It was an unusual day in courtroom 29 of the Mumbai City Civil and Sessions Court. Two men charged with robbery and murder were in the dock. The court proceedings were carried out with the help of the mother of one accused and the father of the other, who helped the two answer 215 questions posed to them.
Seated in the dock in a courtroom at the Mumbai sessions court, the two accused with speech and hearing impairment gave their statements under section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code with help from their respective parents and lawyers on Tuesday.
Saifraza Bhavnagari (32) and Parvez Khan (34) are facing trial in the robbery and murder of a 58-year old woman in her flat in Bandra in 2013. The court had earlier sought for an interpreter to assist it in examining the accused. Interpreters are usually called for by the court to assist it in cases of impairment or any disability to the accused or any witness.
On Tuesday, defence advocate Wahab Khan representing Bhavnagari submitted before the court that an interpreter was not available for the hearing, causing a delay. He sought permission to assist the examination of the accused. The court allowed the lawyers to assist the court along with the parents of the accused.
For around an hour and a half then, two lawyers — Dhara Mehta on behalf of Wahab Khan and Shalaka Hatode on behalf of Ayaz Khan representing Parvez — went back and forth putting questions to the two accused through their parents. In all, they were asked 215 questions on the evidence against them. First, the lawyers put the questions to Bhavnagari’s mother and Parvez’s father present in the courtroom. The two then explained the question to the accused in sign language. The accused then responded through sign language which was conveyed to the lawyers by their respective parents and written as their response before the court.
During a trial, after the prosecution concludes its examination of witnesses, the court has to examine the accused under section 313 of the CrPC. It gives the accused an opportunity to explain any circumstance personally to the court on the evidence appearing against him. Based on the evidence already produced before the court by the prosecution, a set of questions is prepared by the court and put before the accused.
In this case, the prosecution has examined over 25 witnesses. The defence will now be given an opportunity to examine witnesses if they wish to before making final arguments.
In 2013, the police had arrested Bhavnagari and Parvez for the murder of 58-year old housewife Nalini Chainani in her Pali Naka home in Bandra. Chainani was found by her husband with her throat slit in her 10th floor apartment. The police claimed that the duo was caught based on a mobile phone Parvez had allegedly left behind. The police had claimed that the duo communicated through text messages because of the disability.