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Delhi High Court grants bail to foreigner for spending almost entire sentence under NDPS Act

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The Delhi High Court has granted bail to a foreigner, after observing that he has spent almost the entire period of 10 years rigorous imprisonment awarded by a trial court, without his appeal having been heard in a case registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in 2020.

The order was passed by the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh on a petition filed by Nigerian national James Pascal, seeking suspension of sentence awarded by a trial court on June 8, 2020, under Section 21 (c) and Section 29 of the Act.

Section 21(c) provides punishment for contravention of provisions of the Act involving commercial quantity, whereas Section 29 provides punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy.

Observing that this was a classic case where the filing of appeal had been rendered nugatory on account of procedural delays and lack of support to foreigners in getting legal assistance, the High Court ruled that it would be a perversity of justice and rights of the foreign national, if his sentence was not suspended.

As per the High Court, a convict spending nine years and six months in jail without having his appeal being heard, could not be the essence of the country’s judicial system.

The petitioner contended that as per his nominal roll dated January 12, 2021, he had undergone imprisonment for seven years, seven months and 16 days. Since then, another period of one year and eight months had elapsed.

The High Court, after being apprised that the address given by the foreigner was found to be non-existent on verification, observed that the appellant could not be expected to have an address as he was a foreigner and had been in jail for nine years and six months.

Justice Singh granted bail to the foreigner on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 with surety of like amount to the satisfaction of the Jail Superintendent.

The High Court told Pascal to apply for VISA within one week from his release and directed the authorities concerned to consider his application in accordance with law and relevant procedures.

The convict was further directed to appear before the Court as and when required and not to leave the country.

The High Court told the foreigner to deposit his passport with the Jail Superintendent, after finishing the formalities of VISA application.

On March 16, 2020, the Patiala House Court of Special Judge, NDPS Ajay Kumar Jain had sentenced Pascal to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs one lakh. He was directed to undergo simple imprisonment of six months, in case the fine was not paid.

Case title: James Pascal vs Narcotic Control Bureau

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