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The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that while assessing the quantity of contraband from a mixture that is seized and also contains neutral substances, the quantity of such neutral substances shall also be taken into account. (Hira Singh vs Union of India)
In the judgment delivered by a three-Judge Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, and MR Shah, the Court was answering a reference made questioning the dictum laid down in the2008 judgment in the case of E. Micheal Raj v. Intelligence Officer, Narcotic Control Bureau.
In E Michael Raj, it was said that from a seized mixture which contains some contraband material and some neutral substances, only the quantity of contraband has to be calculated. To assess whether the prohibitory items are of small or commercial quantity, the weight of neutral substances will be excluded, the Court had held in that case.
The validity of this ruling was referred to a three-Judge Bench. Answering the reference, the Apex Court on Wednesday ruled that the judgment in E Michael Raj is bad law. The quantity of mixed neutral substances will also be taken count of while assessing the quantity of contraband, the Court has now held.
The Court opined that considering the two-tier, separate punishment provided under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act for small and commercial quantities of contraband, the legislature would not have intended for only the actual weight of banned substance should be considered from a mixture seized. The same is evident from the Statement of Objects and Reasons of a 2001 Amendment to the NDPS Act.
The preamble of the 1985 NDPS Act suggests that the Act is passed with the intention of consolidating laws relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and for the law to act as a deterrent. The Act also provides for forfeiture of property for use of illicit substances, the Court points out. Therefore, it is clear that the Act provides for stringent measures to control and regulate the operation of these substances and a lenient reading would go against the ethos of the law, it was held.
The top Court also delved into the functioning and operation of dealings of illicit substances to note that illicit drugs are seldom sold without any mixture. The Court explained,
While drugs like heroin are powerful, they can be "cut" with several other substances which enables the seller to mix them with neutral substances and sell them at comparatively less expenses, thereby allowing larger profits from such a sale, the Court pointed out.
Street drugs like brown sugar or smack contain only 20% heroin content and are mixed with substances such as chalk powder and such, Court elaborated further to drive home the point that powerful manufactured drugs are often sold as mixtures and not in pure form. Therefore, the entire quantity of such a mixture would have to be taken account of so as to not frustrate the object of the NDPS Act, the Court has said.
The Court therefore answered the reference made to it by holding the law in E Michael Raj as bad law and laying down that the entirety of the quantity of mixture of contraband seized has to be taken into account and that neutral substances should not be excluded from the same for ascertaining whether the material is of small or commercial quantity.
Read the Judgement: