The Supreme Court has observed that mere passage of time during the pendency of the appeal cannot be a ground to suspend the sentence and grant bail in NDPS Cases.
The rigors of Section 37 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, would have to be met before the sentence of a convict is suspended and bail granted, the bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari said even though it granted bail to the appellant in the instant case.
Sheru, who was convicted under NDPS Act, has been in custody for almost eight years. He contended that despite the directions of the Apex Court to treat the case at priority, the case has not yet reached for hearing. Opposing this plea, the Additional Solicitor General contended that the normal principle of a large period having already been served during the pendency of the appeal cannot be a ground to suspend the sentence and grant bail, in view of the stringent provisions of Section 37 of the NDPS Act.
The ASG relied on a decision in Union of India v. Rattan Mallik @ Habul - (2009) 2 SCC 624. in which the Supreme court considered an appeal against the High Court order which granted bail on grounds including (ii) convict is in jail for the last three years and (iii) that there is no chance of his appeal being heard within a period of seven years. "In our opinion, the stated circumstances may be relevant for grant of bail in matters arising out of conviction under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 etc. but are not sufficient to satisfy the mandatory requirements as stipulated in sub-clause (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 37 of the NDPS Act.", the Court had observed while setting aside the High Court order.
Addressing these rival contentions, the bench observed:
"We have given a thought to the matter and there is no doubt that the rigors of Section 37 would have to be met before the sentence of a convict is suspended and bail granted and mere passage of time cannot be a reason for the same."
However, taking note of the Covid Pandemic Situation, the bench observed:
"We are faced with unusual times where the Covid situation permeates. We are also conscious that this Court has passed orders for release of persons on bail to de-congest the jail but that but that is applicable to cases of upto seven years sentence. In the given aforesaid facts and circumstances of the case, we consider it appropriate to enlarge the appellant on bail on terms and conditions to the satisfaction of the Trial Court."
The court clarified that the order has been passed in the given facts of the case and not to be treated as a precedent.
Counsel: SHERU vs. NARCOTICS CONTROL BUREACase no.: CRIMINAL APPEAL Nos.585-586 OF 2020Coram: Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna MurariCounsel: Sr.Adv. N.K.Mody , ASG S.V.Raju