Supreme Court: In a case where a man was held guilty for being found in possession of 1 kg heroin which is four times more/higher than the commercial quantity, the bench of MR Shah* and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ has held that persons dealing with narcotic drugs are hazard to the society and therefore, while awarding the sentence/punishment in case of NDPS Act, the interest of the society as a whole is required to be taken in consideration.
Why was NDPS Act, 1985 enacted?
Before the NDPS Act came into existence, the statutory control over narcotic drugs was exercised in India through number of Central and State enactments viz. — The Opium Act, 1857, (b) the Opium Act, 1878 and (c) The Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930. However, with the passage of time and developments in the field of illicit drug traffic and drug abuse at national and international level it was noticed and found that
(i) The scheme of penalties under the aforesaid ACTS was not sufficiently deterrent to meet the challenge of well- organized gangs of smugglers;
(ii) The country has for the last few years been increasingly facing the problem of transit traffic of drugs coming mainly from the neighboring countries and destined mainly to Western countries;
(iii) During recent years new drugs of addiction which have come to be known as psychotropic substances have appeared on the scene and posed serious problems to national governments.
Therefore with a view to overcome the aforestated deficiencies the NDPS Act, 1985 came to be enacted. Thereafter to check the menace of dangerous drugs flooding the market, Section 37 of the Act came to be amended and it has been provided that the accused of an offence under the Act shall not be released on bail during trial unless the mandatory conditions provided in Section 37 are satisfied.
Why Courts should be slow in mitigating the punishment?
In a murder case, the accused commits murder of one or two persons, while those persons who are dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing death or in inflicting death blow to number of innocent young victims who are vulnerable; it cause deleterious effects and deadly impact on the society; they are hazard to the society.
Organized activities of the underworld and the clandestine smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into this country and illegal trafficking in such drugs and substances shall lay to drug addiction among a sizeable section of the public, particularly the adolescents and students of both sexes and the menace has assumed serious and alarming proportions in the recent years. Therefore, it has a deadly impact on the society as a whole.
Therefore, while striking balance between the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, public interest, impact on the society as a whole will always be tilt in favour of the suitable higher punishment.
Ruling on facts
In the present case, the appellant was the sole bread earner of the family and was a poor man. In such circumstances, the Court held that
“merely because the accused is a poor man and/or a carrier and/or is a sole bread earner cannot be such mitigating circumstances in favour of the accused while awarding the sentence/punishment in the case of NDPS Act.”
Even otherwise, in the present case, the Special Court, has taken into consideration the fact that the accused is a poor person; that he is sole bread earner, that it is his first offence, while not imposing the maximum punishment of 20 years R.I and imposing the punishment of 15 years R.I. only.
[Gurdev Singh v. State of Punjab, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 285, decided on 06.04.2021]
*Judgment by Justice MR Shah