S.S. Parkar, J.
1. This appeal is filed against the order of conviction and sentence passed by the Special Judge, Greater Bombay on 16th October, 1992 convicting the appellant under Section 21 read with Section 8(c) of the NDPS Act and sentenced to suffer RI for ten years and to pay a fine of Rs. 1,00,000/- and in default to suffer further RI for one year. The appellant was further convicted by the aforesaid order for offences punishable under Section 22 read with Section 8(c) of the NDPS Act and sentenced to suffer RI for ten years and to pay a fine of Rs. 1,00,000/- in default to suffer further RI for one year. The appellant was also convicted by the aforesaid order for the offence punishable under Section 23 read with Section 28 of the NDPS Act and for offence under Sections 135(1)(a) read with Section 135(i) and (ii) of the Customs Act and under Section 13 of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973. However, no sentences were awarded to appellant on these counts. The substantive sentences under Section 21 read with Section 8(c) and Section 22 read with Section 8(c) of the NDPS Act were directed to run concurrently.
2. The prosecution case briefly stated runs as follows :
In the early hours of 7th August 1989 the appellant had gone to Sahar Air-port as he was to take Air India flight scheduled to leave from Bombay to Dubai. The appellant at about 2.30 a.m. had gone with suitcase Article No. 1 for screening and put the said suitcase on X- ray machine for screening. P.W.10 Dilip Vithal Sawant was at that time working as Security Assistant with Air India at the said airport. His duty was to check baggages of passengers travelling by Air India flights from Sahar Airport. For the purpose of checking the baggages he had to screen the baggages for which purpose X-ray machine is installed. When Article NO. 1, suit case was put on X-ray machine for screening, the said witness saw some black dots on the screen and, therefore, he questioned the accused appellant as to what he was carrying in the said suitcase. The appellant replied that he was carrying few clothes of his inside the suitcase and nothing else. The witness then told the appellant to see the image of the suitcase and the dots on the screen. The witness also found the suitcase was little bit heavy. He allowed the accused to proceed further for getting the baggage checked in at the Air India counter and informed the Preventive Officer of the Customs on duty, Mr. M. R. Negi, who is examined as P.W.1. The P.W. 10 told the Customs Officer about his doubts regarding the said suitcase pointing out to him the suitcase as well as the appellant.
3. The appellant was to go to Dubai on that day by Air India flight No.
701. After being so informed P.W.1 immediately intercepted the suitcase at the baggage examination counter at Module-2 and kept watch thereon. At that time the appellant came towards the baggage counter after obtaining clearance from the Migration counter. The said PW 1 had also earlier informed the Superintendent Mr. Verghis who, accompanied by other officers, also came at the baggage examination counter. The appellant was then intercepted by the officers of the Customs and the services of two panchas were procured. When the panchas arrived at the said counter, the appellant was questioned by PW 1 in the presence of the panchas whether he was carrying any narcotic or other contraband in the suitcase to which he replied in the negative. The appellant was asked to produce his travel documents and accordingly he produced a Kenian Airways ticket in his name, a Passport issued at Behrain by Indian Embassy and the boarding pass.
4. On the examination of the Air ticket the officers found baggage identification tag was affixed to the outer side of the jacket of the Air ticket. The officers then compared the baggage identification tag pasted on the handle of the suitcase with the baggage identification tag affixed to the Air ticket and found that the numbers of both these tags tallied. Thereafter the passengers' manifest for the said flight being Air India Flight No. 701 was examined which was at the Customs counter dated 7-8-89 where the name of the appellant was at Serial No.
