IO’s lack of English proficiency results in Nigerian national’s acquittal in drugs case
Mumbai A special NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) court recently acquitted a Nigerian national, booked for possession of 30 grams of cocaine, because the investigating officer could not apprise him of his legal rights, related to personal search, in English
Mumbai A special NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) court recently acquitted a Nigerian national, booked for possession of 30 grams of cocaine, because the investigating officer could not apprise him of his legal rights, related to personal search, in English.
The court noticed that the accused only understood English and the officer, who apprehended him, could hardly speak the language.
According to the prosecution case, on April 7, 2011, the officers at Kandivali unit of the Anti-Narcotic Cell of the Mumbai police received information about a Nigerian national, who was to come to Star Light Cooperative Housing Society, to sell cocaine. Based on the information, the police intercepted Chinedu James (44) in the afternoon and claimed to have seized 30 grams of cocaine from him.
According to Section 50 of the NDPS Act, 1985, the accused must be appraised about his rights related to personal search — that if he wants his personal search to be conducted in the presence of a magistrate or a gazetted officer.
The provisions of apprising the accused about his rights and further procedure is held to be mandatory, failing which the seizure of the contraband material from the accused is considered doubtful.
The prosecution claimed that they apprised the accused about his rights under Section 50 of NDPS Act orally as well as by giving letter in writing and the Nigerian national orally stated that it was not necessary. However, during the trial the court noted that the accused being Nigerian national knew only English but the investigating officer of the case, Tushar Chavan, could not speak English properly.
The court noted that during his cross-examination, Chavan had stated that he could understand a question, if asked in English, but he would answer the same in Marathi.
“He also admitted that he cannot speak English fluently, and therefore he does not want to give answer in English. Thus, from his evidence itself, it is reflected that Chavan cannot communicate in English and therefore, the case of prosecution that he communicated with accused in English and apprised him of his legal right under Section 50 of NDPS Act is falsified,” the court concluded.
Also, to prove that the officers recovered narcotic substance from the accused, the two independent punch witnesses were summoned. However, the two did not turn up to testify before the court, as the police claimed that when they went to serve them summons, they were not found at their addresses. The court, therefore, acquitted the Nigerian national.