[NDPS Rules 2022] Accused Has Right To Seek Expeditious Testing Of Contraband Within Time Frame Stipulated Under Rule 14: Kerala High Court

Update: 2024-05-21 13:24 GMT
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The Kerala High Court has held that a delay in testing seized drugs/substances under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 1985 would cause prejudice to the accused. The Court further stated that the accused have a right to seek expeditious testing of seized drugs/substances under Rule 14 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Seizure, Storage, Sampling and...

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The Kerala High Court has held that a delay in testing seized drugs/substances under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, of 1985 would cause prejudice to the accused. The Court further stated that the accused have a right to seek expeditious testing of seized drugs/substances under Rule 14 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Seizure, Storage, Sampling and Disposal) Rules 2022,

Justice C.S. Dias issued the following directions and also directed the Registrar (District Judiciary) to forward a copy of the judgment to Courts dealing with NDPS Cases.

The respondents are directed to ensure that the State/Regional Forensic Science Laboratories in the State submit the chemical analysis reports within the time frame laid down under Rule 14 of the Rules;

In case of failure of the Chemical Laboratory to submit the report within the period stipulated under Rule 14, then the person accused of an offence under the Act, would be at liberty to file an application before the jurisdictional court for a direction to the concerned Chemical Laboratory to expeditiously conduct the test. On such application being filed, the jurisdictional court shall direct the concerned Chemical Laboratory to expeditiously conduct the test;”

As per Rule 14, the chemical laboratory shall submit a report to the Magistrate Court with a copy to the investigating officer within 15 days from the date of receipt of the sample. It further states that if quantitative analysis of the sample requires more time, then the result of the qualitative test shall be dispatched to the Magistrate within the first 15 days, followed by the results of the quantitative analysis within the next 15 days.

“In essence, the Chemical Laboratory is obliged to submit the result of the 'qualitative test' of the sample within fifteen days from the date of receiving the sample, and the result of the 'quantitative test' within thirty days from receiving the sample. The word used in the above rule is 'shall'”, stated the Court.

This is because the Court stated that in NDPS Cases, qualitative and quantitative sample tests are crucial while deciding bail applications, time frame to complete the investigation and for imposition of the punishment.

In the facts of the case, the Court was considering bail applications where the prosecution alleged possession of MDMA in commercial quantity, but the chemical analysis report showed that it was methamphetamine in intermediate quantity. It stated that the petitioners were denied bail under the rigour of Section 37 of the NDPS Act since the prosecution initially alleged possession of MDMA in commercial quantity.

The Court granted interim bail to petitioners after four months due to the delay in getting the chemical analysis report. It thus observed that inordinate delay in submitting chemical analysis reports caused prejudice to the petitioners, resulting in their bail being denied for four months.

The Court observed that detecting officers usually form their opinions based on their experience in handling NDPS cases without scientific test or chemical analysis. However, the Court stated that the true composition of the sample and quantity after the chemical analysis report only.

It thus stated that the legislature intent for enacting the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Seizure, Storage, Sampling and Disposal) Rules 2022 was to lay down the procedure for the seizure, storage, sampling and disposal of the contraband drugs/substances seized under the NDPS Act. It stated that the rules mandate expeditious testing to ascertain qualitative and quantitative samples of the contraband to prevent prejudice to the accused.

The Court thus directed the State/Regional Forensic Science Laboratories to mandatorily adhere to the time frame as per Rule 14. It stated that if State/Regional Forensic Science Laboratories fail to submit the report within the stipulated time period, then the accused could approach the Court seeking direction to the Laboratory to conduct the test expeditiously.

Accordingly, the bail applications were disposed of and the interim bail of the petitioners was made absolute.

Counsel for Petitioners: Advocates Sarath Babu Kottakkal, Jithin Babu A, Arun Samuel, K.R.Arun Krishnan, Deepa K.Radhakrishnan, Jissmon A Kuriakose, Sanal C.S

Counsel for Respondents: Public Prosecutors C S Hrithwik, Neema TV, Seetha S, Adgp Grashious Kuriakose

Amicus Curiae, Advocate S Rajeev

Citation: 2024 LiveLaw Ker 297

Case Title: Anuraj v State of Kerala & Connected Matters

Case Number: B.A Nos. 5549, 5686, 5693 and 5957 of 2023

Click here to read/download Order

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