258. The name on the Air ticket as well as Sr. No. 258 in the passengers' manifest was the same that is Shaikh Ashraf Abdul Kadar. The suitcase was taken charge of by the PW 1 in the presence of panchas. The suitcase was having a lock with combination numbers. On being questioned the appellant gave the combination number of the said lock as 786 for opening the said lock. After adjusting the said number the lock of the suitcase was opened by PW 1. The suitcase contained some clothes. When the said clothes were removed from the suitcase and the suitcase was emptied the witnesses found the bottom of the suitcase extra thick and, therefore, they suspected that it had a false bottom. When the appellant was questioned whether he was carrying any contraband in that suitcase he replied in the negative. The bottom of the suitcase was thereafter ripped open in the presence of panchas and one polythene bag containing some tablets was found in the false bottom of the suitcase. When the said polythene bag was opened it was found to contain tablets of white colour with alphabets 'MX' imposed on one side. The officer thereafter ripped open the inside portion of the top flap of the suitcase from where two polythene bags were recovered out of which one bag was having similar tablets as recovered from the false bottom of the suitcase and the other polythene bag was having brownish powder substance. That powder appeared to be heroin and on being weighed was found to be weighing 500 gms. valued at Rs. 1,00,000/- at the illicit market rate. Those two polythene bags, one recovered from the bottom of the suitcase and the other recovered from the false top, were having mandrex tablets which weighed 7 kgs. There were in all 11,000 tablets valued at Rs. 22,000/- at the illicit market rate.
5. Thereafter the officers examined the hand baggage of the passenger i.e. one brown jordan briefcase and one white zipper bag which the appellant claimed as his own hand baggage. On examination of this hand baggage nothing incriminating was found therein. Thereafter the personal search of the passenger was taken in the presence of one of the panchas which resulted in the recovery of US $ 500 from the pocket of his trousers equivalent to Indian Rs. 8200/-. The contraband like Mandrex tablets, heroin powder and US $ 500 were seized by the officers. The officers also seized the travel documents such as Air ticket, boarding pass, baggage identification tags for further enquiry. The officers thereafter took out three representative samples of heroin each of 15 gms. and three representative samples of Mandrex tablets each of 15 pieces for the purpose of chemical analysis and as Court samples. The said six sample packets were sealed by the Preventive Officer and put in Seal No. 60. The balance quantity of the heroin was packed in one carton and the mandrex tablets were packed in the another carton and they were sealed by the Preventive Officer under Seal No.
60. The suitcase was also sealed under seal No. 60. All the travel documents were kept in one cover and sealed under seal No. 60. The foreign currency of US $ 500 were also packed one cover and sealed. The signatures of the panchas were obtained. The panchanama was prepared which was signed by PW 1 and the two panchas. A copy of the panchnama was also handed over to the appellant and his acknowledgment was obtained.
6. The statement of the accused was recorded by PW 2 K. Sanjeeva, the Superintendent of Customs under Section 108 of the Customs Act. In the said statement the appellant had admitted that he was to travel by the said flight to Dubai and that he had got his suitcase checked-in at the Airlines counter at Sahar Airport and the baggage identification tag was affixed to his Air ticket and on his suitcase. In his statement he also mentioned the name of the persons who had handed over the said bag to him for being taken to Dubai. The appellant was put under arrest. The seized property and the documents were handed over by PW 1 the Preventive Officer of Customs to PW 2 the Superintendent of Customs. The seized property and the documents were in the safe custody of PW 2 under the lock and key.
7. In the course of the investigation the two sealed sample packets containing the seized powder and tablets were sent to the chemical analyser for analysis. After examination, the CA report (Exh. 27) was obtained which showed that one sample packet contained 27.7% Morphine and the other sample answered test for presence of Methaqualene and Diaphenhydramine Hydrochloride i.e. Mandrex. Thereafter the papers were placed before the Sanctioning Authority viz. the Collector of Customs, Air Pool, Bombay, Shri H. Narayana Rao who accorded the sanction which is produced on record as Exhibit 37. Thereafter the complaint was filed in the Court on 27-10-1989 by PW 8 Mr. B. Dayal Goyal who was working as Assistant Collector of Customs, Bombay.
8. The aforesaid complaint was given NDPS (Special) Case No. 916 of 1990. The charges were framed against the appellant under Sections 21 and 22 both read with Section 8(c) of the NDPS Act, 1985 so also under Sections 135(1)(a) and 135(1)(b) of the Customs Act read with Section 13(1) of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973. The appellant had pleaded not guilty to the said charges and, therefore, the trial had taken place in which the prosecution had examined ten witnesses. On behalf of the appellant one witness was examined by name Dr. Varade, DW-1, who was the Chief Medical Officer, Bombay Central Prison, who produced the medical papers of the appellant who was examined on 9th august, 1989 i.e. two days after the appellant was arrested.
