NDPS CASES ; ADJOURNMENTS - DIRECTIONS OF SC

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1640 OF 2010

THANA SINGH                             —                               APPELLANT

VERSUS

CENTRAL BUREAU OF NARCOTICS             —         RESPONDENT

 

O R D E R

1. This order, and its accompanying directions, are an outcome of  the  bail    matter in Thana Singh Vs. Central Bureau of Narcotics listed before  this  bench, wherein an accused, who had been languishing in  prison  for  more  than twelve years, awaiting the commencement of his trial for an  offence   under  the  Narcotics  Drugs  and  Psychotropic  Substances   Act,   1985   (hereinafter referred to as the  “NDPS  Act”),  was  consistently  denied   bail, even by the High Court. Significantly, the maximum  punishment  for   the offence the accused was incarcerated for, is twenty years; hence, the  undertrial had remained in detention for a period exceeding  one-half  of the maximum period of imprisonment.  An  express  pronouncement  of  this   Court in the case of  Supreme  Court  Legal  Aid  Committee  Representing   Undertrial Prisoners Vs. Union of India & Ors.[1], which held that “where  the undertrial accused is  charged  with  an  offence(s)  under  the  Act   punishable with minimum imprisonment of ten years and a minimum  fine  of  rupees one lakh, such an undertrial shall be released on bail if  he  has  been in jail for not less than five years provided he furnishes  bail  in   the sum of rupees one lakh with two sureties  for  like  amount”,  finds   constrained applicability in respect of cases  under  the  NDPS  Act,  in  light of Section 37 of the Act. Therefore, this Court in  Achint Navinbhai  Patel Vs.  State  of  Gujarat  &  Anr.[2]  observed  that  “it  has  been repeatedly stressed that NDPS cases should be tried as early as  possible    because in such cases normally accused are not released on bail.”

 

2. We  are  reminded  of  Justice  Felix  Frankfurter’s  immortal  words  in  Antonio  Richard  Rochin  Vs.  People  of  the  State  of  California[3],  coincidentally a case pertaining to narcotics, wherein he described  some   types of conduct by state agents, although not specifically prohibited by   explicit  language  in  the  Constitution,  as  those  that  "shock   the  conscience" in that they offend "those canons  of  decency  and  fairness   which express the notions of justice." Due process of  law  requires  the  state to observe those principles that are "so rooted in  the  traditions  and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental." The general  state of affairs pertaining to trials of  offences  under  the  NDPS  Act   deserves a similar description.

 

3. The laxity with which we throw citizens into prison reflects our lack  of    appreciation for the tribulations of incarceration; the callousness  with  which we leave them there reflects our lack of deference for humanity. It  also reflects our imprudence when  our  prisons  are  bursting  at  their   seams. For the prisoner himself, imprisonment for the purposes  of  trial  is as ignoble as imprisonment on conviction for  an  offence,  since  the  damning finger and opprobrious eyes of society draw no difference between  the two. The plight of the undertrial seems  to  gain  focus  only  on  a  solicitous inquiry by this Court, and soon after, quickly fades into  the  backdrop.

 

4. Therefore, bearing in mind the aforesaid imperatives, after granting  the    deserved bail in that case, we decided to take cognizance of  status  quo  and gain a first-hand account about the state  of  trials  in  such  like   cases  pending  in  all  the  states.  Accordingly,  vide   order   dated  30.08.2010,  we  issued  notice  to  all  states  through   their   Chief  Secretaries to file affidavits furnishing information of all cases  under  the NDPS Act where the undertrial has  been  incarcerated  for  a  period  exceeding five years. In pursuance of the same, we received the  valuable  assistance of the Additional  Solicitor  General  of  India,  Mr.  P.  P. Malhotra, learned amicus curiae, Ms.  Anita  Shenoy;  Mr.  R.  K.  Gauba,   District and Sessions Judge (South), Saket, New Delhi; Registrar Generals  of High Courts; Director General, Narcotics Control Bureau,  Ministry  of   Home  Affairs,  senior-most  Officer-in-Charge  of   Investigations   and  Prosecution for offences under  the  NDPS  Act;  representatives  of  the  Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Customs and Excise Departments  and Police of the States concerned.

