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Md. Sarfaraz @ Bonu & Anr vs The Union Of India on 9 August, 2019

IN THE HIGH COURT AT CALCUTTA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

Present:
The Hon’ble Justice Joymalya Bagchi
And
The Hon’ble Justice Manojit Mandal

C.R.A. 667 of 2017

Md. Sarfaraz @ Bonu Anr. …..Appellants
-Vs-
The Union of India ….Respondent

With

C.R.A. 384 of 2017

Amirul Rahaman …..Appellants

-Vs-

The Union of India ….Respondent

For the Appellant : Mr. Sandip Chakraborty, Adv.
[in C.R.A. 667 of 2017] Mr. Diptendu Banerjee, Adv.
Ms. Sinthia Bala, Adv.

Amicus Curiae : Ms. Meenal Sinha, Adv.
[in C.R.A. 384 of 2017]

For the State : Mr. Sanjoy Bardhan, Adv.
Ms. Trina Mitra, Adv.

For the Union of India : Ms. Hasi Saha, Adv.
Mr. Amajit De, Adv.

For the DRI : Mr. Kaushik Dey, Adv.
Heard on : 26.02.2019, 06.03.2019, 26.03.2019, 03.04.2019,

17.04.2019, 08.07.2019, 11.07.2019, 15.07.2019,
29.07.2019

Judgment on : 09.08.2019

Joymalya Bagchi, J. :-

Appeals are directed against the judgment and order dated 30.03.2017 and

01.04.2017 passed by the learned Judge, Special Court, NDPS Act, Siliguri in

C.R. (NDPS) Case No. 2 of 2012 convicting the appellants for commission of

offence punishable under Sections 20(b)(ii)(c) read with section 29 of the NDPS

Act and sentencing them to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay

fine of Rs.1,00,000/- in default, to suffer further rigorous imprisonment for six

months each.

The prosecution case as alleged against the appellants is as follows:-

Pursuant to secret information received by DRI, Deputy Director DRI, Siliguri

Regional Unit, that five persons will be carrying narcotic drug (Hashish) coach

no. S-7, berth no. 23, 31 and 39 of Kanchankanya Express officers of DRI of

Siliguri Regional Unit went to New Jalpaiguri Railway Station on 28.01.2012

around 08:00 p.m. to work out the said information. Kanchankanya Express

which was scheduled to arrive at NJP station at 20:15 hours was late by half an

hour on that day. At 20:50 hours the train arrived at platform no. 3 of the said

railway station. Thereupon, DRI officers boarded sleeper coach no. S-7. One Md.

Islam was found occupying berth no. 23 while berth no. 31 was occupied by

Nasim Akhter and Amirul Rahaman and berth no. 39 was occupied by

Kamaluddin and Md. Sarfaraz. They stated that they were travelling together and
had boarded the train to proceed to Kolkata. They produced their e-ticket bearing

PNR No. 6106317529 of 13150 Kanchankanya Express. Out of the five names

printed on the ticket four names tallied with the aforesaid persons whereas the

name mentioned in serial no.4 of the ticket was Md. Nadim but actually

Kamaluddin was found to be travelling in the said seat. On query the aforesaid

persons clarified that the said name had been mistakenly given at the time of

booking and Kamaluddin was travelling in the name of Md. Nadim. The said

persons were directed to produce their luggage. Upon noticing suspicious

circumstances and on preliminary checking of the luggage, the said appellants

were directed to accompany the officers to the DRI office at Pradhan Nagar along

with their luggage. The officers checked the luggage at the DRI office in presence

of independent witnesses. From a trolly luggage bag marked ‘Corallite’, 24

packets wrapped in plastic tapes was recovered. From another luggage bag

marked ‘Cloudragon’, 8 identical packets and 2 packets of cylindrical shape

wrapped with adhesive tapes were recovered. On unwrapping the packets, 48

cakes of blackish material suspected to be Hashish were recovered from the trolly

