Calcutta High Court Mandates Video Recording Of Recovery of Narcotic Substance Under NDPS Act
The Division Bench of Justice Ananya Bandyopadhyay and Justice Joymalya Bagchi at the Calcutta High Court have issued directives mandating video recording of the recovery of narcotics by the concerned police officials and central agencies empowered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act to search and seize narcotics.
The Court held, "In order to remedy the situation and ensure unvarnished is placed before the court during adjudication, it is imperative that the investigating agencies resort to modern technology and videograph the recovery of narcotics."
The directives have been issued in light of the discrepancies observed by the Bench in numerous cases of recovery of narcotic substance under the NDPS Act. Several cases of missing signatures of the accused, in the seizure list and the statements of the independent witnesses, being inconsistent and not supporting the seizure have promoted this move.
The Bench expressed that – "draconian provisions (of the NDPS Act) are sometimes misused by investigating agency leading to false implication and prolonged unjustified detention of individuals. Most of the cases registered under the N.D.P.S. Act revolve around recovery of narcotic substance from the accused. Heart and soul of the prosecution is the legitimacy of such recovery."
In issuing the directives the Bench relied on -
- Chapter 6 of The Field Officers' Handbook issued by Narcotics Control Bureau titled "Recovery and Seizure, mandates video recording of seizure of narcotics and
- Shafhi Mohammad Vs. State of Himachal Pradesh where the Apex Court has agreed with the Report of the Committee of Experts in 2017 expressing that videography of crime scene during the investigation is of immense value in improving the administration of criminal justice.
Further, it was noted by the Bench that – "…all police officers are ordinarily equipped with smart phones and other electronic gadgets which would enable them to videograph recovery. When technology is available at the lay level we see no reason why it shall not be utilized to instil fairness, impartiality and confidence in the investigative process"
In view of the above, the bench issued the following directives –
i) Video recording of the entire procedure of recovery of narcotics above commercial quantity to be made by the seizing officers.
ii) In case of failure to record the proceedings, the reasons for such failure are to be specified in the investigation records.
iii) Police officials of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police and above are to monitor recovery of narcotic substance within their territorial jurisdiction.
iv) Non-compliance of the directives on video recording of the recovery would attract departmental proceedings against the seizing officer.
v) These directives shall also be applicable to seizing officers of Central agencies empowered to search and seize narcotics under the NDPS Act.
Click here to read/download the Order