5. We lay down the directions and guidelines specified hereinafter  for  due   observance by all concerned as the  law  declared  by  this  Court  under  Article 141 of the Constitution of India. This is done in exercise of the  power available under Article 32 of the Constitution for  enforcement  of  fundamental  rights,  especially  the  cluster  of   fundamental   rights incorporated under Article 21, which stand flagrantly violated due to the  state of affairs of trials under the NDPS Act. We would like  to  clarify that these directions are restricted only to the  proceedings  under  the  NDPS Act. 

DIRECTIONS

A. Adjournments

6. The lavishness with which adjournments are  granted  is  not  an  ailment    exclusive to narcotics trials; courts at every  level  suffer  from  this  predicament.  The  institutionalization  of  generous   dispensation   of  adjournments is exploited to prolong trials for varied considerations. 

7. Such a practice deserves complete abolishment. The legislature enacted  a    crucial amendment in the form of a fourth proviso to  Section  309(2)  of    the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (through Section 21 (b) of Act 5  of    2009) to tackle the problem,  but  the  same  awaits  notification.  Once  notified, Section 309 will read as follows: -

           “309. Power to postpone or adjourn proceedings.

           (1) In every inquiry or trial the proceedings shall be  held  as

           expeditiously  as  possible,  and  in   particular,   when   the

           examination of witnesses has  once  begun,  the  same  shall  be

           continued from day to day until all the witnesses in  attendance

           have been examined, unless the Court finds  the  adjournment  of

           the same beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to

           be recorded.

           (2) If the Court after  taking  cognizance  of  an  offence,  or

           commencement of  trial,  finds  it  necessary  or  advisable  to

           postpone the commencement of, or adjourn, any inquiry or  trial,

           it may, from time to time, for reasons to be recorded,  postpone

           or adjourn the same on such terms as it  thinks  fit,  for  such

           time as it considers reasonable, and may by a warrant remand the

           accused if in custody:

           Provided that no Magistrate shall remand an  accused  person  to

           custody under this section for a term exceeding fifteen days  at

           a time:

           Provided further that  when  witnesses  are  in  attendance,  no

           adjournment or postponement shall be granted, without  examining

           them, except for special reasons to be recorded in writing:

           Provided also that no  adjournment  shall  be  granted  for  the

           purpose only of  enabling  the  accused  person  to  show  cause

           against the sentence proposed to be imposed on him

           Provided also that-

           a) no adjournment shall be granted at the request  of  a  party,

              except where the circumstances are beyond the control of that

              party;

           b) the fact that the pleader of a party is  engaged  in  another

              Court, shall not be a ground or adjournment;

           c) where a witness is present  in  Court  but  a  party  or  his

              pleader is not present or the party  or  his  pleader  though

              present in Court, is not ready to examine or  cross-  examine

              the witness, the  Court  may,  if   thinks  fit,  record  the

              statement of the witness and pass such orders  as  it  thinks

              fit  dispensing  with  the  examination-in-chief  or   cross-

              examination of the witness, as the case may be

              Explanation 1.- If sufficient evidence has been  obtained  to

              raise a suspicion that the  accused  may  have  committed  an

              offence, and it appears likely that further evidence  may  be

              obtained by a remand,  this  is  a  reasonable  cause  for  a

              remand.

              Explanation  2.-  The  terms  on  which  an  adjournment   or

              postponement may be granted include,  in  appropriate  cases,

              the payment of costs by the prosecution or the accused.”

                                             [Emphasis supplied]

8. The fourth proviso  deserves  immediate  notification.  In  lieu  of  the  lacuna created by its conspicuous absence, which is interfering with  the  fundamental right of speedy trial [See: Hussainara Khatoon and  Ors.  Vs.  Home Secretary, State of Bihar[4]], something this Court is  duty-  bound  to protect and uphold, and till the statutory provisions are in place, we  direct that no NDPS court would grant adjournments at the  request  of  a  party except where the circumstances are beyond the control of the party.    This exception must be treated as an exception, and must not  be  allowed  to swallow the generic rule against grant of adjournments. Further, where  the date for hearing has  been  fixed  as  per  the  convenience  of  the  counsel, no adjournment shall be granted without exception. Adherence  to  this principle would go a long way in cutting short  that  queue  to  the  doors of justice.

