New Delhi: The Supreme Court has referred to a larger bench the question of whether an officer investigating a matter under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act would qualify as a police officer or not for the purpose of probe.
A bench of justices A K Patnaik and A K Sikri said the matter needs to be examined whether narcotic bureau officers stand on an equal footing with police officers in order to interrogate and to record confessional statements of the accused.
"We are of the view that the matter needs to be referred to a larger bench for re-consideration of the issue as to whether the officer investigating the matter under NDPS Act would qualify as police officer or not," the bench said.
The court passed the order while hearing an appeal filed by a person convicted and sentenced to ten year jail term by a trial court for possessing 5 Kg of heroine.
"We find from the record that as against the sentence of 10 years awarded to the appellant he has already undergone more than 9 years of sentence. In these circumstances, we deem it a fit case to suspend further sentence till the disposal of this appeal by the larger bench.
"The appellant shall be released on bail on furnishing security in the sum of Rs 50,000 with two sureties of the same amount, to the satisfaction of the trial court," the bench said.
The bench directed the matter be placed before the Chief Justice for the decision of this appeal by a larger bench.
"In this context, the other related issue viz whether the statement recorded by the investigating officer under Section 67 of the Act can be treated as confessional statement or not, even if the officer is not treated as police officer also needs to be referred to the larger bench," the court said.