The Supreme Court has observed that, to prove the case under the NDPS Act, the ownership of the vehicle from which the contraband is seized is not required to be established.
What is required to be established and proved is the recovery of the contraband articles and the commission of an offence under the NDPS Act, the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and R. Subhash Reddy said. The Court also reiterated that examination of independent witnesses is not an indispensable requirement and such non examination is not necessarily fatal to the prosecution case.
The Court was considering the appeal filed by one Rizwan Khan who was convicted under Section 20(b)(ii)(B) of Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 by the Special Court (The Chhattisgarh High Court dismissed his appeal).
Regarding the contention that the accused has been convicted on the sole testimony of the police officers, the bench said that there is no law that the evidence of police officials, unless supported by independent evidence, is to be discarded and/or unworthy of acceptance. It said:
It is settled law that the testimony of the official witnesses cannot be rejected on the ground of non corroboration by an independent witness. As observed and held by this Court in catena of decisions, examination of independent witnesses is not an indispensable requirement and such non examination is not necessarily fatal to the prosecution case.
Referring to observations made in Surinder Kumar v. State of Punjab, (2020) 2 SCC 563 , the Court observed:
Applying the law laid down by this Court on the evidence of police officials/police witnesses to the facts of the case in hand, referred to hereinabove, we are of the opinion as the police witnesses are found to be reliable and trustworthy, no error has been committed by both the courts below in convicting the accused relying upon the deposition of the police officials
Ownership of the vehicle is immaterial.
Another contention raised by the accused was that the ownership of the motorcycle (vehicle) has not been established. Rejecting the said contention, the bench observed:
To prove the case under the NDPS Act, the ownership of the vehicle is not required to be established and proved. It is enough to establish and prove that the contraband articles were found from the accused from the vehicle purchased by the accused. Ownership of the vehicle is immaterial. What is required to be established and proved is the recovery of the contraband articles and the commission of an offence under the NDPS Act? Therefore, merely because of the ownership of the vehicle is not established and proved and/or the vehicle is not recovered subsequently, trial is not vitiated, while the prosecution has been successful in proving and establishing the recovery of the contraband articles from the accused on the spot.
Yet another contention based on Mohanlal judgment was not pressed by the counsel since it was overruled by the Constitution Bench in Mukesh Singh case. The Court noted that, the said issue does not arise in this case, as both the complainant and the investigating officer were different
Case name: Rizwan Khan vs. State of Chhattisgarh
Case no.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 580 OF 2020
Coram: Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and R. Subhash Reddy