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Section 8 read with Section 18 and under Section 8 read with Section 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (the NDPS Act) and sec. 50 of NDPS Act – Search before Police Superintendent part of raiding party – is invalid – Suggesting the superintendent as one of the Gazetted Officer mentioned in sec. 50 of NDPS Act is itself a wrong one and as such the search is invalid and as such the High court rightly acquitted the accused and Apex court dismissed the appeal = State of Rajasthan … Appellant Vs. Parmanand & Anr. … Respondents = 2014(Feb.Part) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41273

Section 8 read  with  Section  18 and under Section  8  read  with  Section  29  of  the  Narcotic  Drugs  and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (the NDPS Act) and  sec. 50 of NDPS Act –   Search before Police Superintendent part of raiding party – is invalid – Suggesting the superintendent as one of the Gazetted Officer mentioned in sec. 50 of NDPS Act is itself a wrong one and as such the search is invalid and as such the High court rightly acquitted the accused and Apex court dismissed the appeal =

 

 We also notice that PW-10 SI Qureshi  informed  the  respondents  that

they could be searched before the nearest Magistrate  or  before  a  nearest

gazetted officer or before PW-5 J.S. Negi, the  Superintendent,  who  was  a

part of the raiding party.  

It is the prosecution case that the  respondents

informed the officers that they would like to be searched before  PW-5  J.S.

Negi by PW-10 SI Qureshi. 

This,  in  our  opinion,  is  again  a  breach  of

Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act.  The idea behind taking  an   accused   to  a

nearest Magistrate or a nearest gazetted officer, if he so requires,  is  to

give him a chance of being  searched  in  the  presence  of  an  independent

officer.  

Therefore, it was improper  for  PW-10  SI  Qureshi  to  tell  the

respondents that a third alternative was available and that  they  could  be

searched before PW-5 J.S. Negi, the Superintendent,  who  was  part  of  the

raiding party.  

PW-5 J.S. Negi cannot be called an independent  officer.  We

are not expressing any opinion on the question whether  if  the  respondents

had voluntarily expressed that they wanted to be searched before  PW-5  J.S.

Negi, the search would have been vitiated or  not.   

But  PW-10  SI  Qureshi

could not have given a third option to the respondents  when  Section  50(1)

of the NDPS Act  does  not  provide  for  it  and  when  such  option  would

frustrate the provisions of Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act.  

On  this  ground

also, in our opinion, the search conducted by PW-10 SI Qureshi is  vitiated.

 We have, therefore, no hesitation in  concluding  that  breach  of  Section

50(1) of the NDPS Act has  vitiated  the  search.   The  conviction  of  the

respondents was, therefore, illegal.   The  respondents  have  rightly  been

acquitted by the High Court.  It is not  possible  to  hold  that  the  High

Court’s view is perverse.  The appeal is, therefore, dismissed.   

 

2014(Feb.Part) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41273

RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI, MADAN B. LOKUR

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.78 OF 2005
State of Rajasthan … Appellant
Vs.
Parmanand & Anr. … Respondents

JUDGMENT

(SMT.) RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI, J.
1. The respondents were tried by the Special Judge (NDPS Cases),
Chhabra, District Baran for offences under Section 8 read with Section 18
and under Section 8 read with Section 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and
Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (the NDPS Act).