bag while 12 cakes of similar material suspected to be Hashish were recovered

from the eight packets in other bags. 60 and 59 capsules respectively containing

contraband suspected to be Hashish were recovered from the two cylindrical

packets. Upon weightment, 60 cakes of black sticky material suspected to be

Hashish were found to be 30.440 kgs. Weights of 60 and 59 pieces of capsules

were noted as 580 gms. and 590 gms. Respectively. Contraband suspected to be

Hashish was found from the 119 capsules as per the accused persons. The

contraband articles were seized under a seizure list. In total 100 grams of
representatives samples were drawn from the seized contrabands and sent for

chemical examination. The remaining seized material were kept in an envelope in

the godown of the Siliguri Customs and was subsequently disposed of under the

supervision of the Magistrate under section 52A Cr.P.C. Statements of the

appellants were recorded under section 67 of the NDPS Act where they admitted

their guilt and claimed that they had received Hashish from Kathmandu and

were taking it to Kolkata. Upon receiving of chemical examiner’s report disclosing

that the contraband contained Hashish, complaint was filed against the

appellants.

In conclusion of investigation, charges were framed against the appellants

under Section 20 (b)(ii)(c) read with Section 29 of the NDPS Act.

In the course of trial prosecution examined 12 witnesses and exhibited a

number of documents.

Defence of the appellants was one of innocence and false implication in the

instant case.

In conclusion of trial, the trial Judge by the impugned judgment and order

dated 30.03.2017 and 01.04.2017 convicted and sentenced the appellant, as

aforesaid.

Mr. Sandip Chakraborty, learned Counsel appearing for the appellants in

CRA No. 667 of 2017 argued that the prosecution case has not been proved

beyond doubt. Evidence of the officers of DRI have not been corroborated by

contemporaneous documentary evidence like platform ticket, etc. to show that

they had gone to the railway platform and the appellants boarded with their

luggage at coach no.7 of Kanchankanya Express. The e-ticket has not been
exhibited in the instant case. Name of Kalamuddin does not appear in the e-

ticket which was produced in Court. Fokra Alam, official e-ticket seller, who sold

the e-ticket has not been examined. Rough seizure list has not been exhibited

and P.W. 2 admitted that Ext. 24 cannot be treated as a seizure list with regard

to seizure of contraband. Appellants were in the custody of DRI officers at the

time when they made statements under section 67 NDPS Act. Such statements

are involuntary and inadmissible in law. Independent witnesses (P.W.s 9 and 10)

did not support the prosecution case that they were present along with the DRI

officials at the railway station. They also admitted that they had been witness in

earlier cases. No permission was taken from the Court to send seized materials

for FSL examination and there is variation in the weight of the materials sent and

the articles which were examined in the instant case. Original contraband was

not produced in Court. Finally, it was argued that the examination-in-chief of

P.W.s 3 to 8, 11 and 12 – DRI officers and their associates were adduced by filing

affidavits and were inadmissible in law as their evidence did not fall within the

ambit of section 295/296 Cr.P.C. and therefore could not have been adduced by

filing affidavits.

Nobody appeared for appellant in CRA No. 384 of 2017. Ms. Meenal,

learned Advocate, was requested to assist the Court as amicus curiae. She made

elaborate arguments supporting the submission of Mr. Chakraborty. They

submitted written submission in support of their oral arguments.

On the other hand, Mr. Dey, learned Counsel appearing for the DRI

submitted that the affidavit evidence of the prosecution witnesses were initiated

in terms of the directions of the Apex Court in Thana Singh Vs. Central Bureau of
Narcotics, (2013) 2 SCC 590. No objection was raised on behalf of the defence in

the course of trial. Hence, the appellants cannot raise objection at the appellate

stage in that regard. Evidence of the official witnesses have established the

prosecution case beyond reasonable doubt. Independent witnesses have also

proved their signature on the seizure list and other documents and were present

at the time of recovery of the articles from the luggage belonging to the appellants

at DRI office. E-ticket handed over to P.W. 1 was produced in Court. Non-

examination of railway officials or local passengers do not affect the unfolding of

the prosecution case and the said case cannot be disbelieved on such score. They

submitted written arguments to bolster their written submission. Mr. Bardhan

for the State supported the submissions of Union of India.

