In a judgement observed by the Supreme Court on the 16th of April, 2021, it was held that a private vehicle would not come under the ambit of the expression “public place” as has been explained in Section 43 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act).”
The Apex Court reaffirmed that private cars did not amount to public place in the case of Boota Singh v. State of Haryana, where since recovery of narcotics was made from the applicants from a private car which was parked in a public place, the applicants were acquitted since they could not be charged under Section 43 of the Act which provided for the search and seizure of narcotics in the public place.
On the 28th of January, 2002, a raid was conducted on a private car parked in a ‘kacha path’ in Rori-Jatana Road based on a secret information that “poppy straws”, a substance illegal to be sold commercially other than for medical purposes was being sold on the vehicle.
From the back of the private car was recovered two bags, one containing 39 kgs of poppy straw and the other containing 36 kgs.
On explanation of the contents of the charge to the accused, they pleaded ‘not guilty’ and claimed trial.
The trial court released the jeep on which such poppy straw were found and awarded a judgement in favour of the accused.
Further, the three accused were convicted and awarded with rigorous imprisonment of ten years under the provisions of Section 15 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
The applicants in the instant case had appealed to the apex Court to challenge the order of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana which had reinstated the order of the Trial Court.
Adv. Praveen Kumar, the counsel for the appellants, contended that the vehicle from which the substances were recovered was a private one, and hence the provisions of Section 43 of the NDPS Act was not applicable in the first place, based on which the punishment was awarded. The applicable section for seizure in public places, Section 42 of the Act, were not complied with, and therefore, the accused applicants were “entitled to acquittal”.
AAG Rakesh Mudgal, representing the State argued that the decisions taken by the Trial Court and the High Court in this regard were correct.
But both the parties agreed that the private vehicle was not a public place.
The Court observed, “The evidence in the present case clearly shows that the vehicle was not a public conveyance but was a vehicle belonging 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” as explained in Section 43 of the NDPS
The Court also noted that it was an admitted position that there was total non-compliance of the requirements of Section 42 of the NDPS Act, and held that “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.”
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