2. The case of the prosecution was that on 13/10/1997 during Kota Camp
at Iklera, P.N. Meena, Sub-Inspector, Office of the Narcotics Commissioner,
Kota received information at 1900 hours in the evening that the respondents
were to handover about 10 Kg opium on 14/10/1997 in the morning between
4.00 a.m. to 6.00 a.m. at Nangdi-Tiraha, Iklera, Chhipabaraud Road to a
smuggler. This information was entered by SI Meena in the diary and he
forwarded it to the Investigating Officer J.S. Negi, Superintendent. J.S.
Negi sent this information through Constable B.L. Meena to Assistant
Narcotic Commissioner, Kota. Thereafter, raiding party was formed. The
raiding party was headed by Superintendent J.S. Negi. The raiding party
reached Nangdi-Tiraha by a Government vehicle. Independent witnesses
Ramgopal and Gopal Singh were called by SI Qureshi. Their consent was
obtained. At about 4.25 a.m., the respondents came from the village
Rajpura. On seeing the raiding party, they tried to run away but they were
stopped. Enquiry was made with both the respondents in the presence of the
independent witnesses by SI Qureshi. The respondents gave their names.
Respondent No. 1 Parmanand had one white colour gunny bag of manure in his
left hand. SI Qureshi told the respondents that he had to take their
search. They were told about the provisions of Section 50 of the NDPS Act.
They were told that under Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act, they had a right
to get themselves searched in the presence of any nearest Magistrate or any
gazetted officer or in the presence of Superintendent J.S. Negi of the
raiding party. One written notice to that effect was given to them. On
this notice, appellant Surajmal gave consent in writing in Hindi for
himself and for appellant Parmanand and stated that they are ready to get
themselves searched by SI Qureshi in the presence of Superintendent J.S.
Negi. He also put his thumb impression. Thereafter, bag of respondent No.
1 Parmanand was searched by SI Qureshi. Inside the bag in a polythene bag
some black material was found. The respondents told him that it was opium
and they had brought it from the village. The weight of the opium was 9 Kg.
600 gms. Necessary procedure of drawing samples and sealing was followed.
The respondents were arrested. After completion of the investigation,
respondent no. 1 Parmanand was charged for offence under Section 8 read
with Section 18 of the NDPS Act and respondent No.2 Surajmal was charged
for offence under Section 8 read with Section 18 and for offence under
Section 8 read with Section 29 of the NDPS Act. The prosecution examined
11 witnesses. The important witnesses are PW-5 J.S. Negi, the
Superintendent, PW-9 SI Meena and PW-10 SI Qureshi. The respondents pleaded
not guilty to the charge. They contended that the police witnesses had
conspired and framed them. The case is false.

3. Learned Special Judge convicted respondent No.1 Parmanand under
Section 8 read with Section 18 of the NDPS Act and respondent No.2 Surajmal
under Section 8 read with Section 28 of the NDPS Act. They were sentenced
for 10 years rigorous imprisonment each and a fine of Rs.10 lakhs each. In
default of payment of fine, they were sentenced to undergo rigorous
imprisonment for two years.

4. Aggrieved by the said judgment and order, the respondents preferred
an appeal to the Rajasthan High Court. By the impugned order, the
Rajasthan High Court acquitted the respondents. Hence, this appeal by the
State.

5. Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed, learned counsel for the State of Rajasthan
submitted that the High Court was wrong in coming to the conclusion that
there was no compliance with Section 50 of the NDPS Act. Counsel submitted
that PW-10 SI Qureshi has clearly stated that the respondents were
communicated their right under Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act. A written
notice was also given to them and only after they consented to be searched
by PW-10 SI Qureshi in the presence of PW-5 J.S. Negi, the Superintendent,
that the search of their person and search of bag of respondent No.1
Parmanand was conducted. Counsel submitted that the High Court was also
wrong in disbelieving independent pancha witnesses. Counsel urged that the
impugned order is perverse and deserves to be set aside.

6. Ms. Nidhi, learned counsel for the respondents, on the other hand,
submitted that admittedly notice under Section 50 of the NDPS Act was a
joint notice. The respondents were entitled to individual notice. The
search is, therefore, vitiated. In this connection, counsel relied on
judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Paramjit Singh and Anr.
v. State of Punjab[1] and judgment of the Bombay High Court in Dharamveer
Lekhram Sharma and Another v. The State of Maharashtra and Ors.[2].
Counsel submitted that search was a farce. The High Court has, therefore,
rightly acquitted the respondents.

