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State of Rajathan v/s Sahi Ram

State of Rajasthan v. Sahi Ram has acted as a milestone to understand whether non production of the contraband material before the court is a sufficient ground to extend the benefit of acquittal to the accused.

The Facts
The brief facts of the case are: the police officials received information on 20/06/2006 that the respondent Sahi Ram along with his accomplice Sohan and Kanhaiya Lal were exporting contraband material namely Poppy straw from Madhya Pradesh and were proceeding towards Jodhpur. At 9.40 AM, the vehicle was seized.

The police officials searched the vehicle under section 42 of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Act,1985. Behind the driver seat, they found seven white plastic bags that contained 223 kgs of poppy husk. When they were asked about producing the license for this poppy husk, they could not. Case was registered against the Respondent and his accomplice for the offense punishable under section 8 and 15 of the NDPS Act.

The learned Special Judge passed an order on 01.08.2015 which convicted respondent for an offence punishable Under Section 8 read with 15 of the NDPS Act and sentenced rigorous imprisonment for fifteen years and to pay fine of Rs. 1,50,000/-. Aggrieved by the judgment Respondent filed a criminal appeal before the high court on the ground that the contraband material in question was not produced before the Court and that the evidence on record did not support the case about the seizure and recovery of 223 kgs. of Poppy Husk. The High Court based on the evidence acquitted the respondent. The state of Rajasthan has now appeared in the Supreme court challenging the High court decision.

Reasoning
In the aforesaid case, the submission was advanced on behalf of the accused that failure to produce contraband material before the Court ought to result in acquittal of the accused. In Vijay Pandey v. State of Uttar Pradesh[1] the benefit was extended on the ground that there was no co-relation between the seized samples and one that was tested.

The failure of the prosecution in the present case to relate the seized sample with that seized from the respondent makes the case no different from failure to produce the seized sample itself.
 
In Noor Aga v. State of Punjab & Another,[2] was observed that failure to exhibit Muddamal and contraband material was fatal to the case of the prosecution. Similarly in the present matter “The High Court observed:....Non-exhibition of the Muddamal in the court leads to the irrefutable conclusion that the prosecution failed to lead primary evidence of the seizure and thus, the entire evidence of the prosecution regarding the alleged recovery has to be discarded.

It is thus clear that in none of the decisions of this Court, non-production of the contraband material before the Court has singularly been found to be sufficient to grant the benefit of acquittal. Turning to the facts in the present case, the evidence indicates that from and out of 7 poppy husk bags, samples weighing approximately 500 grams were taken from each container separately, were sealed and were labeled respectively.

The accused himself signed the Exhibit seizure memo which reported all these details. At no point it was ever reported to the witness that signatures were taken by giving any bribery, intimidation, or misrepresentation, or that the signatures were not of the accused, or that they did not grasp the intent of the seizure document. Therefore, it would be impossible to say that the prosecutor could not support the discovery of contraband weighing 223 kgs. In our opinion, this argument has been proved conclusively.

Disposition
The Hon'ble Supreme Court holds that, once the discovery of the substance is clearly confirmed and proved on record, there is no provision that the whole content should be submitted before the Court. Sometimes, the substance may be so dense, as in the present case, that it would not be necessary to deliver the full bulk of the item before the Court.

If the seizure suggests that the samples obtained from the contraband drug were kept intact, and when the samples were sent for forensic testing the seals remained intact, and if the report of the forensic experts indicates the property of the sample is similar to that of bulk.

Court held that the non-production of contraband material, by itself is not a ground for acquittal, if its seizure is otherwise proved. The Supreme Court permitted the appeal and set aside the acquittal ordered by the High Court. It convicted the respondent for the offense punishable Under Section 8 read with 15 of the NDPS Act and sentenced rigorous imprisonment for ten years and to pay fine of Rs. 1,50,000/-.

Critical Analysis
In 1985 the government of India passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. The purpose of the Act was clear: to ban any individual to supply /manufacture/cultivate, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store, or consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. Despite these remedial statues which view drug offenses very seriously, an unacceptably high quantity of drugs is illegally imported and exported every day.

In the present case High Court's decision saying there was no case against the respondent under the NDPS Act seems to defeat the purpose of the Act. The reason given by the High court was unreasonable. In the light of facts discussed, carrying such large quantity of contraband material without a license does not show that it was meant for bona-fide purpose of use.

The Supreme Court has considered all aspects of the matter and then rightly restored the order of conviction of the Respondent. Court explained that it is not essential to produce the entire material to the court if the seizure is otherwise proved on record and is not disputed.

Finally, the researcher concludes by basing on the present study that; the decision should be recognized as of great legal significance as it has helped to remove the ambiguity which in a way will stop the accuse to get the benefit of the doubt in such type of heinous offenses.

End-Notes:
  1. AIR 2019 SCC 1143
  2. AIR 2008(16) SCC 417
Written By:
  1. Pragya Champawat and
  2. Vainy Kacharia

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