HC: Multiple NDPS FIRs Not Ground for Bail Denial in Long Custody Case





In a recent landmark ruling, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made a significant decision regarding the bail provisions under Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. Section 37 of the NDPS Act restricts bail for individuals charged with the seizure of a commercial quantity of narcotics. However, this ruling challenges the application of Section 37 in certain cases.


The court held that allegations of an accused's involvement in multiple drug cases cannot automatically be used to deny bail, especially when the custody period has been excessively long. The judgment emphasizes the importance of upholding personal liberty, as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.


In this specific case, the petitioner, Ram Chander, was accused in a drug seizure case involving 4.8 kg of opium and 500 gm of charas, which constituted a commercial quantity. The charges were filed after a narcotics seizure from his car in December 2019 by the Narcotics Control Bureau, Chandigarh. While Chander was the car owner, he was not driving it, and the co-accused driver had already been granted bail. The trial had been ongoing, with only a few prosecution witnesses examined.


Chander applied for bail, arguing that there was no justification for the delay in the trial, which had been pending for almost two years and nine months. The Narcotics Control Bureau opposed the bail, citing Chander's alleged involvement in two more NDPS Act cases and the commercial quantity of contraband seized.


The court considered the circumstances, including the likelihood of trial delays, and acknowledged that Chander had already spent three years and nine months in incarceration. The judgment emphasized that prolonged incarceration could infringe upon the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution, and in such cases, conditional liberty should take precedence over the statutory restrictions imposed by Section 37 of the NDPS Act.


This ruling reaffirms the importance of safeguarding personal liberty and ensuring that bail decisions are made based on the specific circumstances of each case, rather than solely relying on allegations and the category of narcotics involved. It highlights the need to balance the interests of justice and the protection of individual rights in cases involving drug offenses.

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