An interesting issue has cropped up in the course of hearing of these

appellants. During trial, examination-in-chief of P.W.s 3 to 8, 11 and 12 were

adduced by way of affidavit statutory evidence. Learned Counsel for the

appellants as well as amicus curiae strongly contended that examination-in-chief

of prosecution witnesses cannot be adduced by submitting affidavit evidence.

Such procedure is not envisaged in Code and the directions in Thana Singh

(supra) cannot be interpreted to permit such a course of action. On the contrary,

learned Counsel for the Union of India submitted that the evidence of P.W.s 3 to

8, 11 and 12 fall within the species of ‘official evidence’ referred to in paragraph

12 of the report and since no objection had been taken during trial, the

appellants cannot be permitted to raise objection in this regard at the appellate

stage.

In a criminal trial, fact must be proved in accordance with procedure

established by law. The Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure lay

down the procedure in which evidence is to be led in a criminal trial, subject,

however, to any provision to the contrary in the special law e.g. NDPS Act

applicable which is in the present case.

Section 3 of the Evidence Act defines evidence as follows:-

“Evidence”. – “Evidence” means and includes –

(1) all statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it

by such statements are called oral evidence;

(2) all documents [including electronic records] produced for the inspection of

the court;

such documents are called documentary evidence.

The aforesaid provision creates two categories of evidence, that is, (i) oral

evidence – statement of witnesses made before the Court; and (ii) documentary

evidence including electronic records produced before the Court for its

inspection. Affidavit of a witness with regard to the facts in issue cannot be

treated as a statement of the deponent before the Court. Hence, such affidavit

cannot be treated as ‘evidence’ under section 3 of the Evidence Act unless the law

otherwise permits it. In criminal trials affidavit evidence may be given in terms of

section 295 and 296 thereof which read as follows:-

“295. Affidavit in proof of conduct of public servants. – When any

application is made to any Court in the course of any inquiry, trial or

other proceeding under this Code, and allegations are made therein

respecting any public servants, the applicant may give evidence of the
facts alleged in the application by affidavit, and the Court mnay, if it

thinks fit, order that evidence relating to such facts be s given.

296. Evidence of formal character on affidavit. – (1) The evidence

of any person whose evidence is of a formal character may be given by

affidavit and may, subject to all just exceptions, be read in evidence in

any inquiry, trial or other proceeding under this Code.

(2) The Court may, if it thinks fit, and shall, on the applications of the

prosecution or the accused, summon and examine any such person as to

the facts contained in his affidavit.”

Analysis of the aforesaid sections would show that they operate in

completely different fact situation than the present one. P.W.s 3 to 8, 11 and 12

are officers of DRI who were members of the raiding party and had deposed by

filing affidavit evidence with regard to the facts they saw and did in the course of

the raid. Such evidence is neither in response to any application containing

allegations against a public servant nor is it of a formal character, e.g. witness

producing official records. There is no provision in the NDPS Act also permitting

recording of evidence of members of the raiding party by way of affidavit evidence

unlike section 145 of the Negotiable Instrument Act wherein a complainant may

adduce evidence on behalf of himself and his witnesses by filing affidavits.

Directions in Thana Singh (supra) is to be read in the backdrop of the aforesaid

statutory scheme skill relating to criminal trials. In order to ensure enforcement

of fundamental rights particularly the cluster of rights incorporated in Article 21

which stood frequently violated due to delay and laches in conducting trials
under NDPS Act, the Apex Court in the said report issued various directions and

guidelines under Article 141 read with Article 32 of the Constitution of India.

With regard to examination of witnesses in trials in NDPS case, the Apex Court

directed as follows:-

“11. It would be prudent to return to the erstwhile
method of holding “sessions trials” i.e. conducting
examination and cross-examination of a witness on
consecutive days over a block period of three to four
days. This permits a witness to take the stand after
making one-time arrangements for travel and
accommodation, after which, he is liberated from his
civil duties qua a particular case. Therefore, this Court
directs the courts concerned to adopt the method of
“sessions trials” and assign block dates for examination
of witnesses.”