9. Perhaps, a provision analogous to Section  22(c)  of  the  Prevention  of  Corruption Act, 1988 may be seriously considered by the  legislature  for  trials under the NDPS Act. It reads as follow:

           “22. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 , to apply subject  to     

           certain modifications.- The provisions of the Code  of  Criminal

           Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974 .), shall in their application to any

           proceeding in relation to an offence punishable under  this  Act

           have effect as if,--           

           XXX                            XXX                       XXX

           (c) after sub- section (2) of section 317,  the  following  sub-

           section had been inserted, namely:--

           ‘(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub- section  (1)  or

           sub-section (2), the  Judge  may,  if  he  thinks  fit  and  for

           reasons to be recorded by him, proceed with inquiry or trial  in

           the absence of  the  accused  or  his  pleader  and  record  the

           evidence of any witness subject to the right of the  accused  to

           recall the witness for cross- examination.”

B. Examination of Witnesses

10. Between harmonizing the  rights  and  duties  of  the  accused  and  the    victim, the witness is  often  forgotten.  No  legal  system  can  render  justice if it is  not  accompanied  with  a  conducive  environment  that  encourages  and  invites  witnesses  to  give  testimony.  The   web   of  antagonistic litigation with  its  entangled  threads  of  investigation,  cross-examination, dealings with the police etc., as  it  is,  lacks  the   ability to attract witnesses to participate in a process of  justice;  it   is baffling that nonetheless, systems of  examination  that  sprout  more  disincentives for a witness to take the  stand  are  established.  Often,   conclusion of  examination  alone,  keeping  aside  cross-examination  of   witnesses, takes  more  than  a  day.  Yet,  they  are  not  examined  on    consecutive days, but on different dates spread  out  over  months.  This    practice serves as  a  huge  inconvenience  to  a  witness  since  he  is  repeatedly required to incur expenditure  on  travel  and  logistics  for  appearance in hearings over a significant period  of  time.  Besides,  it  often  causes  unnecessary  repetition  in  terms  of   questioning   and  answering, and also places greater reliance on one’s ever-fading  memory,  than necessary. All these factors together cause  lengthier  examinations  that compound the duration of trials.

11. It would be prudent  to  return  to  the  erstwhile  method  of  holding    “session’s 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 concerned courts to adopt the method  of  “session’s  trials” and assign block dates for examination of witnesses.

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 Custom and Central  Excise,  State  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  light  of  the  recording  of  such  official  evidence, we direct the concerned courts 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. The  relevant  section  reads as follows:-

           “293. Reports of certain Government scientific experts.

           (1)   Any document purporting to be a report under the hand of a

           Government scientific expert to whom this section applies,  upon

           any matter or thing duly submitted to  him  for  examination  or

           analysis and report in the course of any proceeding  under  this

           Code, may be used as evidence in any  inquiry,  trial  or  other

           proceeding under this Code.            

           (2)  The Court may, if it thinks fit,  summon  and  examine  any

           such expert as to the subject- matter of his report.

           (3)  Where any such expert is summoned by  a  Court  and  he  is

           unable to attend  personally,  he  may,  unless  the  Court  has

           expressly  directed  him  to  appear  personally,   depute   any

           responsible officer working with him to  attend  the  Court,  if

           such officer is conversant with the facts of the  case  and  can

           satisfactorily depose in Court on his behalf.

           (4)  This section applies to the following Government scientific

           experts, namely:-                                 

           (a)    any Chemical Examiner or Assistant Chemical  Examiner  to

           Government;

           (b)  the Chief Controller of Explosives;        

           (c)   the Director of the Finger Print Bureau;

           (d)   the Director, Haffkeine Institute, Bombay;

           (e)  the Director, Deputy Director or Assistant  Director  of  a

           Central Forensic Science Laboratory or a State Forensic  Science

           Laboratory;

           (f)    the Serologist to the Government.”            

