SC: Doubtful identity of seized narcotics sample entitles accused to benefit

The Hon’ble Supreme Court on 20thAugust 2019, in the matter of Hanif Khan @ Annu Khan v. Central Bureau of Narcotics through Inspector L.P. Ojha observed that on the single premise of a doubtful identity with regard to the narcotics sample seized from the accused and that produced in Court, the FSL Report loses much of its significance and the accused is held entitled to the benefit of doubt.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

The prosecution under the NDPS Act carries a reverse burden of proof with a culpable mental state of the accused. He is presumed to be guilty consequent to recovery of contra- band from him, and it is for the accused to establish his innocence unlike the normal rule of criminal jurisprudence that an accused is presumed to be innocent unless proved guilty.  (Para 9)

Reverse burden of proof under the NDPS Act does not absolve the prosecution from establishing a prima facie case only whereafter the burden shifts to the accused.  (Para 9)

Where there is a reverse burden of proof, the prosecution shall be put to a stricter test for compliance with statutory provisions. (Para 10)

If at any stage, the accused is able to create a reasonable doubt, as a part of his defence, to rebut the presumption of his guilt, the benefit will naturally have to go to him. (Para 10)

There can hardly be any difference between a case of non-production of a sample and the production of a sample doubtful in its identity in being co-related to what was seized from the accused. (Para 16)

On the single premise of a doubtful identity with regard to the narcotics sample seized from the accused and that produced in Court, the FSL Report loses much of its significance and the accused is held entitled to the benefit of doubt. (This inference has been drawn on the basis of Para 18)

Copy of judgement: Order_20-Aug-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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