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Thursday, 01 December 2016 02:44

The Supreme Court of India : DILBAGH SINGH Versus STATE OF PUNJAB : 28th November, 2016

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(1)   Heard Ms. Aparna Jha, learned counsel for the  appellant  and  Mr.  V. Madhukar, learned counsel for the respondent.

(2)   The appellant, faced with  concurrent  determinations  culminating  in his conviction along with another, under Section 15 of  the  Narcotic  Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (for short “the Act”) is  before  this Court seeking redress.  Whereas the Trial Court, upon the  entering  finding of guilt had sentenced the accused persons with  rigorous  imprisonment  for 10 years and six months  each  and  fine  of  Rs.1  lac  each  with  default sentence of rigorous imprisonment for one year, the  High  Court  in  appeal has confirmed the verdict in toto by the decision impugned herein.

(3)   The prosecution case unfolds with the interception  of  the  appellant and the co-accused Ranjit Singh by the  patrol  party  on  28.08.2007  while they were travelling in a car bearing registration  No.MH-04BS-1651  at  the check point at Khanauri Patran. One Baaj Singh, apart from the police  party was then present. The appellant and his companion,  on  being  interrogated, disclosed their names. Their car on search revealed six  bags  stuffed  with Poppy Husk.

(4)   The Investigation Officer, A.S.I. Satnam Singh introduced himself  and apprised the appellant and the co-accused of their right to be  searched  in the presence of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate if they  so  desired  but they declined and instead reposed confidence in him. After  recording  their consent in writing the car was searched in presence of the other members  of the patrol party as well as Baaj Singh and  in  course  thereof  three  bags each  from  the  rear  seat  and  the  dicky,  containing  Poppy  Husk  were recovered. Samples were taken and sealed with  specimen  impression  of  the Investigating Officer.  On  weighment  of  the  remaining  Poppy  Husk,  the contraband weighed 34 kg. 800 gms in  each  bag  minus  the  samples  taken.
Personal search of the appellant and  the  co-accused  yielded  currency  of Rs.225/- and Rs.150/- respectively which were also seized.  The  information of the exercise was forwarded to the police station on which  a  formal  FIR was lodged.

(5)   The sealed  samples  as  well  as  the  contraband  as  a  whole  were deposited in the malkhana  and  were  also  produced  before  the  concerned Magistrate on the next date along with the accused persons.  The  sample  on chemical examination by the Forensic Science Laboratory disclosed  the  same to be of Poppy Husk. Eventually, on completion of the investigation  challan was submitted and the appellant and the co-accused were made to  face  trial under Sections 15 and 25 of the Act, as they pleaded “not guilty”.

(6)   In support of the  charge,  the  prosecution  examined  PW-1/Constable Ravinder Singh, PW-2/S.I. Jaswinder Singh, PW-3/M.H.C. Shamsher  Singh,  PW- 4/A.S.I. Satnam Singh, PW-5/H.C. Darbara Singh and PW-6 Parminderpal  Singh, who had participated in the entire drill.

(7)   All the incriminating  circumstances  were  laid  before  the  accused persons in course of their examination under Section 313  Cr.P.C.  and  they denied the correctness thereof and complained of false implication.

(8)   The Trial Court on a consideration  of  the  evidence  on  record  and after analysing the rival contentions held  the  charge  to  be  proved  and convicted and sentenced both the accused persons  as  above.  The  appellant unsuccessfully challenged  the  conviction  and  sentence  before  the  High Court.

(9)   The learned counsel  for  the  appellant  has  asserted  that  as  the Investigating  Agency  had  contravened  the  mandatory   prescriptions   of Sections 50 and 57 of the Act, the conviction recorded by the  Courts  below is patently illegal and non est in law. According to her,  though  allegedly Poppy Husk was recovered from the car in which the  appellant  and  the  co- accused were travelling at the relevant point  of  time,  adherence  to  the mandate of Section 50 of the Act was indispensable. Similarly, as no  report of the operation  undertaken  by  the  Investigating  Agency  involving  the alleged seizure of the contraband had been reported to the superior  officer concerned, the exercise was in gross defiance of the edict of Section 57  of the Act rendering the same null  and  void.  The  learned  counsel  for  the appellant, to reinforce  the  above  pleas  has  pressed  into  service  the decision of this Court in Mohinder Kumar vs. State, Panaji, Goa –  (1998)  8 SCC 655. No other argument has been advanced.