           (g)  any  other  Government  scientific  expert  specified,   by

           notification, by the Central Government for this purpose. 

C. Workload

13.  The  courts  are  unduly  overburdened,  an  outcome  of  the   diverse   repertoire of cases they are expected to handle. We are informed  by  the    Narcotics Control Board that  significant  time  of  the  NDPS  Court  is  expended in dealing with bail and other criminal matters.  Besides,  many states do not even have the necessary NDPS courts to deal with the volume  of NDPS cases.

14. Therefore, we issue the following directions in this regard:

              i)          Each state, in consultation with the  High  Court,

                 particularly the states of Uttar Pradesh, West  Bengal  and

                 Jammu & Kashmir (where the  pendency  of  cases  over  five

                 years is stated to  be  high),  is  directed  to  establish

                 Special Courts which would deal exclusively  with  offences

                 under the NDPS Act.                                    

             ii) The number of these courts must be  proportionate  to,  and

                 sufficient for, handling the volume of pending cases in the

                 State.

            iii) Till exclusive courts for the purpose of disposing of  NDPS

                 cases under the NDPS Act are established, these cases  will

                 be prioritized over all other matters; after the setting up

                 of the special  courts  for  NDPS  cases,  only  after  the

                 clearance of matters under the NDPS Act will an NDPS  court

                 be permitted to take up any other matter.

D. Narcotics Labs                                           

15. Narcotics laboratories at the national level identify  drugs  for  abuse  and their accompanying substances in  suspected  samples,  determine  the  purity and the possible origin of illicit drugs, carry  out  drug-related  research, particularly on new sources of drugs liable to abuse, and, when  required by the police or courts of law, provide supportive expertise  in  drug trafficking cases. Their role in the effective implementation of the  mandate of the NDPS Act is indispensible which  is  why  every  state  or  region must have proximate access to these laboratories so  that  samples  collected for the purposes of the Act may be sent on a  timely  basis  to  them for  scrutiny.  These  samples  often  form  primary  and  clinching   evidence  for  both  the  prosecution  and  the  defence,  making   their  evaluation by narcotics laboratories a crucial exercise.    

16.  The  numbers  of  these  laboratories  speak  for  themselves  and  are               

reproduced  here. The numbers for Central  Forensic  Science  Laboratories  (CFSL) are as follows: -

      S. No |CFSL Location                                Status           

1.    Chandigarh                                   In operation     

2.    Hyderabad                                    In operation     

3.    Kolkata                                           In operation    

4.    Delhi (Under Central Bureau of Investigation)  In operation   

5.    Bhopal                                       Being established

6.    Pune                                           Being established

7.    Guwahati                                  Being established

 

17.  Similarly,  numbers  for  the  state  and  regional  Forensic   Science

   Laboratories (FSL) are as follows:-

 

 

 S. No.      Name of State                 Existing State Facilities       

                                                      Main State FSL             Regional FSL 

1.    Andhra Pradesh                                 1                                   9

2.    Arunachal Pradesh                             1                                   0

3.    Assam                                               1                                   0

4.    Bihar                                                  1                                   1

5.    Chattisgarh                                         1                                   2

6.    Goa                                    Being established                          0

7.    Gujarat                                               1                                   5

8.    Haryana                                              1                                   2          

9.    Himachal Pradesh                               1                                    0

10.  Jammu & Kashmir                              1                                    1

11.   Jharkhand                                          1                                    0

12.   Karnataka                                          1                                    4

13.   Kerala                                                1                                   2

14.   Madhya Pradesh                                1                                   3

15.   Maharashtra                                       1                                   4

16.   Manipur                                             1                                   0           

17.   Meghalaya                                          1                                   0

18.   Mizoram                                             1                                  0

19.   Nagaland                                            1                                  0           

20.   Orissa                                                1                                  2            

21.   Punjab                                               1                                   0

22.   Rajasthan                                           1                                   3     

23.   Sikkim                                               0                                   1            

24.   Tamil Nadu                                        1                                   9            

25.   Tripura                                              1                                   0          

26.   Uttar Pradesh                                     1                                   2              

27.   Uttarakhand                                       1                                   0              

28.   West Bengal                                      1                                   2              

                                                                       |

UNION TERRITORIES                                                       

      Andaman and Nicobar Islands           1                                     0              

      Chandigarh                                        0                                    0              