7. The question is whether Section 50 of the NDPS Act was complied with
or not. Before we go to the legalities, it is necessary to see what
exactly the important police witnesses have stated about compliance of
Section 50 of the NDPS Act. The gist of the evidence of the police
witnesses PW-5 J.S. Negi, the Superintendent, PW-9 SI Meena and PW-10 SI
Qureshi is that the respondents were informed that they have a right to be
searched in the presence of a gazetted officer or a nearest Magistrate or
before J.S. Negi, the Superintendent, who was present there. They were
given a written notice. On that notice, respondent No.2 gave his consent
in Hindi in his handwriting that he and respondent No.1 Parmanand are
agreeable to be searched by PW-10 SI Qureshi in the presence of PW-5 J.S.
Negi, the Superintendent. He signed on the notice in Hindi and put his
thumb impression. Respondent No.1 Parmanand did not sign. There is
nothing to show that respondent No.1 Parmanand had given independent
consent. Search was conducted. PW-10 SI Qureshi did not find anything on
the person of the respondents. Later on, he searched the bag which was in
the left hand of respondent No.1 – Parmanand. In the bag, he found black
colour material which was tested by chemical kit. It was found to be
opium.
8. In State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh[3], this Court held that Section
50 of the NDPS Act is mandatory and non-compliance thereof would vitiate
trial. In State of Himachal Pradesh v. Pirthi Chand[4], this Court held
that breach of Section 50 does not affect the trial. There were divergent
views on this aspect and, therefore, a reference was made to the
Constitution Bench. Out of the three questions of law, which the
Constitution Bench dealt with in State of Punjab v. Baldev Singh[5], the
question which is relevant for the present case is whether it is the
mandatory requirement of Section 50 of the NDPS Act that when an officer
duly authorized under Section 42 of the NDPS Act is about to search a
person, he must inform him of his right under sub-section (1) thereof of
being taken to the nearest gazetted officer or nearest Magistrate. The
conclusions drawn by the Constitution Bench, which are relevant for this
case could be quoted.

“(1) That when an empowered officer or a duly authorised officer
acting on prior information is about to search a person, it is
imperative for him to inform the person concerned of his right
under sub-section (1) of Section 50 of being taken to the
nearest gazetted officer or the nearest Magistrate for making
the search. However, such information may not necessarily be in
writing.
(2) That failure to inform the person concerned about the existence
of his right to be searched before a gazetted officer or a
Magistrate would cause prejudice to an accused.
(3) That a search made by an empowered officer, on prior
information, without informing the person of his right that if
he so requires, he shall be taken before a gazetted officer or a
Magistrate for search and in case he so opts, failure to conduct
his search before a gazetted officer or a Magistrate, may not
vitiate the trial but would render the recovery of the illicit
article suspect and vitiate the conviction and sentence of an
accused, where the conviction has been recorded only on the
basis of the possession of the illicit article, recovered from
his person, during a search conducted in violation of the
provisions of Section 50 of the Act.”

9. In this case, the conviction is solely based on recovery of opium
from the bag of respondent No.1 – Parmanand. No opium was found on his
person. In Kalema Tumba v. State of Maharashtra[6], this Court held that
if a person is carrying a bag or some other article with him and narcotic
drug is recovered from it, it cannot be said that it was found from his
person and, therefore, it is not necessary to make an offer for search in
the presence of a gazetted officer or a Magistrate in compliance of Section
50 of the NDPS Act. In State of Himachal Pradesh v. Pawan Kumar[7], three-
Judge Bench of this Court held that a person would mean a human being with
appropriate coverings and clothing and also footwear. A bag, briefcase or
any such article or container etc. can under no circumstances be treated as
a body of a human being. Therefore, it is not possible to include these
articles within the ambit of the word “person” occurring in Section 50 of
the NDPS Act. The question is, therefore, whether Section 50 would be
applicable to this case because opium was recovered only from the bag
carried by respondent No.1 – Parmanand.

10. In Dilip & Anr. v. State of Madhya Pradesh[8], on the basis of
information, search of the person of the accused was conducted. Nothing
was found on their person. But on search of the scooter they were riding,
opium contained in plastic bag was recovered. This Court held that
provisions of Section 50 might not have been required to be complied with
so far as the search of the scooter is concerned, but keeping in view the
fact that the person of the accused was also searched, it was obligatory on
the part of the officers to comply with the said provisions, which was not
done. This Court confirmed the acquittal of the accused.

11. In Union of India v. Shah Alam[9], heroin was first recovered from
the bags carried by the respondents therein. Thereafter, their personal
search was taken but nothing was recovered from their person. It was urged
that since personal search did not lead to any recovery, there was no need
to comply with the provisions of Section 50 of the NDPS Act. Following
Dilip, it was held that since the provisions of Section 50 of the NDPS Act
were not complied with, the High Court was right in acquitting the
respondents on that ground.

12. Thus, if merely a bag carried by a person is searched without there
being any search of his person, Section 50 of the NDPS Act will have no
application. But if the bag carried by him is searched and his person is
also searched, Section 50 of the NDPS Act will have application. In this
case, respondent No.1 Parmanand’s bag was searched. From the bag, opium
was recovered. His personal search was also carried out. Personal search
of respondent No.2 Surajmal was also conducted. Therefore, in light of
judgments of this Court mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, Section 50
of the NDPS Act will have application.

