Provisions of S. 37 of the NDPS Act shall not apply to an unaware service courier driver; Gauhati High Court explains

Gauhati High Court

Gauhati High Court: While granting bail to the applicant herein, under Section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for a case registered under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, Ajit Borthakur, J. held that the provisions of Section 37 of the NDPS Act shall not be applicable if the service courier driver is unaware of what is being transported by him.

Background of the case

The applicant was employed as a truck driver by VRS Logistics Ltd, the largest fleet owner of commercial vehicles in India. As per the applicant’s duty sheet and roaster plan assigned by his employer , he was assigned to drive the truck from the transshipment point of the company at Gorchuk in Guwahati to Agartala. The goods loaded in the truck consisted of a consignment of 10 cartons of mouth wash which was for a medical agency at Varanasi.

During a police interception at Churaibari Watch Post, National Highway 08, 13 cartons of 4000 Escuf Syrup bottles and 10 boxes of Phensedyl containing 3000 bottles of Phensedyl Cough Syrup were recovered from the consignment trucks driven by the applicant and his co-accused.

Therefore, the applicant and the co-accused were accused of offences under Sections 22(c), 25, and 29 of the NDPS Act.

Submissions before the court

The applicant submitted that he was merely discharging his duty and had no knowledge about the transportation of 10 cartons containing 3000 bottles of codeine phosphate-based Escuf Cough Syrup along with other shipment items. Further, it was submitted that the seized cough syrup contained 6,00000/- mg. or 0.6 k.g or 600 gms. of codeine phosphate, which was less than the commercial quantity and therefore, the rigors of Section 37(1) of the NDPS Act are not applicable.

The respondent submitted that 13 cartons of 4000 Escuf Syrup bottles and 10 boxes of Phensedyl containing 3000 bottles of Phensedyl Cough Syrup were recovered from the trucks driven by the applicant and the co-accused. Therefore, the seizure of codeine phosphate-based cough syrup in total amounts to a commercial quantity under the NDPS Act. Hence, the respondents submitted that without the completion of the investigation, the prayer for bail should not be considered.

Analysis and Decision

Firstly, the Court noted that the applicant is the driver of a truck of VRL Logistics and he had to deliver the consignments of various goods loaded by the said company to the consignee. Secondly, after a thorough investigation, the investigating officer noted that the seized cartons bore the seal and pack of VRL Logistic Company, which were loaded for transportation on the truck driven by the applicant for delivery.

Therefore, the Court concluded that the allegation of the investigating officer that narcotic suppliers/peddlers misused the ‘vehicles of VRL Logistics to fulfill their malicious intent’, which was just carried by the applicant is subject to final outcome of the investigation. Hence, the Court granted bail to the applicant, holding that the knowledge and intention play a significant role in determining the liability of an accused. Since the facts of the case could not establish the knowledge regarding the substance delivered by the applicant , the the Court held that the rigor of Section 37 of the NDPS Act was not attracted.

[Lorik Ram v. State of Assam, 2022 SCC OnLine Gau 975, decided on 27-05-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. S Mitra, Advocate, for the Applicant;

R J Baruah, Public Prosecutor, for the Respondent.

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