      Dadra & Nagar Haveli                        0                                    0              

      Daman & Diu                                    0                                    0              

      Lakshadweep                                    0                                    0            

      NCT of Delhi                                    1                                    0              

      Puducherry                                        0                                   0              

      TOTAL                                           28                                 52           

 

18. A  qualitative  and  quantitative  overhaul  of  these  laboratories  is    necessary for ameliorating the present state of affairs,  for  which,  we  are issuing the following directions:

           i) The Centre must ensure equal access to CFSL’s from  different

              parts of the country. The current four CFSL’s only  cater  to

              the needs of northern and some areas of western  and  eastern

              parts of the country. Therefore, besides  the  three  in  the

              pipeline, more CFSL’s  must  be  established,  especially  to

              cater to the needs of  southern  and  eastern  parts  of  the

              country.

          ii)  Analogous directions  are  issued  to  the  states.  Several

              states  do  not  possess  any  existing   infrastructure   to

              facilitate analysis of samples and are  hence,  compelled  to

              send them to laboratories in other parts of the  country  for

              scrutiny. Therefore, each  state  is  required  to  establish

              state level and regional level forensic science laboratories.

              However, the decision as to the numbers of such  laboratories

              would depend on the backlog of cases in the state.

19. The above mentioned  authorities  must  ensure  adequate  employment  of    technical staff  and  provision  of  facilities  and  resources  for  the  purposes of proper, smooth and efficient running  of  the  facilities  of  Forensic Science Laboratories under  them  and  the  Laboratories  should furnish their reports expeditiously to the concerned agencies.

20. The Directorate of Forensic Science Services, Ministry of Home  Affairs,  must take special steps to ensure standardization of equipment across the  various forensic laboratories to prevent vacillating results and disallow a litigant an opportunity to challenge test results on that basis.

E. Personnel

21. We have also been apprised of the following vacancies  at  three  CFSLs,

   namely Chandigarh, Kolkata and Hyderabad. 

  Posts             Sanctioned           Filled             Vacant        

Scientific                99                     64                    35            

 Technical             45                     40                    05          

Shortage of staff is bound to hamper with the smooth  functioning  of  these

laboratories, and hence, we  direct  the  Directorate  of  Forensic  Science

Services, Ministry of Home Affairs to address the same on an urgent basis. 

22. Further, steps must be taken by the  concerned  departments  to  improve   the quality and expertise of the technical staff, equipment  and  testing   laboratories.

E. Re-testing Provisions

23. The NDPS Act  itself  does  not  permit  re-sampling  or  re-testing  of  samples. Yet, there has been a trend to the contrary;  NDPS  courts  have been  consistently  obliging  to  applications  for  re-testing  and  re-sampling. These applications add to delays as they are often received  at advanced stages of trials after significant elapse of time.  NDPS  courts seem to be permitting re-testing nonetheless by taking resort  to  either some High Court judgments [See: State of Kerala Vs. Deepak.  P.  Shah[5];Nihal Khan Vs. The State (Govt. of NCT Delhi)[6]] or perhaps to  Sections 79 and 80 of the NDPS Act which permit application of  the  Customs  Act, 1962 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. While re-testing  may  be  an   important right of an accused, the haphazard manner in which the right is    imported from other legislations without its  accompanying  restrictions,    however, is impermissible. Under the NDPS Act, re-testing and re-sampling  is rampant at every stage of the trial  contrary  to  other  legislations  which define  a  specific  time-frame  within  which  the  right  may  be  available. Besides, reverence must also be given to  the  wisdom  of  the  Legislature when it expressly omits a provision, which otherwise  appears  as a standard one in other legislations. The Legislature, unlike for  the  NDPS Act, enacted Section 25(4) of the Drugs  and  Cosmetics  Act,  1940, Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954  and  Rule 56 of the Central Excise Rules, 1944, permitting a time period of thirty, ten and twenty days  respectively  for  filing  an  application  for  re-testing.