In view of the difficulty faced by various agencies in procuring attendance

of officers who have been transferred from their parent organizations to different

places, the Apex Court further directed as follows:-

“12. The Narcotics Control Board also pointed out that
since operations for prevention of crimes related to
narcotic drugs and substances demands coordination of
several different agencies viz. Central Bureau of
Narcotics (CBN), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB),
Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Department of
Customs and Central Excise, Stat Law Enforcement
Agency, State Excise Agency to name a few, procuring
attendance of different officers of these agencies
becomes difficult. On the completion of investigation for
instance, investigating officers return to their parent
organizations and are thus, often unavailable as
prosecution witnesses. In the light of the recording of
such official evidence, we direct the courts concernd to
make most of section 293 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973 and save time by taking evidence from
official witnesses in the form of affidavits.”

It has been argued in terms of the aforesaid direction evidence of official

witnesses were recorded in the form of affidavits. On the other hand, it is argued

that the expressions “official evidence” and “official witnesses” in the aforesaid
direction must be restricted to government scientific expert under section 293

Cr.P.C. It is settled law that direction of the Apex Court under Article 141 of the

Constitution is in the nature of an imprimatur and is binding on all courts of the

country. Whether such declaration of law was made without considering

statutory provisions, e.g. section 295/296 Cr.P.C. or not as argued on behalf of

the appellants cannot be a matter of adjudication before this Court. It is settled

law that a decision of the Supreme Court cannot be assailed on the ground that

certain aspects were not considered or the relevant provisions were not brought

to the notice of the Court. (see Director of Settlement, A.P. Vs. M.R. Apparao,

(2002) 4 SCC 638.)

In Suganthi Suresh Kumar Vs. Jagdeeshan, (2002) 2 SCC 420, the Court

held as follows:-

“9. It is impermissible for the High Court to overrule
the decision of the Apex Court on the ground that the
Supreme Court laid down the legal position without
considering any other point. It is not only a matter of
discipline for the High Courts in India, it is the mandate
of the Constitution as provided in Article 141 that the
law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on
all courts within the territory of India. It was pointed
out by this Court in Anil Kumar Neotia v. Union of India
that the High Court cannot question the correctness of
the decision of the Supreme Court even though the point
sought before the High Court was not considered by the
Supreme Court.”

Furthermore, in this case the objection with regard to admissibility of

affidavit evidence has been raised at the appellate stage and not in the course of

trial. As the contents of the affidavits are not inherently inadmissible but their

mode and manner of leading evidence is in question, I am of the opinion that the

objection thereto must have been raised at the earliest and not at the appellate
stage. In this regard, reference may be made to the ratio of the Apex Court

relating to objection vis-à-vis proof of electronic evidence sans certification under

section 65B of the Evidence Act. The Apex Court in Sonu v. State of Haryana,

(2017) 8 SCC 570 held as follows:-

“32. …Admissibility of a document which is
inherently inadmissible is an issue which can be taken
up at the appellate stage because it is a fundamental
issue. The mode or method of proof is procedural and
objections, if not taken at the trial, cannot be permitted
at the appellate stage. If the objections to the mode of
proof are permitted to be taken at the appellate stage by
a party, the other side does not have an opportunity of
rectifying the deficiencies.”

Hence, I am of the opinion that the objection raised with regard to the

examination-in-chief of P.W.s 3 to 8, 11 and 12 recorded by way of affidavit

cannot be permitted to be raised at the appellate stage. However, in future cases

the aforesaid direction given by the Apex Court in Thana Singh (supra) may be

considered in the light of advancement in technology particularly availability of

video conferencing facilities for recording evidence in criminal cases. Concern

expressed in Thana Singh (supra) with regard to delay in examination of official

witnesses, due to transfer from parent organization to different places may be

effectively addressed if the said witnesses are permitted to record their evidence

via electronic/video linkage available in the district court complex nearest to his

present place of posting. In State of Maharashtra Vs. Dr Praful B. Desai, (2003) 4

SCC 601 and Sujoy Mitra Vs. State of W.B., (2015) 16 SCC 615, the Apex Court

held that examination of a witness via video conference is permissible in law. In

Sujoy Mitra (supra), the Apex Court permitted examination of a foreign national

via video conference by adopting the following procedure:-

“3.1. The State of West Bengal shall make
provision for recording the testimony of PW 5 in the trial
court by seeking the services of the National Informatics
Centre (NIC) for installing the appropriate equipment for
video conferencing, by using “VC Solution” software, to
facilitate video conferencing in the case. This provision
shall be made by the State of West Bengal in a room to
be identified by the Sessions Judge concerned, within
four weeks from today. The NIC will ensure, that the
equipment installed in the premises of the trial court, is
compatible with the video conferencing facilities at the
Indian Embassy in Ireland at Dublin.

