The Supreme Court has reduced the sentence of imprisonment given to a senior citizen woman who was convicted and sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

"… considering the old age of the accused appellant, who is a poor illiterate lady completely unaware of the consequences, we consider it appropriate that the sentence of the accused appellant be reduced…", the Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice CT Ravikumar held.

In this case the appellant who is a poor illiterate lady and a senior citizen at the time of the alleged incident, along with her two children, was charged under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of the NDPS Act for having joint possession of the commercial quantity of illegal 'Ganja'(Cannabis). 'Ganja'(cannabis) was found in twenty twine sacks upon conducting lawful search of the house of the accused-appellant.

The FIR came to be registered and after completion of investigation, charge­sheet under Sections 20(b) and 27­A of the NDPS Act and Section 299 IPC was filed implicating 5 accused persons including the present appellant.

The Trial Court, held the appellant guilty for the offence under Section 20(b) (ii)(C) of the NDPS Act and acquitted other four persons of all the charges. The Trial Court sentenced the appellant-senior citizen for 15 years' of rigorous imprisonment.

The High Court upheld the conviction and sentence given to the appellant-senior citizen.

Advocate Sangeeta Kumar appeared for the appellant wehereas Advocate Vishal Prasad appeared for the state.

The Supreme Court observed that "Neither the trial Court nor the High Court has considered that the lady was illiterate and a senior citizen, was indeed residing but completely unknown to law, with two grown up children, with no previous background of being involved in any kind of criminal cases at any point of time in her life time."

The Court further observed that the trial Judge as well as the High Court didn't take into consideration the factors to be kept in mind for imposing higher than the minimum sentence provided under Section 32B of the NDPS Act.

The Court expressed that offences under the NDPS Act are very serious in nature and no discretion is to be exercised in favour of such accused who are indulged in such offences under the Act. However the Court noted that it cannot be oblivious of the other facts and circumstances as projected in the present case that the old illiterate lady from rural background, who was senior citizen at the time of alleged incident, was residing in that house along with her husband and two grown up children who may be into illegal trade.

Therefore the Court considering the circumstances of the case reduced the sentence of imprisonment to 12 years while upholding the conviction.

Cause Title-Budhiyarin Bai v. State of Chattisgarh

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