24. Hence, it is imperative to define re-testing rights, if at  all,  as  an    amalgamation of the above- stated factors. Further, in light  of  Section  52A of the NDPS Act, which  permits  swift  disposal  of  some  hazardous  substances, the time frame within which any  application  for  re-testing  may be permitted ought to be strictly defined. Section 52A  of  the  NDPS  Act reads as follows: -

           “52A. Disposal of seized narcotic drugs and psychotropic

           Substances

           (1) The Central Government may, having regard to  the  hazardous

           nature of any narcotic drugs or psychotropic  substances,  their

           vulnerability to  theft,  substitution,  constraints  of  proper

           storage  space  or  any  other   relevant   considerations,   by

           notification published in the  Official  Gazette,  specify  such

           narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances or class  of  narcotic

           drugs or class of psychotropic substances which shall,  as  soon

           as may be after their seizure, be disposed of  by  such  officer

           and in such manner as that Government may  from  time  to  time,

           determine after following the procedure herein- after specified.        

           (2) Where any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance  has  been

           seized and forwarded to the officer- in- charge of  the  nearest

           police station or to the officer empowered under section 53, the

           officer referred  to  in  sub-  section  (1)  shall  prepare  an

           inventory of such  narcotic  drugs  or  psychotropic  substances

           containing such details relating to their description,  quality,

           quantity,  mode  of  packing,  marks,  numbers  or  such   other

           identifying particulars of the narcotic  drugs  or  psychotropic

           substances or the packing in which they are packed,  country  of

           origin and other particulars as the officer referred to in  sub-

           section (1)  may  consider  relevant  to  the  identity  of  the

           narcotic drugs or psychotropic  substances  in  any  proceedings

           under this Act and make an application, to  any  Magistrate  for

           the purpose of—

           (a) certifying the correctness of the inventory so prepared; or            

           (b) taking, in the presence of such magistrate,  photographs  of

           such drugs or substances  and  certifying  such  photographs  as

           true; or

           (c) allowing to draw representative samples  of  such  drugs  or

           substances, in the presence of such  magistrate  and  certifying

           the correctness of any list of samples so drawn.                 

           (3) Where an application is made under  sub-  section  (2),  the

           Magistrate shall, as soon as may be, allow the application.

           (4) Notwithstanding anything contained in  the  Indian  Evidence

           Act, 1872 (1 of 1872 ), or the Code of Criminal Procedure,  1973

           (2 of 1974 ), every court trying  an  offence  under  this  Act,

           shall treat the inventory, the photographs of narcotic drugs  or

           psychotropic substances and any list of samples drawn under sub-

           section (2) and certified by the Magistrate, as primary evidence

           in respect of such offence.”

25. Therefore, keeping in mind the array  of  factors  discussed  above,  we   direct that, after the completion of necessary  tests  by  the  concerned  laboratories, results of the  same  must  be  furnished  to  all  parties concerned with the matter.  Any  requests  as  to  re-testing/re-sampling shall not be entertained under the NDPS Act as a matter of course.  These may, however, be permitted, in extremely exceptional  circumstances,  for  cogent reasons to be recorded by the Presiding Judge. An  application  in  such rare cases must be made within a  period  of  fifteen  days  of  the  receipt of the test report; no  applications  for  re-testing/re-sampling shall  be  entertained  thereafter.  However,  in  the  absence  of   any  compelling circumstances, any form of re-testing/re-sampling is  strictly   prohibited under the NDPS Act.