3.2. Before recording the statement of the
prosecutrix, PW 5, the Embassy shall nominate a
responsible officer, in whose presence the statement is to
be recorded. The said officer shall remain present at all
times from the beginning to the end of each session, of
the recording of the said testimony.

3.3. The officer deputed to have the statement
recorded shall also ensure that there is no other person
besides the witness concerned, in the room, in which the
testimony of PW 5 is to be recorded. In case, the witness
is in possession of any material or documents, the same
shall be taken over by the officer concerned in his
personal custody.

3.4. The statement of witness will then be recorded.

The witness shall be permitted to rely upon the material
and documents in the custody of the officer concerned,
or to tender the same in evidence, only with the express
permission of the trial court.

3.5. The officer concerned will affirm to the trial
court, before the commencement of the recording of the
statement, the fact, that no other person is present in
the room where evidence is recorded, and further, that
all material and documents in possession of the
prosecutrix, PW 5 (if any) were taken by him in his
custody before the statement was recorded. He shall
further affirm to the trial court, at the culmination of
the testimony, that no other person had entered the
room, during the course of recording of the statement of
the witness, till the conclusion thereof. The learned
counsel for the accused shall assist the trial court, to
ensure, that the above procedure is adopted, by placing
reliance on the instant order.

3.6. The statement of the witness shall be recorded
by the trial court, in consonance with the provisions of
Section 278 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. At the
culmination of the recording of the statement, the same
shall be read out to the witness in the presence of the
accused (if in attendance, or to his pleader). If the
witness denies the correctness of any part of the
evidence, when the same is read over to her, the trial
court may make the necessary correction, or
alternatively, may record a memorandum thereon, to the
objection made to the recorded statement by the witness,
and in addition thereto, record his own remarks, if
necessary.

3.7. The transcript of the statement of the witness
recorded through video conferencing (as corrected, if
necessary), in consonance with the provisions of
Section 278 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, shall
be scanned and dispatched through email to the
embassy. At the embassy, the witness will
authenticate the same in consonance with law. The
aforesaid authenticated statement shall be endorsed
by the officer deputed by the embassy. It shall be
scanned and returned to the trial court through
email. The statement signed by the witness at the
embassy, shall be retained in its custody in a sealed
cover.

3.8. The statement received by the trial court
through email shall be re-endorsed by the trial
Judge. The instant statement endorsed by the trial
Judge, shall constitute the testimony of the
prosecutrix, PW 5, for all intents and purposes.”

Although the aforesaid case related to a witness in a foreign country, the

procedure laid down in the aforesaid decision may be utilized while examining

official witnesses in narcotic cases subject to the modification that the official

witness may depose via video conferencing facility from the district court complex

nearest to his place of posting under the supervision of a responsible officer (e.g.

Registrar of the said court) so authorized in that regard by the concerned District

Judge. Procedure of recording evidence of witness in far off places via video

conference in Sujoy Mitra (supra) were laid down by the Apex Court subsequent

to Thana Singh (supra) and the ratio contained therein may be gainfully utilized

for recording evidence of official witnesses who have been transferred to a distant

place and their physical attendance in court cannot be promptly procured. In
fact, examination of official witnesses via video conference has two-fold

advantages over affidavit evidence. Firstly, when examination-in-chief of a

witness is recorded by filing affidavit evidence the witness is not absolved from

being physically present in Court as he has to prove the affidavit and offer

himself for cross-examination and the wholesome object of saving time by

avoiding travel of official witnesses from their place of posting to the trial Court is

