Punjab and Haryana HC sets aside 8-yr-old conviction in NDPS case: ‘Evidence inadequate to establish guilt beyond doubt’

Stating that evidence presented by the prosecution is inadequate to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has set aside the eight-year-old conviction in an NDPS case. The appellant was found in possession of 520 grams of intoxicant power which is Dextropropoxyphene and Paracetamol.

The Bench of Justice Arun Monga has passed the order while hearing the appeal of Gurpreet Singh, who was sentenced on February 5, 2015, by the Special Court of Gurdaspur in an FIR registered in 2011. The appellant was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of 10 years.

The amicus curiae, advocate Amit Sharma, contended that the order is unsustainable. He argued that it is an admitted situation that “there is non-compliance of mandatory provision of Section 52-A(2) of the Act. Even the procedural safeguards as mandated under the Act were not followed”.

Sharma submitted that no independent witness joined and the prosecution failed to give any plausible explanation for the same. Also, there was a delay of 12 days in sending the samples to FSL. There is every possibility of tampering with the same.

On hearing the matter, Justice Monga observed that the prosecution has failed to produce complete and reliable chain of evidence so as to obviate the reasonable possibility of the sample having been tampered with or replaced between the time of alleged recovery and its deposit in the office of chemical examiner.

“In the light of gaps in evidence, there is insufficient proof to convincingly establish that the seals on the sample parcels were the original seals affixed at the time of seizure. This becomes a critical issue as proper sealing is essential to maintaining the integrity of evidence. This weakness in the prosecution’s case is very significant factor in favour of the appellant. Evidence presented by the prosecution is thus inadequate to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in this case,” Justice Monga remarked.

The Bench held that the prosecution infirmities are fatal to the case against appellant and the trial court erred in ignoring them while recording a finding of conviction against the appellant.

In fairness to the learned amicus curiae, the Bench said that “it is considered appropriate to notice and deal with his specific contention to the effect, on which he was rather over-emphatic, that the provisions of Section 52-A(2) of the Act have also been violated in the case”.

The appellant, whose sentence was suspended vide order, dated May 27, 2021, is acquitted of charge framed against him. His bail bonds and surety bonds stand discharged. The appellant, if in custody in present case, be set at liberty forthwith, if not required in any other case, the Bench ordered.

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