‘Private vehicle’ is not ‘public place’ under NDPS Act, says SC; acquits three men

Bench makes observation while deciding an appeal challenging an order passed by Punjab and Haryana HC

‘Private vehicle’ is not ‘public place’ under NDPS Act, says SC; acquits three men

It is an admitted position that there was total non-compliance of the requirements of Section 42 of the NDPS Act, the top court said. — iStock

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17

Holding that a private vehicle is not a ‘public place’ under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act), the Supreme Court has acquitted three men accused of possessing poppy, saying they were charged under the wrong section.

The verdict came from a Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit which said recovery of a banned substance from a private vehicle parked on a public road wouldn’t be covered under Section 43 of the NDPS Act – the provision used for recovery of the banned substance.

However, such cases can be covered under Section 42 of the Act, the Bench said allowing an appeal against an order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that had upheld the conviction and sentence awarded to the accused under the NDPS Act.

While Section 43 of the NDPS deals with the power of seizure and arrest in a public place, Section 42 gives a designated officer powers of ‘entry, search, seizure or arrest’ in a suspected narcotics case.

Two bags of poppy straw were recovered from the accused while they were sitting in a jeep at a public place on a ‘kacha path’ at Rori-Jatana road under Rori police station in Haryana.

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The trial court acquitted Major Singh but convicted other three accused—Boota Singh, Gurdeep Singh and Gurmohinder Singh—under Section 15 of the NDPS Act and awarded them 10-year rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

In their appeal before the top court, the accused contended that theirs was a private vehicle belonging to Gurdeep Singh and that it wasn’t a public conveyance, even though it was parked on a public road.

Holding that evidence clearly showed that the vehicle was not a public conveyance, the top court acquitted the accused as they were charged under a wrong provision of the NDPS Act.

“The Registration Certificate of the vehicle, which has been placed on record also does not indicate it to be a Public Transport Vehicle. The explanation to Section 43 shows that a private vehicle would not come within the expression ‘public place’ as explained in Section 43 of the NDPS Act. On the strength of the decision of this court, the relevant provision would not be Section 43 of the NDPS Act but the case would come under Section 42 of the NDPS Act,” the top court said.

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