defeated. On the other hand, if evidence of the said witness is recorded via

electronic/video linkage, he need not be physically present in the court premises

and thereby the purpose of quick trial would be better served. Secondly,

recording of evidence of witnesses via video linkage is better suited to the concept

of fair trial than affidavit evidence. If a witness is examined via electronic/video

linkage, his demeanour may be watched by the Court enabling it to form an

opinion with regard to his creditworthiness. Similarly, it helps the accused to

formulate his defence and pose appropriate questions in cross to test the veracity

of his deposition. Demeanour of a witness cannot be assessed if his chief is

recorded through affidavit evidence. One cannot lose sight of the fact that

criminal cases, unlike civil cases, are primarily based on oral evidence of

witnesses of fact where demeanour and conduct of the witness during his

examination-in-chief play a very vital role in assessing his truthfulness.

Technological progress in recording evidence via electronic/video linkage is

a boon and ought to effectively utilized to improve the quality of dispensation of

justice by reducing the time taken for conducting trials in narcotic cases

involving official witnesses who are posted at far off places and whose attendance

in Court cannot be promptly ensured. Special courts conducting such trial
(particularly where under trials are in jail) are directed to avail of electronic/video

linkage facilities and examine official witnesses whose attendance cannot be

procured without delay, undue expenses and/or other inconveniences so that the

fundamental right of speedy and fair trial is effectively enforced and does not

become a dead letter of law.

Coming to the evidence on record, I note P.W.s 1, 2, 5, 11 and 12 are

members of the raiding party. All of them deposed P.W. 11 had received prior

information that five persons would board Kanchankanya Express with Hashish

at New Jalpaiguri Railway Station on 28.01.2012. Pursuant to such intelligence,

under the leadership of P.W. 11, they went to the railway station. On arrival of

the train they boarded coach no. S-7 and identified occupants of berth no. 23, 31

and 39, that is, the appellants herein. The appellants identified their luggage. On

preliminary examination of their luggage, it was suspected that they were

carrying contraband. The appellants were directed to accompany the members of

the raiding party with their luggage to their office. At the office, their bags were

opened and contraband articles were recovered. Articles were seized and

representatives samples were taken therefrom. Statements of the appellants were

recorded under section 67 of the NDPS Act and thereafter they were arrested.

Samples were sent for chemical examination and the chemical examiner’s report

confirmed that the contraband contained Hashish.

P.W.s 6 and 7 were drivers of the vehicles in which the raiding party went

to the railway station.

P.W. 8 was one of an associate of the drivers.

P.W.s 9 and 10 are independent witnesses to seizure of narcotics from the

luggage of the appellants at DRI office.

The evidence of the official witnesses have been criticised on the ground

that contemporaneous document like platform tickets have not been exhibited.

Neither railway official nor any passenger of the said train was examined to

support the evidence of the prosecution case. Even P.W. 9 and 10 did not admit

their presence at the railway station wherefrom the appellants along with their

luggage was brought to DRI office. E-ticket produced by the appellants has also

not been proved in accordance with law. Fokra Alam, e-ticket seller has also not

been examined.

I have given anxious consideration to the aforesaid submission on behalf of

the defence. It is a trite law if official witnesses are clear and convincing, mere

lack of corroboration from independent witnesses cannot be a ground to reject

their evidence. [Ref. Sumit Tomar Vs. State of Punjab, (2013) 1 SCC 395,

Kulwinder Singh Vs. State of Pubjab, (2015) 6 SCC 674, Baldev Singh Vs. State of

Haryana, (2015) 17 SCC 554, Varinder Kumar Vs. State of Himachal Pradesh,

2019 SAR (Criminal) 245]

It is the quality and not quantity of evidence which is relevant to prove a

fact. Narration of the incident as coming from the mouths of the members of the

raiding party particularly P.W. 1 and 2 establish beyond doubt that the DRI

officials on the fateful day went to the railway station and upon boarding the

train had identified the appellants with their luggage. Upon preliminary

examination it appeared the appellants were carrying contraband. Thereupon

they were asked to accompany the officials to their office. Evidence has also come
record that the appellants handed over an e-ticket, on which name of

Kamaluddin was incorrectly stated as Md. Nadim, which was subsequently

seized. These facts have remained unshaken in cross-examination and the fact

that the appellants upon being confronted by the DRI officials in their version

had accompanied them with the luggage to their office is established beyond

doubt. When the evidence of the official witnesses appear to be clear and

convincing, non-production of the platform ticket or non-examination of RPF

officials including the ticket seller, in my considered opinion, does not render the

prosecution case improbable.