9. The defence of the appellant was of total denial. He denied that the checked in baggage i.e. suitcase being Article No. 1 belonged to him. He denied that he had checked in the said Article No. 1 as alleged by the prosecution. He also denied that he had identified the said suitcase in the presence of two panchas. He denied that the baggage identification tag which was affixed on other jacket of his Air ticket and the number thereon tallied with the number on the baggage identification tag (Exh. 11) which was affixed to the check-in suitcase Article No. 1. He had also retracted his statement recorded under Section 108 of the Customs Act and stated that the same was not his voluntary statement but was obtained by coercion and assault by the Customs Officers. According to him his signature was obtained on the 108 statement by the Customs Officers forcibly after assaulting him. According to him he was medically examined in detail by the Medical Officer at the Bombay Central Prison on 9th August, 1989 and his medical papers were produced by the defence witness, D.W. 1.
10. Initially the case was before the Additional Sessions Judge, Greater Bombay, Shri Y. N. Athalya who had framed charges on 18th January, 1991. As the Special Courts were constituted under the NDPS Act the matter was thereafter placed for the Special Judge for Greater Bombay, Shri Y. U. Pathan who again on 3rd September, 1991 framed the same charges as framed by the Additional Sessions Judge. As the Special Judge Shri Y. U. Pathan was to retire, it seems at the instance of the appellant, the matter was directed by this Court to be transferred to the Court of learned Special Judge Shri J. W. Singh and, therefore, the matter came to be tried and decided by the said Special Judge who by his judgment and order dated 16-10- 1992 was pleased to convict the appellant and sentence him as stated earlier.
11. Mr. Ghare, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant has raised several contentions and submitted that the conviction of the appellant is illegal and, therefore, the same needs to be quashed and set aside in this appeal. Firstly he contended that the provisions of Section 50 are not applied which are held to be mandatory by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh, as the accused was not taken to the nearest gazetted officer of any department mentioned in Section 142 or to the nearest Magistrate. He also submitted that search and seizure had taken place between 3.15 a.m. to 6.30 a.m. by PW 1, Mr. M. R. Negi, Preventive Officer, who is an authorised officer and the said officer ought to have reduced the information in writing which he had received from PW 10 before carrying out search and seizure, which having not been done, the trial stands vitiated for non-compliance with Section 42 of the NDPS Act. In support of this contention Mr. Ghare has relied on the unreported decision in Criminal Appeal No. 599 of 1994 delivered by the Division Bench of this Court on 10th December, 1996.
12. After purusal of the said unreported judgment, we find that the facts of that case are similar to the facts of the present case inasmuch as the incident in that case also had taken place between 5 a.m. to 5.30 a.m. on 31st August, 1989 i.e. after sunset and before sunrise when the accused in that case was arrested for carrying contraband in the suitcase at the Sahar International Airport, when he was proceeding from Bombay to Adis Ababa. The suitcase belonging to the accused had been checked in and was awaiting the customs clearance when a dog of the Customs Department stopped near the said suitcase and gave indications by his movements that some contraband articles was stored in the bag. The dog was specially trained for detection of narcotic drugs. The bag tag affixed to the said suitcase tallied with the number on the counterfoil attached to the Air ticket of the accused. The suitcase was locked by combination number which was opened by the accused by setting the number of the lock and in the false bottom of the said suitcase the polythene bags containing brown sugar were detected. Relying on the observation in sub para (2C) of para 26, of the judgment of Supreme Court in the case of State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh, the Division Bench held that there was clear breach of sub-section (2) of Section 42 which was held to be mandatory in Balbir Singh's case for not reducing the information in writing and for not sending the copy of the information recorded in writing to his immediate superior. The decision of the Supreme Court in Balbir Singh's case was considered by the Full Bench of this Court in the case of Ebanezer Adebaya alias Monday Obtor v. B. S. Rawat, Collector of Customs which is reported in 1996 (2) Mah LJ 280 : (1996 Cri LJ 3210). The Full Bench had the occasion to consider the decision of the Supreme Court in Balbir Singh's case (1994 Cri LJ 3702) on a reference made to it for reconsideration of the view taken by the Division Bench of this Court in Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 1993 decided on 21/24 October, 1994.
