Read Order: UNION OF INDIA THRO AMITKUMAR, INTELLIGENCE OFFICER OR HIS SUCCESSOR IN OFFICE Versus STATE OF GUJARAT

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, March 29, 2022: The Gujarat High Court has refused to interfere with the order passed by the Trial Court acquitting the wife of the accused person charged for offences under NDPS Act on finding that she had no prior knowledge about her husband carrying any contraband substance. 

A Division Bench of Justice S.H Vora and Justice Sandeep N. Bhatt observed that in an acquittal appeal if other view is possible, then also, the appellate Court cannot substitute its own view by reversing the acquittal into conviction, unless the findings of the trial Court are perverse, contrary to the material on record, palpably wrong, manifestly erroneous or demonstrably unsustainable.

The observation came pursuant to an application by the original complainant (Union of India through Narcotics Control Bureau) challenging an order whereby the trial Court acquitted the original accused (second respondent – Ruksanabanu wife of Shaikh Mohammad Rafik) for the offences punishable u/s 8(c), 20(b) and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act). 

Going by the background of the case, all the original three accused committed the offence punishable u/s 8(c), 20(b) and 29 of the NDPS Act. When the third accused was searched, he was found with contraband Charas weighing 7.79 Kg from the bag held by him. Accordingly, all the three accused were intercepted by the complainant. 

It was the case of complainant that the third accused, Imtekhab Rafikbhai Rangrej, was in possession of the bag and refused to provide its key and therefore the lock of the bag was forced open and the quantum of Charas was found therein. During trial, the first & third accused were found guilty for the offence punishable u/s NDPS Act; whereas the second respondent was given benefit of doubt. 

After considering the submissions, the High Court found that testimony of the Intelligence Officer, serving with NCB Office, Ahmedabad, established that the third accused was found with contraband Charas contained in a bag he held. 

It was noticed that first & second accused did not hold the bag and neither anything incriminating was found from their person, and on scrutiny of evidence, the trial Judge found that second respondent was merely a companion of her husband i.e., first accused and she was not an accomplice in the crime, added the Court.

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Vora observed that the moment the person has intention or knowledge of the fact, he or she would be said to have culpable intention, and thus, the trial Judge on appraisal of entire evidence observed that no doubt of a reasonable degree could be entertained that second respondent had real knowledge of the nature of the substance locked in the bag and key in possession of the third accused. 

The submissions based on confessional statement of respondent No.2 so as to implicate her in offence which needs not to be taken any further in light of a decision rendered in case of Tofan Singh VS State of Tamil Nadu [(2014 1 Crimes(SC) 42], because the confessional statement is recorded when respondent No.2 was in custody and therefore, it being the weak piece of evidence and in absence of any corroborative evidence, no reliance can be placed upon such statement and thus the trial Judge has rightly done so”, added the Bench. 

Accordingly, the High Court concluded that the trial Judge had rightly acquitted the second respondent and endorsed such finding of the trial Judge leading to the acquittal of the second respondent. 

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