It has also been argued that the independent witnesses P.W. 9 and 10 have

not supported the prosecution case. In this regard reliance has been placed on

Naresh Kumar Vs. State of H.P., (2017) 15 SCC 684 and Gorakh Nath Prasad Vs.

State of Bihar, (2018) 2 SCC 305. It has also been submitted that P.W. 9 had

deposed earlier in DRI cases. I have examined the evidence of P.W. 9 and 10 from

that perspective. Although P.W. 1 and 2 deposed the said witnesses had

accompanied them to the platform where the appellants were identified with their

luggage and requested to accompany the DRI officials to their office. P.W. 9 and

10 claimed that they came to the DRI office and found appellants present there

along with their luggage. P.W. 9 stated DRI officials had told him that there were

capsules in the luggage belonging to the appellants. He, thereafter, signed on

inventory-cum-seizure list (Ext. 24) and Panchnama (Ext. 25). He also recorded

the statements of appellant Nasim Akhtar and Kamaluddin marked as exhibit 5

and 9 respectively. Similarly, P.W. 10 came to the DRI office and found that there

were packets on the table which he heard were Hashish. Although he could not
identify the accused persons by face, he stated five persons were arrested and

admitted his signature on the inventory-cum-seizure list, Panchnama and other

documents.

From the evidence of the aforesaid witnesses it appears that they have not

wholly disowned the prosecution case. Although they did not support the

evidence of official statement with regard to their presence at the platform but

one of them, that is, P.W. 9 claimed that the appellants were present along with

their luggage when he arrived at the DRI office and the officials informed him

that there was Hashish in their luggage. Accordingly, he put his signature on the

inventory-cum-seizure list and Panchnama. He also recorded the statements of

two of the appellants in Hindi. P.W. 10 claimed when he arrived at the DRI office

there were packets on the table and the officials said they contained Hashish.

Four persons were arrested and he admitted his signature on the seizure list. The

evidence of the aforesaid witnesses taken as a whole do not render the

prosecution case improbable. On the other hand, evidence of P.W.9, independent

witness lends credence to the presence of the appellants along with their luggage

at the DRI office and recovery of articles which was said to be Hashish. Soon

thereafter, voluntary statements of Kalamuddin were recorded by the said

witness strongly probabilising his presence at the DRI office at the time of

recovery. In these circumstances, I am of the opinion the prosecution case is

corroborated with regard to the recovery of narcotic substance from the luggage

of the appellants in their presence at the DRI office by the independent witnesses

particularly P.W.9. In this factual backdrop the authorities relied on by the

defence are clearly distinguishable. In Naresh Kumar @ Nitu Vs. State of
Himachal Pradesh, (2017) 15 SCC 684, the independent witness P.W. 2 wholly

denied the presence of the appellant at the place of occurrence and the

circumstances of the case showed that presence of appellant at the spot was an

impossibility. In Gorakh Nath Prasad Vs. State of Bihar, (2018) 2 SCC 305, P.W. 2

and 3 denied recovery and claimed their signatures were obtained in blank

papers.

As discussed above in the present case independent witnesses, particularly

P.W. 9 admitted with regard to the presence of the appellants along with their

luggage at the DRI office and the officials informed him narcotic substance were

recovered from such luggage. Thereupon P.W.9 signed on inventory and seizure

memo and other documents. He also recorded voluntary statements of Naskar

and Kalamuddin. It has been contended that P.W. 9 was a stock witness as he

had deposed in other cases. However, prosecution has not been able to show

P.W. 9 had any enmity with the appellants or was under any obligation to the

DRI officers to support their case. On the other hand, when his evidence is read

as a whole it does not appear that he deposed as per dictates of the DRI officers.

