Whether failure to submit the FSL report along with the Charge sheet entitles a default bail to the accused? Supreme Court refers the matter to a Larger Bench

Case title: Hanif Ansari Vs State (Govt of NCT of Delhi)

Case no.: SLP (Crl.) No(s). 15293/2023

Decision on: March 19th, 2024

Quoram: Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Sanjay Kumar

Facts of the case

In this case, the petitioner was implicated for committing offences under various provisions of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act). The allegations against him involved recovery of 2 kgs of heroin. The petitioner was arrested on 07.04.2022 and the charge sheet was filed on 07.10.2024. At that point of time, the report of the Forensic Science Laboratory, identifying the specimen allegedly seized as the aforesaid contraband article, was not available. Consequently, the petitioner approached the High Court on the grievance that the complete charge sheet was not submitted within the stipulated amount of time as per Section 167(2) of the CrPC, 1973. He thus, sought for a default-bail by invoking the provisions of Section 167(2) of the Code. However, the FSL Report was submitted later on 05.07.2023, confirming the seized material as heroin. The High Court refused to grant a default bail despite non-filling of the FSL Report with the charge sheet.

Submissions of the Parties

The Counsel on behalf of State argued that the spot-testing kit used by the arresting team revealed that the seized material was heroin. On the contrary, the Counsel for Petitioner rebutted it by contending that such spot-testing kit results had no evidentiary value. He only pleaded for the adjudication of the point of law in question and did not seek for an interim bail.

Issue – Whether non-furnishing of the FSL report with the charge sheet, would account to an incomplete charge sheet and would that be a ground to grant a default bail to the accused?

Court’s Analysis and Judgement

The Court examined the impugned judgement passed by the High Court of Delhi and other cases on the same line. During the course of proceedings, it tagged the cases which involved similar question of law. It observed that though the matters were dealt with the same point of law, the interim bail has not been granted in every petition. It noted that this Court in the cases of Pabitra Narayan Pradhan Vs The State (NGT) of Delhi and Shankar @ Shiva Maheshwar Savai Vs The State of Gujarat had declined the pleas for granting the bail but however did not adjudicate on the aforementioned question of law. It further, emphasized that certain other factors like the quantity of the contraband articles being seized and period of incarceration were considered in the aforesaid orders while granting interim bail.

The Bench in view of diversity of rulings by different Benches of this Court on the question of interim bail and law, opined that a larger Bench would be appropriate to adjudicate the question as to whether failure on the part of the prosecution to include the FSL report pertaining to the seized contraband article(s) along with the charge sheet, within the time specified in Section 167(2) of the Code read with Section 36A of the NDPS Act, would entitle the accused to default bail or not. Thereby, the Bench placed the matter before the Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India by tagging other similar cases and abstained from making any observations on the merits of the case.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Keerthi K

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