The Supreme Court of India has dismissed an appeal challenging the judgment passed by the Special Court convicting the accused for the offence punishable under Section 21 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, that talk about the Punishment for contravention in relation to manufactured drugs and preparations.
A divisional bench comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah noted, “it has a deadly impact on the society as a whole… the interest of the society as a whole is also required to be taken in consideration.”
In the case, the appellant was found to be in possession of 1 kg heroin which is four times higher than the minimum of the commercial quantity, i.e. 250 gms as per the NDPS Act. The Special Court sentenced the accused to undergo 15 years of imprisonment and also imposed a fine of Rs.2 Lakhs, and to undergo imprisonment for further one year in default of payment of fine.
The Apex Court observed that while imposing the punishment higher than the minimum term of imprisonment or amount of fine, the Court may take into account such factors as it may deem fit and also the factors enumerated in Section 32B of the Act.
The Court relied on the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of “Rafiq Qureshi vs. Narcotic Control Bureau, Eastern Zonal Unit”, (2019) 6 SCC 492 and held that quantity of the substance with which accused is charged is a relevant factor, which can be taken into consideration while fixing the quantum of punishment.
The Court further observed that the submission made on behalf of the accused that the main supplier has not been apprehended/arrested and the appellant is a carrier only cannot be a ground to interfere with the sentence imposed by the Special Court confirmed by the High Court, as the accused was not only found to be in possession of 1 kg heroin but also sold it to the informant.
The Court dismissed the appeal, and while referring to the statement of objects and reasons for enactment of NDPS Act, observed that while striking balance between the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, public interest, and impact on the society as a whole will always be tilted in favour of suitable higher punishment.
The Court said, it should be borne in mind that in a murder case, the accused commits murder of one or two persons, while those persons who are dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing death or in inflicting death blow to number of innocent young victims who are vulnerable; it cause deleterious effects and deadly impact on the society; they are hazard to the society. Organized activities of the underworld and the clandestine smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into this country and illegal trafficking in such drugs and substances shall lay to drug addiction among a sizeable section of the public, particularly the adolescents and students of both sexes and the menace has assumed serious and alarming proportions in the recent years. Therefore, it has a deadly impact on the society as a whole.
The Court further added, “merely because the accused is a poor man and/or a carrier and/or is a sole bread earner cannot be such mitigating circumstances in favour of the accused while awarding the sentence/punishment in the case of NDPS Act.”
Read the judgment here;12408_2020_36_1501_27321_Judgement_06-Apr-2021