Section 37 NDPS Act should be satisfied for grant of bail in case of commercial quantity drugs: Supreme Court

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In case of recovery of commercial quantity of narcotic substance under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act), courts should be slow in granting bail to anyone having criminal antecedents, the Supreme Court recently said [State Rep By Inspector of Police vs B Ramu].

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, therefore, objected to the Madras High Court order granting anticipatory bail to an accused without noting a prima facie satisfaction under Section 37 of the NDPS Act that the accused had not committed the offence and would not violate bail conditions.

The Supreme Court noted that the accused was set at liberty by the High Court subject to him paying ₹30,000 costs to the Tamil Nadu Advocate Clerk Association.

“Manifestly, a very strange approach has been adopted by the learned Single Judge in the impugned order whereby the anticipatory bail was granted to the respondent on the condition that the appellant would deposit a sum of ₹30,000­ to the credit of the registered Tamil Nadu Advocate Clerk Association, Chennai along with various other conditions.  The condition so imposed by the High Court is totally alien to the principles governing bail jurisprudence and is nothing short of perversity,” the top court stated while quashing the bail granted to the accused.

Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta
The bench was hearing a petition filed by the State of Tamil Nadu against a January 2022 High Court order passed by single-judge Justice TV Thamilsevli granting anticipatory bail to the accused.

The accused was caught with 233 kilogram (kg) of ganja well above the limit of non-commercial quantity (below 20 kg).

The top court in appeal noted that the public prosecutor had opposed the grant of bail citing the fact that the accused had been implicated in two similar cases earlier.

It noted that as per Section 37 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,

“The Court would have to record a satisfaction that there are grounds for believing that the accused is not guilty of the offence alleged and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.”

In case of recovery of a commercial quantity of narcotic substances, courts should be slow in granting bail to those with criminal antecedents, the bench made it clear.

It took objection to High Court for liberally granting pre-arrest bail despite the fact that chargesheet was filed.

“The fact that after investigation, the charge­sheet has been filed against the respondent­-accused along with other accused persons, fortifies the plea of the State counsel that the Court could not have recorded a satisfaction that the accused was prima facie not guilty of the offences alleged,” the bench stated in conclusion.

Therefore, the State’s appeal was allowed and the accused was directed to surrender within ten days.

Senior Additional Advocate General V Krishnamurthy with advocates D Kumanan, Deepa, Sheikh F Kalia, and Veshal Tyagi appeared for the Tamil Nadu government.

Advocates G Sivabalamurugan, Selvaraj Mahendran, C Adhikesavan, SB Kamalanathan, Sumit Singh Rawat, PV Harikrishnan, Karuppaiah Meyyappan, Raghunatha Sethupathy B, Kanika Kalaiyarasan and Abhishek Kalaiyarasan represented the accused.

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