Read Order: Reshwanth Reddy vs. Circle Inspector of Excise

LE Staff

Kochi, August 6, 2021: The Kerala High Court has quashed a case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act against three engineers employed at the Cochin International Airport, after it found that they were falsely implicated by erring excise officers.

The High Court also issued a show cause notice to the Assistant Excise Commissioner (Enforcement), Sasikumar T.S., though he has already retired from service, asking why contempt of court proceedings shall not be initiated against him for acting in contravention of the direction of the Court. 

A Bench of Justice K Haripal, exercising the powers u/s 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and based on an enquiry conducted into the matter, quashed the case against the petitioners who were charged for possession of marijuana.

Justice Haripal observed that the High Court had specifically directed not to lay the final report, which was duly communicated to the Assistant Excise Commissioner who was the Investigating Officer, and that he can complete the investigation but shall not lay the charge sheet. 

However, ignoring the same he had filed the charge sheet against the petitioners, which was a clear violation of the direction of the Court and it was an act tending to interfere with the due course of justice, observed the Bench. 

The High Court clarified that it would be a travesty to hold that proceedings initiated against a person can be interfered with at the stage of FIR, but not if it has advanced and allegations have materialized into a charge sheet.

Case Details

The sequence of events showed that the petitioners who were Assistant Aviation Officers at Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), were alleged to have possessed 13 grams of marijuana, a banned substance, by the Excise Inspector while they were standing in front of the SR Ladies Hostel and Canteen on the Nedumbassery-Vappalassery road. Accordingly they were arrested but later on granted bail. 

The case of the petitioners was that they were totally innocent and it was a fabricated and false case, hitherto fueling and defueling were done by BPCL staff with the assistance of contract drivers appointed by the BSSPL for driving the dispenser from the BPCL station to the aircraft. 

It was pleaded that pursuant to the termination of those contract drivers by the Airport Authority of India, the BPCL staff took up the matter with their union and at the instance of the said union, a false case was registered against the petitioners. 

The Additional Excise Commissioner (Enforcement) also filed a report before the Excise Commissioner completely endorsing the version of the petitioners that it was a false case and thus he made recommendations for dropping the criminal proceedings and to initiate action against Excise officials who had erred. 

On that basis the petitioners moved the High Court u/s 482 of the CrPC.

It was pleaded by the Public Prosecutor that in violation of the direction given by the High Court, the Assistant Excise Commissioner had laid a charge sheet against the petitioners before the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Angamaly. 

What the High Court said

After going through the records and contentions, the High Court said that negating its directions, the Assistant Commissioner has ventured to file the charge sheet even when the report was very clear about the falsity of the crime registered against the petitioners. 

“It is very unfortunate that three young officials, who had come to Nedumbassery in search of job, were implicated in false cases. They are young Engineers; involving in such a false prosecution their marriage prospects have been affected; at least for two days they were in custody. The agony and trauma suffered by them are immeasurable; the damage caused to their families cannot be compensated in any manner,” observed the Bench. 

Referring to the decision of Supreme Court in Anand Kumar Mohatta and another vs. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi, Department of Home) and another, Justice Haripal opined that the High Court can exercise jurisdiction u/s 482 of the Cr.P.C. even when charge sheet is pending with the trial court. 

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