The Supreme Court on Thursday held that once seized poppy straw tests positive for contents of morphine and meconic acid, then no other additional test is required to establish the guilt of the accused under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) Act.
A bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and C.T. Ravikumar said: “We are of the considered view that the High Court was not justified in holding that, even after the chemical examiner’s report establishes that the contraband contains ‘meconic acid’ and ‘morphine’, unless it was established that the same was derived from the species of ‘papaver somniferum L’, conviction under Section 15 of the 1985 Act could not be sustained.”
The top court allowed an appeal by the Himachal Pradesh government, represented by advocate Abhinav Mukerji, challenging a Himachal High Court order, which set aside conviction and sentence of Nirmal Kaur from whom, eight gunny bags each containing 40 kg of ‘poppy husk’ and a bag containing 30 kg of ‘poppy husk’ were recovered.
The bench said: “Once it is established that the seized ‘poppy straw’ tests positive for the contents of morphine and meconic acid, no other test would be necessary for bringing home the guilt of the accused under the provisions of Section 15 of the 1985 Act.”
It also said the high court was also not justified in observing that the chemical examiner’s report, in the alternative, should establish that the seized material is a part of any other species of ‘papaver’ from which opium or any ‘phenanthrene alkaloid’ could be extracted and which has been notified by the Centre as opium for the purpose of the 1985 Act.
The top court answered the question whether it is necessary to particularise the species of the contraband recovered, poppy husk, poppy straw etc and if it is necessary for the prosecution to bring in additional materials.
It considered international developments to control of any drugs and psychotropic substances and also scientific studies, while interpreting the provisions of the 1985 NDPS Act. “It was found necessary to enact a new law since after passing of the earlier three Acts, there were tremendous developments on an international platform and a vast body of international law in the field of narcotics control had evolved through various international treaties and protocols,” said the bench, in its 74-page judgment.
The bench said the country had, for the last many years, been increasingly faced with the problem of trafficking of drugs, which had posed serious problems to governments at the state and Centre. “It was found necessary to enact a comprehensive law. It is thus clear that the dominant purpose of the new enactment was to curb the menace of trafficking of drugs and psychotropic substances. Therefore, the interpretation which advances the purpose of the Act has to be preferred rather than adopting a pedantic and a mechanical approach,” it said.
The top court sent the matter back to the high court for fresh consideration.