M. Sampat vs The State Of Chhattisgarh on 5 April, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

M. Sampat vs The State Of Chhattisgarh on 5 April, 2021

Author: Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee

Bench: Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee, Krishna Murari

                                                            1

                                                                                        Non-Reportable

                                            IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                          CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                         CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 378 OF 2021
                                  [Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 1987/2021]


     M. SAMPAT                                                                          …….APPELLANT

                                                         VERSUS

     THE STATE OF CHHATISGARH                                                           …….RESPONDENT



                                                    J U D G M E N T

Leave granted.

This appeal is against a judgment and order dated 26-03-2018

passed by the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur in CRA No.113

of 2012 upholding the conviction of the Appellant under Section

20(b)(ii)(C) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,

1985 (NDPS Act).

It was the case of the Prosecution that on 14-09-2009, the

Police received secret information that certain persons were

transporting ‘Ganja’ in a Maruti Omni Van and a Truck. Three

persons were apprehended from the Maruti Omni Van for transporting

26 kgs of ‘Ganja’. These three persons in the Maruti Van were later

acquitted.

Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by

After searching the Maruti Omni Van and apprehending these
NEETU KHAJURIA
Date: 2021.04.08
17:38:56 IST
Reason:

persons, a truck bearing Number 38 L 999 of which the Appellant had

been an employee, was intercepted. The Driver of the Truck,
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T. Narsaiya (since deceased) tried to escape, but was apprehended

and the said truck was searched.

In course of the search, 3327 kgs of ‘Ganja’ was found

concealed in the said truck, with Onion bags. The driver T.

Narsaiya, since deceased and the Appellant were taken into custody

and criminal proceedings initiated against them under the NDPS Act.

By a judgment and order dated 14.12.2011, the Special Judge,

NDPS Act, Bastar at Jagdalpur found the Appellant and the said

Narsaiya (since deceased) guilty under Section 20(b)(ii)(C)

of the NDPS Act and sentenced them to maximum punishment of

20 years of rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs.2 lacs.

Both Narsaiya (since deceased) and the Appellant appealed to the

High Court. While the appeal in the High Court was pending,

Narsaiya died.

By the impugned judgment and order dated 26-3-2018, the High

Court affirmed the conviction of the Appellant but modified the

sentence to 15 years rigorous imprisonment instead of 20 years, and

reduced the fine to Rs.1 lac from Rs.2 lacs. Aggrieved by the

judgment and order impugned, the Appellant has approached this

Court. The Appellant has preferred a jail petition and

Ms. Priyanjali Singh, learned counsel has been appointed as an

Amicus Curiae on his behalf.

The Prosecution has successfully established that over 3,300

kgs of ‘Ganja’ that is cannabis, a narcotic drug was illegally

being transported in the aforesaid truck bearing Number 38 L 999.
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The Appellant was in the vehicle when the said vehicle was

intercepted by the police.

Ms. Priyanjali Singh strenuously argued that the Appellant,

who was not the owner of the truck, but only a poor conductor,

22/23 years of age at the time of the incident, could not possibly

have committed the offence alleged. He was not even aware of the

fact that ‘Ganja’ was being carried in the truck in question.

Under Section 20(b) whoever produces, manufactures, possesses,

sells, purchases or even transports cannabis (including ‘Ganja’) is

punishable with imprisonment for a term which may not be less than

ten years, but might extend to twenty years, and fine in addition

to imprisonment, which shall not be less than one lakh but might

extend to two lakh rupees.

Having regard to the huge quantity (3332 kgs.) of ‘Ganja’

(cannabis) carried on the truck, it is difficult to accept Ms.

Priyanjali Singh’s argument that the Appellant, an employee of the

truck, described as a conductor, but actually a helper, was not

even aware of the fact that ‘Ganja’ was being carried in the truck.

The truck was almost full of ‘Ganja’ camouflaged with only a few

bags of onions at the top.

After going through the impugned judgment and order of the

High Court, the judgment and order of the Trial Court and after

hearing Ms. Priyanjali Singh, learned Amicus Curiae, and Dr. Rakesh

Pandey, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State of
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Chhattisgarh, we do not find any cogent ground to interfere with

the concurrent findings of the High Court and the Trial Court

convicting the Appellant of offence under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of

the NDPS Act.

The Trial Court imposed maximum punishment of rigorous

imprisonment for twenty years and fine of Rs.2 lakhs for the

offence punishable under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of the NDPS Act. In

default of payment of fine each of the accused were to undergo

additional rigorous imprisonment for three years.

However, the order of sentence passed by the Trial Court did

not disclose the reasons for awarding the maximum punishment to the

Appellant. Although the Trial Court has recorded that the accused

and their counsel were heard on the question of sentence, there is

no whisper of the arguments advanced. It appears that the enormity

of the quantity of ‘Ganja’ seized from the lorry, swayed the Trial

Court to impose the maximum punishment. The Trial Court neither

considered the extent of involvement of the Appellant nor

considered if there were any extenuating circumstances for imposing

a lesser punishment.

The High Court allowed the appeal of the Appellant in part.

While maintaining the conviction, the substantive jail sentence was

reduced to 15 years from 20 and the amount of fine reduced to Rs.1

lakh from Rs.2 lakhs. While the High Court has rightly reduced the

sentence, the order of the High Court does not indicate the reasons

why a sentence of imprisonment higher than the minimum was thought
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necessary. The Appellant who was only an indigent helper (described

as conductor) on the truck, 22/23 years of age, did not make any

attempt to abscond, unlike the driver Narsaiya. He did not show

any suspicious behaviour.

The owner of the truck is absconding. The driver T. Narsaiya

had made an attempt to flee. There is nothing against the Appellant

except that he was in the truck containing the contraband narcotic

drugs, of which he was helper, and some documents pertaining to the

truck were found from him.

As pointed out by Ms. Priyanjali Singh, learned Amicus Curiae,

the very fact that the Appellant remained in jail and has filed a

jail petition shows the poor financial condition of the Appellant.

As an impecunious helper earning a meager salary, the Appellant

could not possibly have had any say with regard to the articles

loaded in the truck. There is no definite evidence to establish

that the Appellant knowingly committed the offence.

However presumption, having regard to the surrounding circumstances

has resulted in his conviction. Even assuming, he realized that

“Ganja” was being loaded, he could perhaps do little but to remain

a mute spectator to the commission of the offence, as otherwise, he

would have risked his job, his only means of survival, if not his

life.

Ms. Priyanjali Singh submits that the Appellant is a first

time offender. As argued by her, the Appellant is not the owner of

the vehicle. The owner is, as Dr. Rakesh Pandey, learned counsel
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for the State of Chhattisgarh has pointed out, absconding. The

driver of the vehicle, who had been convicted, has died in the

meanwhile.

Considering the facts and circumstances of the case,

particularly the fact that the Appellant, an indigent helper on a

truck, only 22/23 years of age at the time of incident and a first

time offender, and considering that nothing was recovered from his

custody except for documents pertaining to the vehicle, of which he

was a helper (described as conductor), we deem it appropriate to

reduce the sentence of imprisonment to the period already

undergone, which in any case, far exceeds the minimum sentence of

imprisonment of 10 years.

The appeal is partly allowed and the order of the High Court

is modified to the extent indicated above.

The Appellant shall be set free.

Pending application(s) if any, stand disposed of.

…………………………………………………….J.

[INDIRA BANERJEE]

…………………………………………………….J.

[KRISHNA MURARI]
NEW DELHI
APRIL 05, 2021



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