-Report by Zainab Khan
It has been held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Sanjeet Kumar Singh @ Munna Kumar Singh Vs the state of Chhattisgarh that a convict is entitled to get the equal benefit of the doubt as the co-accused has been given.
It was the case of the prosecution that on 31st May 2014, SHO of Chakarbarta Police Station received information about the appellant and his friend carrying cannabis in their car and they were traveling from Raipur to Pendra road. The SHO along with two independent witnesses searched the appellant’s car u/s 50 of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic substances Act 1985 and found 47.37 kg of cannabis. The SHO further filed a charge sheet against the appellant and his friend. After examining seven witnesses the Special Court convicted the appellant u/s 20(b)(i)(c) of
Narcotics drugs and Psychotropic substances Act 1985 for illegally transporting cannabis and sentenced him to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 Lakh, but acquitted the co-accused on the ground of benefit of doubt.
The learned counsel for the appellant argued that the two independent witnesses didn’t support the statement of the SHO and they denied their presence during the search & seizure process. He further argued that the co-accused can’t be acquitted on the same statement on which the appellant was convicted. The counsel relied upon the judgments of Ajmer Singh Vs the State of Haryana and Mohinder Singh Vs the State of Punjab.
The learned counsel for the respondent argued that since the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic substances act 1985 is a complete act in itself and when possession of cannabis is proved it is on the accused to prove how the substance came under his possession. The counsel relied upon the judgments of – Mukesh Singh Vs state(Narcotic branch of Delhi ) in which it was held that it is not always necessary to corroborate the testimony of police officials, through
testimony of an independent witness; Dharampal Singh Vs the state of Punjab where it was held that lack of independent witness is not fatal to the case of the prosecution.
After cross-examining both the independent witness and SHO, a big variation came. Since SHO claims that the process of search & seizure has been done in front of two independent witnesses, whereas both the independent witnesses completely deny its existence. The court observed-
“it is true that sec 54 of NDPA 1985 raises a presumption and the burden shifts on accused to explain as to how he came into possession of the contraband. But to raise the presumption under sec 54 of NDPA 1985, it must first be established that a recovery was made from accused. The moment a doubt is cast upon rhe most fundamental aspect
namely the search and seizure, the appellant will also be entitled to same benefit as given by special court to co-accused.”
The hon’ble court allowed the appeal and granted the benefit of doubt to the appellant and the judgments of the special court and high court were set aside.