Non-production of entire contraband not ground for acquittal under NDPS Act if seizure is proved, Supreme Court

Non-production of entire contraband not ground for acquittal under NDPS Act if seizure is proved, Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today held that production of the entire quantity of seized contraband before the Court is not mandatory for conviction under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act as long as the seizure itself is proved.

When contraband is seized and the seizure itself is proved and not disputed, then non-production of the entire quantity of contraband cannot be held to be a ground for acquittal, the Bench of Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran held. The Bench, therefore, set aside a decision of the Rajasthan High Court which had acquitted an accused on this ground.

“If the seizure of the material is otherwise proved on record and is not even doubted or disputed the entire contraband material need not be placed before this Court. If the seizure is otherwise not in doubt, there is no requirement that the entire material ought to be produced before the Court.”

In the instant case, the accused was convicted by the trial court under Section 8 of the NDPS Act which prohibits the cultivation of coca, opium, and poppy, among other things. The allegation against the accused was that seven bags of poppy straw, weighing around 223 kilograms were seized from his car. Samples were collected from these bags and the bags were sealed while samples were sent for tests. The entire quantity of seven bags of the contraband, however, was not exhibited.

In the appeal before the Rajasthan High Court, the conviction was set aside on the grounds that failure to exhibit contraband was fatal to the case of the prosecution. This brought the State of Rajasthan before the Supreme Court in appeal.

While reversing the High Court’s ruling and upholding the conviction, the Supreme Court gave a rationale behind why proof of seizure which is not in dispute is enough to secure the conviction:

“At times the material could be so bulky, for instance as in the present material when those 7 bags weighed 223 kgs that it may not be possible and feasible to produce the entire bulk before the Court. If the seizure is otherwise proved, what is required to be proved is the fact that the samples taken from and out of the contraband material were kept intact, that when the samples were submitted for forensic examination the seals were intact, that the report of the forensic experts shows the potency, nature and quality of the contraband material and that based on such material, the essential ingredients constituting an offence are made  out.”

Therefore, finding the ruling of the High Court unsustainable, the Supreme Court set aside the order of acquittal and restored the order of conviction of the accused.

[Read Judgment]

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news