In an unusual instance, two hearing and speech impaired accused in a murder case deposed through sign language before a sessions court on Tuesday.
With no interpreter turning up in court, the mother of one of them, Saifraza Bhavnagari, and father of the other accused, Parvez Khan, interpreted the questions for them and the answers for the court.
The procedure that lasted around 90 minutes in the afternoon session of court room number 29 saw the accused signing their answers to over 200 questions. Bhavnagari (31) and Khan (33) are on trial for the murder of Nalini Chainani (55) whose body was found in a pool of blood by her husband in their 10th floor flat at Madhuban building, Bandra (West), in June 2013. The accused have been in jail since their arrest on June 12 that year.
Under Section 313 of CrPC, after the prosecution presents its evidence in a case, an accused is given the opportunity to explain any circumstances that appear in the evidence against him. The statement, usually recorded as a series of replies to questions asked by a judge, is not on oath and is not treated as evidence under law.
This is the second date when the court was scheduled to conduct proceedings on the final statement of the accused. On Tuesday, the defence advocate submitted that the accused were in jail for over four and a half years and the matter needed to proceed. The trial has been expedited by the Bombay high court.
With the interpreter unavailable, the accused and the advocate submitted that their family members and advocate be allowed to assist the accused in giving answers to the questionnaire prepared by the court.
The court allowed the plea while stating that the accused could read and write in English, the language of the questionnaire. A court source said the accused, seated in the dock at the back of the courtroom, were asked the questions. While the lawyers read out the the questions to the parents, they in turn relayed it in sign language to the accused. The answers were conveyed back to the lawyers who wrote them down.
While the accused answered with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” to a few of the questions, when asked about what they had to submit about their roles, Bhavnagari gestured that he was innocent and had nothing to do with the crime. After the procedure was completed, the accused were made to sign the document. It was then handed over to the court. The matter was adjourned to Thursday. The defence is now likely to produce witnesses in the case. On previous court dates, with over 25 witnesses deposing, the accused had to rely on summaries provided by their families.