The Himachal Pradesh High Court has recently held that the right of an expeditious trial cannot be diluted by applying the rigors of Section 37 of the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act in perpetuity.

The Court was dealing with a matter in which the petitioner i.e., the accused was facing trial for the offences under Sections 20 and 29 of the NDPS Act.

A Single Bench of Justice Satyen Vaidya ordered, “It is submitted by learned counsel for the petitioner that till date prosecution witnesses have not been examined, despite the fact that petitioner is in custody since 30.03.2021. In the considered view of this Court, the Constitutional guarantee of expeditious trial cannot be diluted by applying the rigors of Section 37 of ND&PS Act in perpetuity.”

The Bench noted that recently, in a number of cases, under-trials for offences involving a commercial quantity of contraband under the NDPS Act have been allowed the liberty of bail by the Supreme Court only on the ground that they have been incarcerated for prolonged durations.

Advocate Yashveer Singh Rathore appeared for the petitioner/accused while AAG Manoj Chauhan and AAG Varun Chandel represented the respondent/State.

In this case, during the search of the vehicles by the police, “Charas” weighing 1 Kg and 555 grams was recovered. The petitioner was alleged to be one of the occupants of one of the vehicles, who fled from the scene. It was alleged against him that contraband belonged to the petitioner and the other occupant.

The petitioner prayed for the grant of bail on the ground that his constitutional right of expeditious disposal of trial has been infringed. As per him, he was in custody for approximately one year and ten months and the trial was not concluded, rather progressing at a snail’s pace.

The question for consideration that arose before the High Court was “Can the provisions of Section 37 of the Act, be construed to have the same efficacy, throughout the pendency of the trial, notwithstanding, the period of custody of the accused, especially, when it is weighed against his fundamental right to have expeditious disposal of trial?”

The Court while considering the aforesaid question asserted, “Reverting to the facts of the case, the petitioner is in custody since 30.03.2021 and the facts suggest that the trial is not likely to be concluded in near future. There is nothing on record to suggest that the delay in trial is attributable to the petitioner.”

The Court, therefore, directed that the petitioner be released on bail by furnishing a personal bond of Rs. 1,00,000/-.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the petition and granted bail to the accused.

Cause Title- Deep Raj @ Neetu v. State of Himachal Pradesh

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