The Bombay High Court recently ordered the release of Agisilaos Demetriades, brother of Bollywood actor Arjun Rampal's partner Gabriella Dimitriades, accused in a drug case after finding that the grounds for detention supplied to him were in Hindi which the accused could not understand.
A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite-Dere and Prithviraj Chavan quashed the detention order against Demetriades under the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (PIT-NDPS Act) observing: “Non-supply of a translated version of the ground of detention would indeed tantamount to not serving the grounds of detention to the detenu and would, thus, vitiate the detention.”
The detention was quashed on September 16. However, the detailed 23-page order was made available on Friday.
On April 21 this year, Demetriades, a South African national, was detained by the NCB from Goa pursuant to a detention order issued on September 21, 2021. He was detained as a part of preventive action initiated by the Mumbai unit of the NCB under the PIT-NDPS Act considering he has three cases registered against him for possession of drugs.
PIT-NDPS Act provides for the issue of preventive detention orders against any person with a view to prevent him from engaging in illicit traffic of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
Demetriades challenged his detention in HC contending that him being a foreign national had no knowledge of Hindi.
The NCB contended that Demetriades was represented by an advocate who had translated the Hindi documents into a language which he understood.
The Court noted from the panchnama that the accused had refused to sign the pages in the panchnama while conspicuously endorsing that ‘I am being forced to sign this document on the 22/04/22’. This, the court deduced, falsified NCB’s contention since there was no other reason for him to endorse as above.
“The aforesaid documents nowhere clarify as to in which particular language the detenu was made to understand the contents thereof. This speaks volumes. Be that as it may. The endorsement made by the detenu is significant in light of the attending circumstances,” said HC.
In another panchnama filed the next day, the Court noted that the accused had claimed he had received all documents and understood all contents, but the same seemed hard to believe since a vital document was in Hindi.
The NCB had also relied on the statement of a drug peddler who claimed to have supplied Ganja to Demetriades on two occasions. “This statement essentially is in the Hindi language. There is absolutely nothing on record to indicate that this particular document/statement had been translated and explained to the detenu in the language which he understood,” said HC.