New Delhi, August 3: For Brazilian national Jailson Manoel da Silva, who speaks only Portuguese, language is a barrier to a fair trial. For four years and nearly 90 court hearings, he was unable to follow a single word said in a Chennai court during his trial in a narcotics case.
His lawyers in Chennai did not speak Portuguese and were unable to help the man. Language even exiled the undertrial from his jailors and doctors. Brazilian embassy officials who visited da Silva found a distressed man whose mental and physical health were “far from satisfactory”. He will face 20 years in prison if found guilty.
The Brazilian, represented by advocates Raghenth Basant, M.F Philip and Purnima Krishna, finally appealed to the top court.
The Supreme Court, in turn, has decided to uphold his fundamental right to a fair trial. Justice Hrishikesh Roy ordered the case to be transferred to Delhi, where the Brazilian embassy has assured da Silva the services of a translator, The Hindu reported.
“I have considered the circumstances of the case and also the fact that the trial has not made much progress in the Chennai court since last four years primarily because of the communication problem. If the case is transferred to the court in Delhi, the Narcotics Control Bureau [NCB], who is the prosecutor in this case, will have no difficulty, as their officers and lawyers are available in Delhi,” Justice Roy observed in a recent order.
Mr. Basant and Mr. Philip both argued that their client had been in custody since September 17, 2016. Only one witness has been examined in the past four years of trial. “Shockingly, on some occasions, hearings have been held in the absence of a translator… The Government of Brazil does not have any establishment in Chennai nor is it feasible for them to send a translator to Chennai for each and every hearing,” they had contended in the hearing.
The NCB, represented by Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, said da Silva was entitled to effective legal representation and it was provided in Chennai. However, Justice Roy differed from the NCB’s view, while ordering the transfer of the case to a competent court in the national capital.