Ranjan Kumar Chadha V/S State Of Himachal Pradesh, [Criminal Appeal Nos. 2239-2240 Of 2011]
The Supreme Court ruled that the mandate of Section 50 of the Act is confined to “personal search” and not to search of a vehicle or a container or premises.
The division bench of Justice M.M. Sundresh and Justice J.B. Pardiwala stated that if the bag, etc. is in immediate possession of the accused and the search is undertaken of such a bag, etc., even then, according to the decisions, Section 50 of the NDPS Act would be applicable.
It was further stated by the court that the language of Section 50 of the NDPS Act is plain and unambiguous. There is no scope of reading something into it.
The captioned appeals are at the instance of a convict accused of the offence punishable under Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and are directed against the judgment and order of conviction dated 20.08.2010 and the order of sentence dated 16.09.2010 resply passed by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in the Criminal Appeal No. 356 of 1999 by which the High Court allowed the appeal filed by the State of Himachal Pradesh and thereby set aside the judgment and order of acquittal passed by the Sessions Judge, Kullu. With the High Court allowing the State’s acquittal appeal, the appellant herein stood convicted of the offence punishable under Section 20 of the NDPS Act.
Pragya Baghel, counsel appearing for the appellant, vehemently submitted that the High Court committed a serious error in holding the appellant guilty of the offence under the NDPS Act.
Counsel submitted that the High Court committed a serious error in recording the finding that Section 50 of the NDPS Act is not applicable in the present case as the recovery of the contraband substance was not made as a result of the personal search of the accused but on account of the search of his bag.
Anil Nag, counsel appearing for the State, opposed the appeals submitting that no error, not to speak of any error of law, could be said to have been committed by the High Court in passing the impugned judgment and order of conviction and sentence.
It was vehemently argued that Section 50 of the NDPS Act is not applicable at all in the present case as the search was made only of the bag which the appellant was carrying on his shoulder and the person of the appellant was not searched.
The bench adhered to the principles of law as explained by the Constitution Bench in Baldev Singh and the larger Bench answering the reference in Pawan Kumar.
“It has been observed in Baldev Singh that drug abuse is a social malady. While drug addiction eats into the vitals of the society, drug trafficking not only eats into the vitals of the economy of a country, but illicit money generated by drug trafficking is often used for illicit activities including encouragement of terrorism. It has acquired the dimensions of an epidemic, affects the economic policies of the State, corrupts the system and is detrimental to the future of a country. Reference in the said decision has also been made to some United Nation Conventions which the Government of India has ratified. It is, therefore, absolutely imperative that those who indulge in this kind of nefarious activities should not go scot free on technical pleas which come handy to their advantage in a fraction of second by slight movement of the baggage, being placed to any part of their body, which baggage may contain the incriminating article”, the court said.
The bench held that the High Court was justified in holding the appellant guilty of the offence under the NDPS Act and at the same time, the High Court was also correct in saying that Section 50 of the NDPS Act was not required to be complied with as the recovery was from the bag.