No leniency should be shown to an accused who is found to be guilty for offence under the NDPS Act: Supreme Court

THE Supreme Court, in a judgment on Tuesday, noted that “[n]o leniency should be shown to an accused who is found to be guilty for the offence under the NDPS Act.” In response to an appeal by an offender convicted of offences in two different instances under the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 requesting that the court exercise its discretion under Section 427 (Sentence on offender already sentenced for another offence) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to order that his two separate sentences run concurrently rather than consecutively, a division bench of Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna refused to intervene, and delivered a strongly worded rebuke of offenders under the NDPS Act.

In the apex court’s words:

“Those persons who are dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing death or in inflicting death blow to a number of innocent young victims who are vulnerable. Such accused causes deleterious effects and deadly impact on the society. They are hazard to the society. Such organized activities of clandestine smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into this country and illegal trafficking in such drugs and substances have a deadly impact on the society as a whole. Therefore, while awarding the sentence or punishment in case of NDPS Act, the interest of the society as a whole is required to be taken into consideration. Therefore, even while applying discretion under Section 427 of Cr.PC, the discretion shall not be in favour of the accused who is found to be indulging in illegal trafficking in the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. … even while exercising discretion under Section 427 of Cr.PC to run subsequent sentence concurrently with the previous sentence, the discretion is to be exercised judiciously and depending upon the offence/offences committed. Therefore, considering the offences under the NDPS Act which are very serious in nature and against the society at large, no discretion shall be exercised in favour of such accused who is indulging into the offence under the NDPS Act.”

The appellant in this case was a Pakistani national who had been convicted by two different courts in two different trials for offences with respect to two different transactions. In the first case, he had been sentenced to 12 years’ rigorous imprisonment by a Punjab court under Sections 23 (Punishment for illegal import in to India, export from India or transhipment of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances) and 21 (Punishment for contravention in relation to manufactured drugs and preparations) of the NDPS Act for possessing 4 kg heroin, and in the second case, he had been sentenced to 15 years’ rigorous imprisonment by a Delhi court under Sections 29 (Punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy) and 21(c) of the Act for possessing 750 g heroin.

In the subsequent order, there was no specific direction that the sentence laid out by it ran concurrently to the first one.

The appellant, who had already undergone 22 years of rigorous imprisonment at present, had appealed that since his conduct in jail had been good and there had been no adverse remarks against him by the Jail Superintendent thus far, the two sentences which the he is undergoing may be held to run concurrently under Section 427 of CrPC. His appeal had earlier been dismissed by the Delhi High Court.

The apex court analyzed the jurisprudence relating to Section 427 of CrPC and laid out the overarching principles governing its operation: that while “the general rule is that where there are different transactions, different crime numbers and cases have been decided by the different judgments, concurrent sentence cannot be awarded under Section 427”, the court possesses, under section 427(1), the “power and discretion”, depending on the nature of the offence and the specific circumstances, to direct that any subsequent sentence run concurrently with the previous sentence.

Since the Supreme Court refused to exercise this discretion favourably towards the appellant considering his repeat convictions under the NDPS Act, it dismissed his appeal and upheld his consecutive sentences.