New Delhi: Suspects in drug or narcotics smuggling cases have a right to be frisked for the contraband in the presence of a gazetted officer to ensure transparency in the investigation, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Interpreting Section 50 of the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), a bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said failure to follow the procedure would cause a definite prejudice to the accused.
"A careful perusal of Section 50 indicates that when any authorised officer is about to search any person under the provisions of Sections 41, 42 or 43 of the NDPS Act, if such person (accused) requires (demands), he (officer) has to take him, without unnecessary delay, to the nearest gazetted officer of any of the departments mentioned in Section 42 or to the nearest magistrate.
"In short, the suspect can insist that his search be conducted before a gazetted officer or a magistrate. Needless to say that a suspect may insist on the presence of a gazetted officer or a magistrate so as to introduce transparency in the search," said Justice Desai, who wrote the judgement.
The apex court gave the ruling while acquitting three persons convicted and sentenced to six months RI by a sessions court in Andhra Pradesh for sale of ganja (cannabis). They were arrested by a police team headed by Circle Inspector Koteswara Rao, who claimed that they had seized ganga from the possession.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court had upheld their conviction following which one of the convicts, Myla Venkateswarlu, had come in an appeal to the apex court, contending that Section 50 of the NDPS Act was not followed by the authorities and their conviction was illegal.