In the case of Gurdev Singh v. The State of Punjab, the Supreme Court on the 6th of April 2021, held that the economic stature of the accused would nit be a considerable mitigating factor for offence committed under the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
The Supreme Court, in its judgement stated, “merely because the accused is a poor man and/or a carrier and/or is a sole bread earner cannot be such mitigating circumstances in favour of the accused while awarding the sentence/punishment in the case of NDPS Act.”
The bench comprising Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah stated thus, “while
striking balance between the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, public interest, impact on the society as a whole will always be tilt in favour of the suitable higher punishment.”
- The accused, Gurdev Singh was convicted by the Special for having found him to be in possession of 1 kg heroin, which he was selling. It is four times more than the minimum of commercial quantity, which has been prescribed in the Act as 250 gm.
- The accused was convicted under the provisions of Section 21 of the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and sentenced him to a rigorous imprisonment for a term of 15 years R.I. and a fine of Rs.2 lakh. In default of the payment of such fine, the convict is to further undergo a Rigorous Imprisonment for a term of one year, in lieu of such fine.
- The aggrieved party approached the High Court for reduction of his sentence, which the High Court dismissed.
- The accused then approached the Apex court and appealed to it for justice on his part.
The Apex Court upheld the sentences that had been awarded by the Special Court and the dismissal of the High Court in this regard.
The counsel for the accused pointed out to the Court that the Supreme Court has on previous occasions, held that the award of adequate judgement, which in the instant case is a term of imprisonment ranging from ten years to twenty years, is “a question of personal liberty protected by Article 21 of the Constitution of India and there is a requirement of giving due weightage to mitigating and aggravating circumstances.”
The mitigating circumstances have been enlisted as:
(i) “appellant is a poor man and only bread winner of the family;
(ii) Trial Court found that the appellant should be dealt with leniently while considering the question of sentence;
(iii) appellant was merely a carrier and the main accused Malkit Singh was never arrested and in fact no fruitful efforts were made to arrest him;
(iv) the appellant is the first time convict under the Act and there is no pending case against the appellant under the Act and no special factors as stated in Section 32B (a) to (f) are present in the facts and circumstances of the present case.”
The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah observed that “in a murder case, the accused commits murder of one or two persons, while those persons who are dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing death or in inflicting death blow to number of innocent young victims who are vulnerable; it cause deleterious effects and deadly impact on the society; they are hazard to the society. Organized activities of the underworld and the clandestine smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into this country and illegal trafficking in such drugs and substances shall lay to drug addiction among a sizeable section of the public, particularly the adolescents and students of both sexes and the menace has assumed serious and alarming proportions in the recent years.
Therefore, it has a deadly impact on the society as a whole. Therefore, while awarding the sentence/punishment in case of NDPS Act, the interest of the society as a whole is also required to be taken in consideration.”
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION REGARDING THE SUPREME COURT’S VIEW REGARDING THE MITIGATION OF AWARD BASED ON THE ECONOMIC CONDITION OF THE ACCUSED? DO LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!