated that the arresting agency has to make sure that, the detenu has sufficient working knowledge in each case. Just because, the detenu is able to write a few words in English language or any other language, or just because the detenu is able to sign does not mean that he is ‘conversant with the language’, the High Court said.

It would ‘always be the safer course to furnish translations of the grounds of detention and the documents that are relied upon in the language that a detenu understands’, it said. The High Court was dealing with a habeas corpus plea filed by a man who claimed that his son was under illegal preventive detention. The plea claimed that the detention order was not communicated to his son in a language he understands.

The Plea was filed by Jasvinder Kaur whose son Harmeet singh was detained by the authorities on his alleged involvement in a smuggling case. He was arrested from the IGI Airport along with other three people. He was arrested carrying items and goods such as cigarettes, whisky, drones under Section 110 and 111 of the Customs Act. All the goods were worth up to Rupees 1,09,74,500. He was sent to judicial custody. On 6th April, 2019, he was released on statutory bail as the investigating officer failed to file the complaint within the prescribed time period under Section 167[2] CrPC. Harmeet Singh was detained on 24th May, 2021 under detention order dated 5th June, 2020. Harmeet Singh tried to quash the order of detention multiple times. The impugned detention order along with the grounds of detention were served upon Harmeet Singh on 24th/25th May, 2021 in English language.

Harmeet Singh, was not able to understand the detention order in English language and so he made a written request for a copy of the detention order in either Hindi language or Punjabi language, so it would be easy for him to understand. His request was forwarded by the Superintendent of the Tihar jail from one desk to another. His request was finally rejected on the grounds of having sufficient grounds for his detention.

The petitioner’s son, was a class X drop out and he attended a Hindi- medium school. The court set aside the detention of the petitioner’s son. The court said that it violated the Article 22[5] of the Constitution of India, as the detention order was not communicated to him in a language which he understands - in given case Hindi or Punjabi.

Case Name – Jasvinder Kaur Vs Union of India through its Secretary Ministry of Finance Department of Revenue and Ors.

“Communicating the grounds of detention effectively and fully to a detenu implies that the grounds must be furnished to him in a language which the detenu understands; and if that entails the translation of the grounds to such language, then that is part of the Constitutional mandate,” it added.

The Court quashed the detention order and stated that the petitioner’s son should be released from the preventive detention unless he is required in any other case.

The Delhi High Court gave this judgement relying upon the decisions rendered by the Apex Court in various other cases which dealt with regard to the interpretation of the Article 22[5] of the Constitution of India.


This article is written by Manasi Khadilkar, of Gopaldas Jhamatmal Advani Law College.

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