Supreme Court Private vehicle not within the purview of public place:...

Private vehicle not within the purview of public place: SC

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New Delhi, Apr 20 (ILNS) The Supreme Court recently acquitted three persons convicted under Section 15 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act), 1985, while observing that “a private vehicle would not come within the expression of “public place,” as explained in Section 43 of the NDPS Act.” (“Boota Singh and Others vs State of Haryana”)

A Division Bench of Justices UU Lalit and KM Joseph on Friday noted, “The evidence in the present case clearly shows that the vehicle was not a public conveyance, but a vehicle belonging to accused Gurdeep Singh.”

The appellants were sitting on two bags in a jeep, when a raid was conducted on a ‘kacha path’ at Rori-Jatana road. The search of the bags led to the recovery of 75 kg poppy straw. The appellants were arrested on the spot, while one of the co-accused of the appellants, Major Singh, was arrested later.

The Trial Court, by order dated August.8, 2004, acquitted Major Singh but convicted Boota Singh, Gurdeep Singh and Gurmohinder Singh under Section 15 of the NDPS Act, and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years with fine of Rs one lakh, in default whereof, they were directed to undergo further rigorous imprisonment for a period of two years.

The order of the Trial Court was upheld by the High Court, stating “in the case in hand, the accused were present in a jeep on a public path and in such circumstance, the provisions of Section 43 and not of 42 of the Act come into play.” Aggrieved by the order, the appellants preferred an appeal before the Apex Court.

Mr. Praveen Kumar, learned counsel for the appellants, submitted that  the vehicle in question was not a public conveyance, but a private vehicle belonging to accused Gurdeep Singh, though parked on a public road. He further submitted that PW4 Inspector Nand Lal did not record the secret information received by him in writing, nor any grounds were recorded for not obtaining the requisite search warrants.

The counsel for the appellants argued that the instant case would be governed by the provisions of Section 42 of the NDPS Act and not Section 43, and that in the instant case, there has been total non-compliance of Section 42.

The Apex Court, relying on the precedent laid down in “Karnail Singh v. State of Haryana”, and subsequently followed in the case of “State of Rajasthan v. Jagraj Singh alias Hansa”, concurred with the submission made by the counsel for the appellants that the relevant provision would not be Section 43 of the NDPS Act, but the case would come under the ambit of Section 42 of the  Act. The Court further observed that “Total non-compliance of Section 42 is impermissible. The rigor of Section 42 may get lessened in situations dealt with in the conclusion drawn by this Court in Karnail Singh but in no case, total non-compliance of Section 42 can be accepted. Total non-compliance of Section 42 is impermissible.”

The Supreme Court said, “In the circumstances, the courts below fell in error in rejecting the submissions advanced on behalf of the appellants. We, therefore, allow this appeal, set-aside the view taken by the High Court and acquit the appellants of the charge levelled against them. The appellants be released forthwith unless their custody is required in connection with any ILNS/KR/RJ

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