Merely because a witness has deposed in other cases on behalf of the police his

evidence cannot be rejected on such score alone. [see Nana Keshav Lagad Vs.

State of Maharashtra, (2013) 12 SCC 721, Para 26, Mahesh Janardhan Gonnade

Vs. State of Maharashtra, 2008 Cri.L.J. 3602, Para 45].

It has been argued that the seizure list has not been exhibited in the

instant case. From the evidence on record it appears that the contraband articles

were recovered from the luggage of the appellants at the DRI office. At the time

seizure list was prepared by P.W.2 (Ext. 24). He also prepared a panchnama (Ext.

25). P.W.2 deposed initially he prepared a rough seizure list and thereafter a

typed seizure list (Ext. 24) was prepared by him. Ext. 24 bears signatures of the

accused persons and public witnesses and appears to have been

contemporaneously prepared at the time of seizure. In the backdrop of the

aforesaid fact I am of the opinion that Ext. 24, namely, the inventory-cum-seizure

list is a contemporaneous record with regard to the recovery of the articles from

the luggage of the appellants and the defence cannot cast doubt with regard to its

authenticity on the score of non-production of rough notings of P.W.2 which he

has described as rough seizure list.

It has also been argued as the appellants were in custody of DRI

officials when their statements recorded under section 67 of the NDPS Act,

accordingly such statements are involuntary and inadmissible in Court.

Reference has been made to Noor Aga Vs. State of Punjab, (2008) 16 SCC 417 and

Union of India Vs. Bal Mukund, (2009) 12 SCC 161. It is further argued that in

Tofan Singh Vs. State of T.N., (2013) 16 SCC 31, the issue whether statement

recorded under section 67 NDPS is substantive evidence and can be the sole

basis of conviction has been referred to a larger bench. It appears from the

evidence of the official witnesses that the appellants had not been arrested prior

to the recording of their statements under section 67 of NDPS. In fact, statements

of two of the appellants, namely Naism Akhtar Kamaluddin were recorded by

an independent witness (P.W.9) in Hindi. The appellants have not retracted their

statements under section 67 of the NDPS Act at any point of time. Hence, the

facts of the instant case are distinguishable from Noor Aga (supra) and Bal

Mukund (Supra) where the confessional statements had been retracted.
Furthermore, there is direct evidence with regard to recovery of narcotic

substance from the luggage of the appellants. Under such circumstances, the

voluntary statements of the appellants recorded under section 67 of NDPS Act

can be used as corroborative evidence to bolster the prosecution case. Reference

in this regard may be made to Daulat Ram Vs. Crime Branch (Narcotics)

Mandsaur, (2011) 15 SCC 176, wherein evidence of official witnesses relating

recovery of narcotics corroborated by the statement of accused under section 67

of NDPS was the basis of conviction.

Chain of custody of the seized contraband and the representative samples

taken therefrom for chemical examination have been proved. P.W.11 sent the

representative samples for chemical examination under cover of letter (Ext.

16/16/1). Chemical examiner’s report showing that the samples contain Charas

was exhibited as Ext. 17. Variation in weight of the representative samples in the

test report and as noted in panchnama are minor and of little relevance as

signatures and seals on the envelopes containing the samples were found intact.

Remainder of the contraband was kept in Siliguri Customs Godown and

destroyed with permission of the Court in terms of section 52 NDPS Act. Hence,

non-production of seized contraband in court cannot be a ground to reject the

prosecution case.

Accordingly, I uphold the conviction and sentence recorded against the

appellants.

The appeals are, accordingly, dismissed.

The period of detention suffered by appellants during investigation, inquiry

or trial shall be set off under Section 428 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

I record my appreciation for the able assistance rendered to this Court by

Ms. Meenal Sinha as amicus curiae for disposing the appeal.

Copy of the judgment along with L.C.R. be sent down to the trial court at

once.

Urgent Photostat Certified copy of this order, if applied for, be supplied

expeditiously after complying with all necessary legal formalities.

I agree.

(Manojit Mandal, J.) (Joymalya Bagchi, J.)

PA

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