 G. Monitoring

26. A monitoring agency is pivotal for the  effective  management  of  these    recommendations and for the general amelioration of the state of affairs.   Therefore, it is directed that nodal officers be  appointed  in  all  the   departments dealing with the NDPS cases, for monitoring the  progress  of  investigation and  trial.  This  nodal  officer  must  be  equivalent  or  superior to the rank of Superintendent of Police, who shall  ensure  that  the trial is not delayed on account  of  non-supply  of  documents,  non-availability of the witnesses, or for any other reason.

27.  We have also learnt from the Narcotics Control Bureau  that  some  form  of informational asymmetry is prevalent with respect to the communication   of the progress of cases between courts and  the  department.  Therefore,  there must be one Pairvi Officer or other such officer for each court who   shall report the day’s proceedings to the nodal officer assigned for that  court.

 H. Public Prosecutors

28. Public prosecutors play the most important role  in  the  administration of justice. Their quality is thus of profound importance to the speed and  outcome of trials. We have been informed that Special Public  Prosecutors  for the Central Bureau of Narcotics are appointed by the Ministry of Home  Affairs after scrutiny by  the  Ministry  of  Law  and  Justice,  on  the  recommendation of the District and Sessions Judge concerned.  We  suggest that the procedure of appointment, placed before us, be brought  in  line with that generally followed for the appointment of  public  prosecutors, as mandated under Section 24 of the Code  of  Criminal  Procedure,  1973.    However, for the present, we direct that the District and Sessions  Judge  shall make recommendations for such appointments in consultation with the  Administrative  Judge/Portfolio  Judge/Inspecting  Judge,   incharge   of looking after the administration of the concerned Sessions Division.

I. Other Recommendations.

29. Delays are caused due to demands of compliance with Section 207  of  the

 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which reads as follows:-

           “207. Supply to the accused of copy of police report  and  other

           documents. In any case where the proceeding has been  instituted

           on a police report, the Magistrate shall without  delay  furnish

           to the accused, free of cost, a copy of each of the following:-           

           (i) the police report;

           (ii) the first information report recorded under   section 154;

           (iii) the statements recorded under sub- section (3) of  section

           161 of all persons whom the prosecution proposes to  examine  as

           its witnesses, excluding therefrom any part in regard to which a

           request for such exclusion has been made by the  police  officer

           under sub- section (6) of section 173;

           (iv) the confessions and  statements,  if  any,  recorded  under section 164;

           (v) any other document or relevant extract thereof forwarded  to

           the Magistrate with the police report under sub- section (5)  of

           section 173:

           Provided that the Magistrate may, after perusing any  such  part

           of a statement as is referred to in clause (iii) and considering

           the reasons given by the police officer for the request,  direct

           that a copy of that part of the statement  or  of  such  portion

           thereof as the Magistrate thinks proper, shall be  furnished  to

           the accused:             

           Provided further that if the Magistrate is  satisfied  that  any

           document referred to in clause  (v)  is  voluminous,  he  shall,

           instead of furnishing the accused with a  copy  thereof,  direct

           that he will only be allowed to inspect it either personally  or

           through pleader in Court.”

           For the simplification of the above detailed process,  we  direct  that  the

filing of the charge- sheet and supply  of  other  documents  must  also  be

provided in electronic form. However, this direction must not be treated  as

a substitute for hard copies of the same which are indispensable  for  court

proceedings.

30. We expect and hope that the aforesaid directions shall be complied  with    by the Central Government, State Governments and the  Union  Territories,  as the case may be, expeditiously and in the spirit that these have  been  made.

31. Before parting, we place on record our deep appreciation  for  the  able    assistance rendered to us by the learned  Additional  Solicitor  General;   amicus curiae; Mr. Utkarsh Saxena, Law Clerk-cum-Research  Assistant  and  all the officers who were requested to participate in the deliberations.

32. The matter stands closed.

                                                             (D.K. JAIN)…………………………J

                                                         JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR, J.)......….J           

New Delhi,

Dated: 23rd January, 2013.     

 

[1]    (1994) 6 SCC 731

[2]    (2002) 10 SCC 529

[3]    96 L. Ed. 183 (1951)

[4]    (1980) 1 SCC 81

[5]     2001 CriLJ 2690

[6]     2007 CriLJ 2074

 

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