(10)  As against this, the learned counsel for the respondent  has  insisted that the investigation had been conducted in meticulous  compliance  of  the dicta of the law qua Sections 50 and 57 of the Act in particular.  Not  only the accused persons were duly apprised of their right of search in  presence of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate before the search of their  car,  they were afforded all opportunities  to  offer  their  defence  in  the  process undertaken. According to the learned counsel,  the fact of the  interception of the  accused  persons  and  the  recovery  of  the  contraband  had  been communicated to the concerned police station and  to  the  Ilaka  Magistrate through the higher officer i.e., Deputy  Superintendent  of  Police  without any delay whatsoever.  The sample  fwith the stock of Poppy Husk was  properly sealed and deposited with the malkhana  immediately  as  per  the  procedure prescribed as well, he urged. The learned  counsel  further  submitted  that though in a way, compliance of Section 50 of the Act was inessential in  the facts  of  the  case,  as  the  vehicle  was  searched  which  yielded   the contraband, the Investigating Officer by way of abundant caution did  adhere thereto as well. As the information with regard to the entire gamut  of  the investigation  had  been  forwarded  to  the  higher  officer  i.e.   Deputy Superintendent of Police and to the concerned Magistrate without any  delay, the demur based on Sections 50 and 57 of the Act  is  wholly  misplaced,  he urged.

(11)  The evidence on record as well as the rival assertions have been  duly evaluated.

(12)  As the essence  of  the  impeachment  is  the  non-compliance  of  the enjoinment of Sections 50 and 57 of the  Act,  for  ready  reference,  these provisions are extracted herein below:

“50. Conditions under which search of persons shall be conducted - (1)  When any officer duly authorised under Section 42 is about to search  any  person under the provisions of Section 41, Section 42 or Section 43, he  shall,  if such person so requires, take such person without unnecessary delay  to  the nearest Gazetted Officer of any of the departments mentioned in  Section  42 or to the nearest Magistrate.

(2) If such requisition is made, the officer may detain the person until  he can bring him before the Gazetted Officer or the Magistrate referred  to  in sub-section (1).

(3) The Gazetted Officer or the Magistrate before whom any  such  person  is brought shall, if  he  sees  no  reasonable  ground  for  search,  forthwith discharge the person but otherwise shall direct that search be made.

(4) No female shall be searched by anyone excepting a female.

(5) When an officer duly authorised under section 42 has reason  to  believe that it is not possible to take the person to be  searched  to  the  nearest Gazetted Officer or Magistrate without the possibility of the person  to  be searched parting with  possession  of  any  narcotic  drug  or  psychotropic substance, or controlled substance or article or document, he  may,  instead of taking such  person  to  the  nearest  Gazetted  Officer  or  Magistrate, proceed to search the person as provided under section 100 of  the  Code  of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974).

(6) After a search is conducted under sub-section  (5),  the  officer  shall record the reasons for  such  belief  which  necessitated  such  search  and within seventy-two hours send a  copy  thereof  to  his  immediate  official superior.

57.   Report of arrest and seizure - Whenever any person  makes  any  arrest or seizure under this Act, he shall, within  forty-eight  hours  next  after such  arrest or seizure, make a full report of all the particulars of such arrest or  seizure  to  his  immediate  official superior.

(13)  Whereas the conditions under which,  the  search  as  contemplated  in Section 50 are limited only to the contingency  of  search  of  any  person, Section 57 prescribes that whenever any person makes any arrest  or  seizure under the Act, he would within 48 hours next after such arrest  or  seizure, make a full report of all the particulars of such arrest or seizure  to  his immediate official superior. As  it  is  no  longer  res  integra  that  the application of Section 50 of the Act is comprehended and called for only  in the case of search of a person as distinguished from search of any  premises etc. having been authoritatively propounded by the  two  Constitution  Bench rulings of this Court in State of Punjab vs. Baldev Singh  –  (1999)  6  SCC 172 and Vijaysinh Chandubha Jadeja vs. State of Gujarat – (2011) 1 SCC  609, further dilation in this regard, in the attendant  facts  and  circumstances of the case, is considered inessential. This is more so  as  the  contraband in the case in hand had been recovered from inside  the  car  in  which  the petitioner and the co-accused were travelling at the relevant point of  time and not in course of the search of their person.  Noticeably,  it  had  also not been the plea of the defence ever that the alleged seizure according  to the accused persons had been from their  person.  In  the  contextual  facts therefore, Section 50 has  no  application  to  espouse  the  cause  of  the defence.