13. It is now necessary to examine whether in this case, Section 50 of
the NDPS Act is breached or not. The police witnesses have stated that the
respondents were informed that they have a right to be searched before a
nearest gazetted officer or a nearest Magistrate or before PW-5 J.S. Negi,
the Superintendent. They were given a written notice. As stated by the
Constitution Bench in Baldev Singh, it is not necessary to inform the
accused person, in writing, of his right under Section 50(1) of the NDPS
Act. His right can be orally communicated to him. But, in this case,
there was no individual communication of right. A common notice was given
on which only respondent No.2 – Surajmal is stated to have signed for
himself and for respondent No.1 – Parmanand. Respondent No.1 Parmanand did
not sign.

14. In our opinion, a joint communication of the right available under
Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act to the accused would frustrate the very
purport of Section 50. Communication of the said right to the person who
is about to be searched is not an empty formality. It has a purpose. Most
of the offences under the NDPS Act carry stringent punishment and,
therefore, the prescribed procedure has to be meticulously followed. These
are minimum safeguards available to an accused against the possibility of
false involvement. The communication of this right has to be clear,
unambiguous and individual. The accused must be made aware of the
existence of such a right. This right would be of little significance if
the beneficiary thereof is not able to exercise it for want of knowledge
about its existence. A joint communication of the right may not be clear
or unequivocal. It may create confusion. It may result in diluting the
right. We are, therefore, of the view that the accused must be
individually informed that under Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act, he has a
right to be searched before a nearest gazetted officer or before a nearest
Magistrate. Similar view taken by the Punjab & Haryana High Court in
Paramjit Singh and the Bombay High Court in Dharamveer Lekhram Sharma meets
with our approval. It bears repetition to state that on the written
communication of the right available under Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act,
respondent No.2 Surajmal has signed for himself and for respondent No.1
Parmanand. Respondent No.1 Parmanand has not signed on it at all. He did
not give his independent consent. It is only to be presumed that he had
authorized respondent No.2 Surajmal to sign on his behalf and convey his
consent. Therefore, in our opinion, the right has not been properly
communicated to the respondents. The search of the bag of respondent No.1
Parnanand and search of person of the respondents is, therefore, vitiated
and resultantly their conviction is also vitiated.

15. We also notice that PW-10 SI Qureshi informed the respondents that
they could be searched before the nearest Magistrate or before a nearest
gazetted officer or before PW-5 J.S. Negi, the Superintendent, who was a
part of the raiding party. It is the prosecution case that the respondents
informed the officers that they would like to be searched before PW-5 J.S.
Negi by PW-10 SI Qureshi. This, in our opinion, is again a breach of
Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act. The idea behind taking an accused to a
nearest Magistrate or a nearest gazetted officer, if he so requires, is to
give him a chance of being searched in the presence of an independent
officer. Therefore, it was improper for PW-10 SI Qureshi to tell the
respondents that a third alternative was available and that they could be
searched before PW-5 J.S. Negi, the Superintendent, who was part of the
raiding party. PW-5 J.S. Negi cannot be called an independent officer. We
are not expressing any opinion on the question whether if the respondents
had voluntarily expressed that they wanted to be searched before PW-5 J.S.
Negi, the search would have been vitiated or not. But PW-10 SI Qureshi
could not have given a third option to the respondents when Section 50(1)
of the NDPS Act does not provide for it and when such option would
frustrate the provisions of Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act. On this ground
also, in our opinion, the search conducted by PW-10 SI Qureshi is vitiated.
We have, therefore, no hesitation in concluding that breach of Section
50(1) of the NDPS Act has vitiated the search. The conviction of the
respondents was, therefore, illegal. The respondents have rightly been
acquitted by the High Court. It is not possible to hold that the High
Court’s view is perverse. The appeal is, therefore, dismissed.

….……………………………….J.
(RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI)

 
…………………………………..J.
(MADAN B. LOKUR)
NEW DELHI;
FEBRUARY 28, 2014.

 

———————–
[1] 1997(1) CRIMES 242
[2] 2001(1) CRIMES 586
[3] (1994) 3 SCC 299
[4] (1996) 2 SCC 37
[5] (1999) 6 SCC 172
[6] (1999) 8 SCC 257
[7] (2005) 4 SCC 350
[8] (2007) 1 SCC 450
[9] (2009) 16 SCC 644

———————–
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