The stringent provisions of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Act do not dispense with the requirements of prosecution to establish a prima facie case beyond reasonable doubt, the Supreme Court has observed today while acquitting an accused.
Gangadhar was convicted by the Special Court under Section 8C read with Section 20(b)(ii)(c) of the NDPS Act for recovery of 48 Kgs 200 gms. cannabis (ganja). He was sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment with a default stipulation. The appeal filed by him was dismissed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
While considering his appeal, the bench comprising of Justices RF Nariman and Navin Sinha noted that the presumption against the accused of culpability under Section 35, and under Section 54 of the Act to explain possession satisfactorily, are rebuttable. It said:
" It does not dispense with the obligation of the prosecution to prove the charge beyond all reasonable doubt. The presumptive provision with reverse burden of proof, does not sanction conviction on basis of preponderance of probability. Section 35(2) provides that a fact can be said to have been proved if it is established beyond reasonable doubt and not on preponderance of probability. That the right of the accused to a fair trial could not be whittled down under the Act was considered in Noor Aga vs. State of Punjab, (2008) 16 SCC 417 "
Referring to the observations made in Noor Aga , the bench further observed:
The stringent provisions of the NDPS Act, such as Section 37, the minimum sentence of 10 years, absence of any provision for remission do not dispense with the requirements of prosecution to establish a prima facie case beyond reasonable doubt after investigation, only where after which the burden of proof shall shift to the accused. The gravity of the sentence and the stringency of the provisions will therefore call for a heightened scrutiny of the evidence for establishment of foundational facts by the prosecution.
The Court noted that the accused was held to be the owner of the House in question from which the ganja was recovered, relying upon the voters list of 2008 rejecting his defence that he had sold the house to co accused (who was acquitted by the Trial Court). Taking note of the evidence on record, the bench observed:
The police investigation was very extremely casual, perfunctory and shoddy in nature. The appellant has been denied the right to a fair investigation, which is but a facet of a fair trial guaranteed to every accused under Article 21 of the Constitution. The consideration of evidence by the Trial Court, affirmed by the High Court, borders on perversity to arrive at conclusions for which there was no evidence. Gross misappreciation of evidence by two courts, let alone poor investigation by the police, has resulted in the appellant having to suffer incarceration for an offence he had never committed.
Case detailsCase name: GANGADHAR alias GANGARAM vs. STATE OF MADHYA PRADESHCase no.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 504 OF 2020 Coram: Justices RF Nariman and Navin Sinha Counsel: Adv Puneet Jain and AAG Swarupama Chaturvedi
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