Cal HC | Making statement of accused under S. 108 of Customs Act the foundation of offence under Wild Life (Protection) Act is against principles of law

Calcutta High Court: Tirthankar Ghosh, J., reversed the order of the trial court (as confirmed by the first appellate court) whereby the petitioner was convicted and sentenced for committing an offence under Section 40(2) read with Section 51(1-A) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

The petitioner was accused of unlawfully possessing various wildlife material including tiger skin, elephant tusks, baby rhino born and tiger nails. All this material was seized during the search conducted by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence. The petitioner was charged under provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act. At the conclusion of the trial, he was convicted and sentenced as mentioned above. His appeal against the order of the trial court was also dismissed by the appellate court. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the instant revision petition.

It may be noted, that during the investigation, the accused was summoned under Section 108 of the Customs Act, 1962, and his statement was recorded in response to enquiries which were made in presence of a senior intelligence officer.

While perusing the record and considering submissions made on behalf of the parties, the High Court noticed that the statement of the accused-petitioner recorded under Section 108 of the Customs Act was made the foundation of his conviction by the trial court. Relying on Noor Aga v. State of Punjab, (2008) 16 SCC 417 and State of Gujarat v. Anwar Osman Sumbhaniya, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 282, the High Court rejected the approach of the trial court and observed: “The statement under Section 108 of the Customs Act which has been made the foundation for conviction by the Ld. Courts below, firstly is a very weak piece of evidence, as no Court can rely upon a statement of the accused until and unless the same is corroborated by material particulars. Moreover, the said statement under Section 108 of the Customs Act were made before the DRI Authorities which can be used in a prosecution under the Customs Act and using the same as a foundation for an offence under the 1972 Act is against the settled principles of law. 

In such view of the matter, the High Court allowed the revision petition and acquitted him of the charges as aforementioned. [Quasim Ali v. Sajal Baran Das, 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 5130, decided on 23-12-2019]

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