Himachal Pradesh High Court: Anoop Chitkara, J., granted bail and held that the law under Section 439 CrPC is very clear and in the eye of the law every accused is the same irrespective of their national.

The facts of the case are such that an under-trial prisoner, holder of Nigerian Passport, has come up before this Court under Section 439 of Criminal Procedure Code i.e. CrPC, seeking bail, on the grounds that the quantity of contraband allegedly seized is the intermediate quantity and does not restrict bail, because the quantity greater than 250 of Heroin, falls in the category of the commercial quantity; hence the restrictions for bail imposed in Section 37 of NDPS Act, do not apply, and in the present case he is in custody for a considerable time.

Counsel for the petitioners Mr Pushpinder Singh Jaiswal submitted that the petitioner has no criminal past relating to the offences prescribing sentence of seven years and more, or when on conviction, the sentence imposed was more than three years. It was further submitted that incarceration before the proof of guilt would cause grave injustice to the petitioner and family.

Counsel for the State Mr Nand Lal Thakur, Mr Ram Lal Thakur, and Mr Rajat Chauhan submitted that if this Court is inclined to grant bail, then such a bond must be subject to very stringent conditions.

The issue before the Court is with respect to whether the quantity attracts the rigors of Section 37 of the NDPS Act and should the bail be granted to a Nigerian national.

The Court relied on judgment Sami Ullaha v Superintendent Narcotic Control Bureau, (2008) 16 SCC 471 and observed that when the quantity is less than commercial, the rigors of Section 37 of the NDPS Act will not attract, and factors become similar to bail petitions under regular statutes. Thus, when the maximum sentence cannot exceed ten years, and the accused is yet to be proved guilty, the grant of bail is normal, unless the Prosecution points towards the exceptional circumstances, negating the bail.

The Court further relied on judgment Shokhista v. State, 2005 LawSuit (Del) 1316 wherein it was held

“The provision of local surety is nowhere mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure and surety can be from any part of the country or without. In the present case, since the accused is a foreign national and is facing investigation under Sections 4, 5 and 8 of the I. T. P. Act and in view of the fact that the Petitioner is ready and willing to make a deposit in cash in lieu of the surety in addition to a personal bond, I am of the opinion that the ends of justice would be met in permitting her to do so.”

The Court thus observed that the quantity of substance involved in this case does not restrict bail and in the facts and circumstances peculiar to this case, the petitioner makes out a case for release on bail.

The Court held that “the Court is granting bail to the petitioner, subject to strict terms and conditions, which shall be over and above and irrespective of the contents of the form of bail bonds in chapter XXXIII of CrPC, 1973.”[Collins v. State of HP, 2021 SCC OnLine HP 787, decided on 27-04-2021]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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