(14)  Qua the imputation of non-adherence of the requisites  of  Section  57 of the Act, suffice it to note that both the Courts below, on an  analytical appreciation of the evidence on record have concurrently concluded that  the Investigating Officer at the site, had  after  the  arrest  of  the  accused persons and or seizure of the  contraband  forwarded  the  information  with regard thereto to his  higher  officer,  namely,  Deputy  Superintendent  of Police without any delay  and  that  the  related  FIR  with  the  necessary endorsements therein had reached the Ilaka Magistrate on the same date  i.e. 28.08.2007 at 9 p.m. There is no evidence forthcoming or referred to by  the learned counsel for the petitioner to either  contradict  or  decimate  this finding based on records. In this view of the matter as well, the  assertion of non-compliance of Section 57 of the Act does not commend for  acceptance.

In our view, having regard to  the  facts  available,  the  requirements  of Section 57 of the Act had been duly complied with as well.

(15)  The decision in Mohinder Kumar (supra) not only is distinguishable  on facts,  as  the  search  therein  was  of  the  petitioner's  premises,  the investigation was afflicted as well by several other omissions on  the  part of the authority conducting the same.  Though  in  this  rendering,  it  was observed that  in State of Punjab vs. Balbir Singh – (1994) 3 SCC 299    the provisions of Sections 52 and 57 of the Act had  been held to  be  mandatory in character, it is pertinent to note that this Court in Sajan  Abraham  Vs. State of Kerala – (2001) 6 SCC 692 had exposited that  Section  57  was  not mandatory in nature so much so that if a substantial compliance  thereof  is made, it would not vitiate the case of  the  prosecution.  Incidentally  the decision rendered in Balbir Singh (supra) was rendered by  a  Coram  of  two Hon’ble Judges whereas the one in Sajan  Abraham  (supra)  was  by  a  three Judge Bench.

(16)  In Balbir Singh (supra), a Bench of two Hon'ble Judges of  this  Court had enunciated, adverting to Sections 52  and  57  of  the  Act  that  these provisions  contain certain procedural instructions  for  strict  compliance by the officers, but clarified that if there  was  none,  such  omission  by itself would not render the acts done by them  null  and  void  and  at  the most, it may affect the probative value  of the  evidence  regarding  arrest or search and in some cases, it may invalidate such arrest or  search.  That the non-compliance had caused prejudice  to  the  accused  persons  and  had resulted in failure of  justice   was  necessary  to  be  demonstrated,  was emphasised.  It was ruled that these provisions, which deal with  the  steps to be taken by the officers after making arrest or seizure under Section  41 and 44 are by themselves not mandatory and if there  was  non-compliance  or any delay was involved with regard thereto, then it has to be  examined,  to ascertain  as to whether  any prejudice had been caused to the  accused  and further whether, such failure would have  a bearing on the  appreciation  of evidence regarding  arrest or seizure as well as on the merits of the  case.

(17)  Be that as it may, having regard to the evidence  available  attesting the compliance of the requisites of Section 57 of the  Act  in  the  instant case, we need not be detained by this issue in praesenti.

(18)  Aside the above, an appraisal of  the  testimony  of  the  prosecution witnesses and in particular of PW-4 ASI/Satnam  Singh  and  PW-5  HC/Darbara Singh, the  seizure  witnesses,  fully  substantiate  the  recovery  of  the contraband i.e. Poppy Husk from the  conscious  possession  of  the  accused persons.  That the samples were properly sampled, sealed  and  forwarded  to the Forensic Science Laboratory through Malkhana  also  stands  established.

The certificate of the Chemical Examiner, FSL to the effect  that  the  seal of the samples was found intact and that the same tallied with the  specimen seals also rules out the possibility of any tampering  therewith.  The  fact that the contraband was recovered from the car  while  the  same  was  being driven by one of the accused persons  in  the  company  of  the  other  also authenticate the charge of their conscious possession thereof.  The haul  of six bags of Poppy Husk is substantial so much so that it  negates  even  the remote possibility of the same being planted by the police.  Furthermore  no evidence with regard to bias or malice against the Investigating Agency  has been adduced.

(19)  In the wake of the above, we are of  the  unhesitant  opinion  in  the face of the evidence on record, that the prosecution has been able to  prove the charge against the accused persons  beyond  all  reasonable  doubt.  The Courts below have appreciated the materials on record in the  correct  legal and factual  perspectives  and  the  findings  recorded  do  not  merit  any interference. The appeal is  thus  dismissed.  The  Trial  Court  is  hereby directed to take immediate follow up the steps so  as  to  ensure  that  the sentence awarded is served out by the accused persons.



NOVEMBER  28, 2016.

Additional Info

  • Date Range: Wednesday, 28 December 2016
  • Court/Authority: Supreme Court
  • Tax Type: Others
  • Appl no. or Appl year: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1096 OF 2016
  • Supreme Court Location: Delhi
  • AAR Location: Delhi
  • Authority: Supreme Court
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