section 37 NDPS Act

Supreme Court: In a criminal appeal filed against the judgment and order passed by Allahabad High Court allowing the bail application plea and directing for the release of the respondent/accused , the division bench of V. Ramasubramanian and Pankaj Mithal*, J.J, hassuspended the impugned order releasing the accused on bail. In the matter at hand, the police had seized a truck transporting 6 packets and 135 plastic sacks containing 1005 packets of ganja, which weighed about 3971 kg. The two accused, the driver and the helper had already been released on bail. They have identified the accused and indicated that they had connived with him to transport the illicit ganja and were in direct contact with the accused all through, on his mobile number. The statements of the two accused reveal that the accused is the kingpin and the organiser of the ganja trade.

The Court said that the two accused persons are not the main accused but the vicarious agents of the accused, who is the kingpin and mastermind in drug trafficking. Thus, the grant of bail to the two accused- the driver and the helper, is not a good and sufficient reason for granting bail to the accused.

Therefore, it was held that the High Court was not justified in releasing the accused on bail.

The court also noted that the High Court had lost sight of Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (‘NDPS Act’), which itself provides that no person accused of an offence involving commercial quantity shall be released on bail unless the twin conditions laid down therein are satisfied, namely:

(i) the public prosecutor has been given an opportunity to oppose the bail application; and

(ii) the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such an offence and that he is not likely to commit any such offence while on bail”.

Further, the Court after taking note of Section 37 of the NDPS Act, viewed that no person involved in trade of commercial quantity of narcotics is liable to be released on bail, unless there are satisfactory and reasonable grounds for believing that such person is not guilty of the said offence and is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.

The Bench said that the prima facie guilt of the accused was not recorded while granting bail, and the High Court had manifestly erred in enlarging the accused on bail, knowing the quantity of “ganja” recovered is admittedly of commercial quantity.

Thus, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the bail order releasing the accused.

[Union of India v. Ajay Kumar Singh, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 346, decided on: 28-03-2023]

*Judgment authored by: Justice Pankaj Mithal

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