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Extension of time for investigation under NDPS Act not to be allowed if progress of investigation is not disclosed: Bombay High Court

An application questioning the legality of the order passed by N.D.P.S Special Judge, Pune which granted an extension of time to conduct investigation under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1958 (NDPS), held that such application for extension of time to complete the investigation is not maintainable if the same is not in conformity with the proviso to S. 36A (4) of the NDPS Act held by Justice Smt. Anuja Prabhudessai in the case of Nayantara Gupta Vs. State of Maharashtra (R) [LD/VC/OCR/115/2020].

Facts related to this case is: The Applicant was named as an accused in Cr. No.14 of 2019 registered by (Narcotics Cell), Customs Pune. The case of the prosecution, in brief, was that on 12/11/2019 the Narcotic Cell at Pune received specific information that the Applicant herein was engaged in selling Mephedrone and LSD stamps from the Clover Highland, NIBM Road, (near Dorabjee Stores) Pune to potential customers in Pune area. On the same day i.e. 22.11.2019, the officers of Customs Narcotics Cell, Pune searched the aforesaid premises under Panchanma and recovered from the applicant a transparent plastic pouch containing off the white coloured powder-like substance and a pouch containing some stamp-like substances. The substance was tested using Field Testing Kit and the same tested positive for Mephadrone and LSD Lysergic Acid. The off white coloured substance purported to be Mephedrone weighing 54 gms, valued at Rs.3, 24,000/- and 416 perforated stamps purported to be LSD Lysergic Acid valued at Rs.20, 80,000/- was seized and FIR was registered against the Applicant for offences under sections 8 (c), 21 (b), 29 (1) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 hereinafter referred as NDPS Act. The Applicant was arrested on 12/11/2019.

As per S. 36A (4) it is on the discretion of the court to extend the time for investigation up to a further 180 days based on the report of the public prosecutor which should indicate the “progress of the investigation”. The Hon’ble Court while placing reliance on the case of S Kasvi Vs. State [Criminal Appeal No.453 of 2020] observed that the extension of time for investigation leads to curtailment of personal liberty and the same cannot be ordered in a mechanical manner but with “due application of mind and on being satisfied with the progress of the investigation and the reasons for detention as spelt out in the report of the prosecutor justifying such extension”.

The Hon’ble Court while setting aside the orders passed by N.D.P.S Special Judge, Pune and granting bail to the accused expounded that “with the grant of bail, liberty of the applicant-accused stands protected but with the casual approach of the investigating officer and the public prosecutor in discharging their statutory duties, the societal interest stands dented”.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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