Read Order: Rajneesh Gill v. Union of India
Chandigarh, April 23, 2022: While opining that the custodial interrogation of the petitioner would be necessary to lay a hold on the international drug cartel gang and their operational nexus, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has denied the concession of pre-arrest bail to the petitioner who was apprehended by NCB, Chandigarh for operating international drug trade with the main accused from whose possession commercial quantity contraband was recovered and on whose disclosure statement petitioner was implicated as an accused.
The fact the petitioner was also declared as a proclaimed offender in respect of another case registered by NCB, Delhi, was also considered by Bench of Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj.
The instant petition was filed under Section 438 Cr.P.C. praying for grant of pre-arrest bail to the petitioner in case FIR registered under Sections 8/9-A/20/21/23/25-A/29/60 of the NDPS Act, 1985 at Police Station Narcotics Control Bureau, Zonal Unit Sector 25(W), Chandigarh.
The brief facts of the case are that the Intelligence Officer, Narcotics Control Bureau, Chandigarh filed a complaint pointing out that on September 09, 2019, a piece of secret information was received to the effect that one Akshinder Singh Sodhi (resident of Jalandhar Punjab) was holding substantive quantity of cocaine at his house and if surveillance was maintained and the house was searched, the same could result in a good seizure of the contraband.
The said secret information was produced in writing and placed before the Superintendent of Narcotics Control Bureau and thereafter, constituted a team to take necessary action as per law and also accompanied the team to supervise the seizure procedure. The NCB team (accompanied with a team of local police) raided the house and searched it in the presence of independent witnesses who witnessed the proceedings of the Panchnama. The total recovery effected from the house of the accused was 115 grams of Cocaine, 13 grams of Ephedrine and 80 grams of Hashish oil.
All pouches were marked and the contents thereof were taken in possession since no field testing kit for the contents of the said capsules was available in the field drug detection kit.
The accused came in a vehicle with the NCB Sub Zone Amritsar at his residence where he was made aware of the recovery affected in the presence of the independent witnesses. The said witnesses admitted that the contraband mentioned in the Panchnama belonged to him and identified the bag in which he had kept the contraband. He also acknowledged about the seized Hashish oil from the top of the wooden shelf along with various other material that was recovered.
The accused made a disclosure statement that he purchased Cocaine from one Laddi of Tarn Taran and also from Rajneesh Gill (petitioner herein) with whom he smuggled and used to sell the contraband to locals.
The Counsel for the petitioner argued that the name of the petitioner figured in the disclosure statement made by Akshinder Singh Sodhi (accused) from whose possession recovery of the contraband was effected. In respect of the contraband recovered, the Counsel submitted that the recovery of 115 grams of Cocaine (from main accused) was marginally more than the non-commercial quantity, while 80 grams of Hashish oil would constitute a small quantity and Ephedrine would not fall under the ambit of NDPS Act as the same is not mentioned in the Schedule attached to the Act.
It was also vehemently argued that pursuant to the induction of the petitioner as an accused, his house as well as shop were searched by the NCB, but no incriminating substance was detected or recovered and only photocopies of his own Pan Card, Aadhar Card and driving license were taken into custody. Thus, it was argued that the onus to prove the allegations was on the NCB and that pursuant to notice issued by the NCB, the petitioner also joined the investigation, but the NCB could not find any incriminating evidence against him.
The NCB essentially pointed out that the petitioner was a habitual offender and he concealed the facts that one more case under the NDPS Act was registered against him by the NCB Delhi and that he was declared as a proclaimed offender. It was further submitted that the other co-accused were still absconding and commercial quantities of the narcotic drugs were recovered by the NCB.
With the help of mails and phone calls exchanged between the accused persons and other evidence, NCB tried to allege that Akshinder Singh Sodhi as well as the petitioner were partners in an international drug and that the petitioner actively facilitated preparation of documentation and securing false IDs in furthering this trade.
Hence, the NCB opposed the petition vehemently and submitted that considering the antecedents of the petitioner as well as his being declared as a proclaimed offender in a case registered at NCB Delhi, there was every likelihood of the petitioner engaging in the said trade if granted the concession of anticipatory bail. Hence, bar under Section 37 of the NDPS Act shall operate, contended the Counsel. Besides, it was also contended that the custodial interrogation of the petitioner was required in order to unearth the entire nexus and to burst the said trade racket.
The Counsel for the petitioner placed reliance on State by (NCB) Bengaluru Versus Pallulabid Ahmad Arimutta and Another in Criminal Appeal No.242/2022 to argue that the confessional statement recorded under Section 67 of the NDPS Act will remain inadmissible in trial of an offence and as such there is no basis to place reliance on the said statement for the purposes of denial of the pre-arrest bail to the petitioner.
Addressing this argument at the very outset, the Court distinguished the above stated case from the facts of the present case.
Moving on the other factual aspects of this case, the Court observed, considering the fact that the petitioner was a proclaimed offender in another case registered by the NCB Delhi; the circumstantial as well as the evidence collected by the investigating agency reflecting upon the petitioner’s complacency with the accused Akshinder Singh Sodh; proof of continuous communication of the petitioner with Akshinder Singh Sodhi during the time of movement of the contraband as well as the mandate of Section 37 of the NDPS Act, that there was no convincing and cogent reason for extending the concession of pre-arrest bail to the petitioner.
Further, the Court opined that there were no compelling circumstances suggesting false implication of the petitioner or creating strong suspicion against the prosecution case set-up against the petitioner. Besides, it was observed that there were no such special circumstances brought on record as would give reasonable cause to the Court to believe that the petitioner was not involved in the commission of the offence.
Thus, given the manner in which the offence was made and the scale of operation, the Court opined that the custodial interrogation of the petitioner was necessary to lay hold on the international drug cartel gang and their operational nexus.