New Delhi, April 16 : The Supreme Court on Friday declared that a private vehicle would not come within the expression of a public place as per the explanation given under the NDPS Act.
The top court observed that the explanation to Section 43 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act shows that a private vehicle would not come within the expression of 'public place'.
The observation was made by the apex court in a judgment on an appeal challenging the final order passed by the Punjab & Haryana High Court in Chandigarh in March last year, dismissing a plea by the appellants and affirming their conviction and sentence under Section 15 of the NDPS Act, 1985.
In that case, recovery was made from the accused while they were in a jeep at a public place. The high court held that the case of the accused would be covered by Section 43 of NDPS Act and not by Section 42.
Section 42 deals with power of entry, search, seizure and arrest without warrant or authorisation, while Section 43 deals with power of seizure and arrest in public place.
The accused contended before a bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit and K.M. Joseph that their vehicle was private, and not a public conveyance, though it was parked on a public road, so the case would not come under Section 43 but would be governed by the provisions of Section 42 of the NDPS Act. The case was registered in 2002.
The bench said the evidence in the present case clearly shows that the vehicle was not a public conveyance, but belonged to accused Gurdeep Singh.
"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'," said the bench in its verdict passed on Friday.
The Haryana government counsel submitted that the courts below were right in observing that the instant case would be governed by the provisions of Section 43 of the NDPS Act. It was, however, accepted by the counsel that there was no material on record to conclude that the vehicle in question was a public conveyance.
In 2004, a trial court had acquitted accused Major Singh but convicted accused Boota Singh, Gurdeep Singh and Gurmohinder Singh under Section 15 of the NDPS Act and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment of 10 years along with a fine of Rs 1 lakh, in default whereof they were directed to undergo further rigorous imprisonment for a period of two years. The accused appealed this order in the high court, which was dismissed.
The top court said: "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." Releasing the accused, the top court said: "In the circumstances, the courts below fell in error in rejecting the submissions advanced on behalf of the appellants. We, therefore, allow this appeal, set aside the view taken by the high court and acquit the appellants of the charge levelled against them. The appellants be released forthwith unless their custody is required in connection with any other offence."