Punjab and Haryana HC acquits 3 in drugs seizure case as police theory falls flat
Police had stated in August 2007, they had received a secret information that accused Sukhwinder Singh, Arjun Singh and Manohar Lal were indulging in the sale of poppy husk and other intoxicants. A raid was conducted and five bags of poppy husk weighing 24 kg each and one bag weighing 19 kg was recovered from their possession.
The Punjab and Haryana high court has acquitted three persons arrested in a 2007 drugs seizure case as police deviated from procedural safeguards to be followed in such cases for ensuring a fair probe.
“The foundation of justice dispensation rests upon public faith and trust. Every accused is entitled to the procedural safeguards and the investigating agencies cannot deviate therefrom. Hence, the fundamental right to a fair trial, as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution, becomes all the more essential to dispensation of justice. An investigating officer, in this context, becomes the linchpin of criminal justice delivery system. Articles 14, 21 and 39-A of the Constitution cast an obligation on the officer to follow the procedural safeguards in ensuring fair investigation,” the bench of justice Harpreet Singh Brar observed while quashing the 2014 judgment of a Gurdaspur court which had awarded the trio 10 years’ jail.
The police had stated in August 2007, they had received a secret information that accused Sukhwinder Singh, Arjun Singh and Manohar Lal were indulging in the sale of poppy husk and other intoxicants. A raid was conducted and five bags of poppy husk weighing 24 kg each and one bag weighing 19 kg was recovered from their possession.
The court, however, found discrepancies in the police record and the statement of the gazetted officer in whose presence the search was carried out.
The court observed that discrepancy with regard to record maintained in the case lent credence to appellants’ argument that procedural safeguards were not followed and the gazetted officer was never called to the spot and all the paperwork had been done while sitting in the police station.
It added that another conspicuous fact, which creates a serious dent in the story of the prosecution, was that the documentation, supposedly done at the spot, had FIR number and other details, which had to be part of the FIR, registered at the police station. “….there is no explanation by any of the witnesses as to how the FIR number came to be reflected on those memos when admittedly the same was lodged later in time. The above aspect raises a serious suspicion over the investigation conducted by the investigating officer,” the bench recorded adding that in the absence of any reasonable explanation about the same, the entire case becomes “highly doubtful”.
The court also found that the samples drawn were sent to the chemical examiner after five days, which was required to be sent within 72 hours. Also, it said it was not discernible who remained custodian of the samples for five days.
The court also found that the officer who was the complainant in the case also became the investigating officer. “He should have refrained himself from investigating the case as this would negate the concept of fair and impartial investigation which is the bedrock of the principle of fairness of official action in terms of Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the bench recorded, adding that there are “gaping holes and inadequacies in prosecution evidence”.