Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 29
Maintaining that officers of the central and state agencies appointed under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 are police officers, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that statements recorded by them were not admissible as evidence during trial.
“The officers who are invested with powers under section 53 of the NDPS Act are ‘police officers’ within the meaning of section 25 of the Evidence Act, as a result of which any confessional statement made to them would be barred under the provisions of section 25 of the Evidence Act, and cannot be taken into account in order to convict an accused under the NDPS Act,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice RF Nariman said in a 2:1 verdict.
Deciding a batch of appeals on the contentious issue, the top court said that a statement recorded under section 67 of the NDPS Act cannot be used as a confessional statement in the trial of an offence under the NDPS Act.
The majority verdict was delivered by Justice Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha, while Justice Indira Banarjee delivered a dissenting judgment.
The majority verdict said that “to arrive at the conclusion that a confessional statement made before an officer designated under section 42 or section 53 can be the basis to convict a person under the NDPS Act, without any non obstante clause doing away with section 25 of the Evidence Act, and without any safeguards, would be a direct infringement of the constitutional guarantees contained in Articles 14 (right to equality), 20(3) (right against self-incrimination) and 21 (right to fair trial) of the Constitution of India”.
The latest verdict reverses an earlier judgment of a two-judge Bench which had ruled that statements made to officers of central and state agencies under Section 67 of NDPS Act was admissible.