13. Mr. Ghare also relied on the decision of this Full Bench more particularly on para 5 of the said judgment and contended that the case of the appellant fell under Clauses (a) and (b) of para 5 of the said decision and, therefore, the trial of this appellant was vitiated for non-compliance with provisions of Section 42(2) of the Act. We are unable to accept the contention raised on behalf of the appellant by Mr. Ghare for the following reasons :
Firstly, in our view the provisions of Section 50 are not applicable because the case of the appellant does not fall under Clause (a) and (b) of para 5 of the Full Bench decision, which are as follows :
"Whether "to search any person" means :
(a) search of articles on the person or body of the person;
(b) would include search of articles in immediate possession such as bag and other luggage carried by him or in physical possession of the person to be searched; or"
Secondly in this case the officer was not acting on the previous information inasmuch as PW 10 had not given any information to PW 1 with regard to the commission of offence which is sine qua non for the applicability of Section 42 of the Act. The facts which were being considered by the Full Bench were identical with the facts in the case decided by the Division Bench in Criminal Appeal No. 599 of 1994. In the case before the Full Bench also the sniffer dog had indicated that the yellow bag which the accused was carrying contained contraband. The said bag was also already checked-in. Pursuant to the suspicion indicated by the sniffer dog the accused was intercepted and interrogated and when his baggage was checked the contraband was found. The said bag was opened with the key in the possession of the accused. The Full Bench held that the search in that case was not on prior information nor the baggage was actually with the accused as the baggage passed out of his hand for the purpose of loading in the aircraft. It was a case of chance recovery without prior information and provisions of Section 50 of N.D.P.S. Act were not applicable.
14. Mr. Agrawal has rightly pointed out from the evidence and the panchanama Exh. 12 that when the accused was intercepted, the officers of the Customs, particularly PW 1, had asked him whether he was carrying any contraband like narcotics, diamonds or foreign currency. The appellant-accused was also asked before opening the suitcase Article No. 1, whether it contained any contraband like narcotics, diamonds or foreign currency etc. This would mean that the officers were not having any definite prior information as to the nature of contraband or that the appellant was carrying in his suitcase the narcotic drugs. Even the evidence of PW 10, who initially suspected because the black dots were shown in the X-ray machine when the baggage of the accused was going through the X-ray Machine for screening, is that he questioned the accused as to what he was carrying in the said suitcase to which the accused replied that he was carrying only few clothes and nothing else. Since the PW 10 himself was not aware of or was not knowing the contents of the suitcase he could not have given information to PW 1 about the contents thereof. Mr. Agrawal, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent No. 2 has cited other decisions of this Court in Gharban Ali v. Intelligence Officer, 1966 Cri LJ 2420 and the case of Babulal Hiralal Saini v. State of Maharashtra reported in 1995 Cri LJ 4105 in support of his contention that Section 50 would not be applicable in this case. In the first case where the accused was proceeding to board the flight and had taken the boarding card, on suspicion, was stopped and questioned whether he was carrying any foreign exchange or narcotic drugs to which he replied in the negative and then on suspicion, was brought to the customs office and then his briefcase was opened and found to contain narcotic drugs. It was held to be a case of chance recovery of narcotic drugs on suspicion and, therefore, Section 50 was held not attracted relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Balbir Singh's case (1994 Cri LJ 3702) (supra). Similarly in the second case it has been held by the Division Bench of this Court that the provisions of Sections 41, 42 and 50 of the NDPS Act would not be applicable unless there was specific information about the commission of offence under Chapter IV of the NDPS Act. It was held that vague information cannot be said to be an information as contemplated under the provisions of NDPS Act for contravening the aforesaid provisions. Mr. Agarwal, the learned counsel for responded No. 2 also has brought to our notice the decision of the Division Bench in Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 1993 which was being considered by the Full Bench. In para 4, the Full Bench has quoted the facts and observations of the Division Bench in Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 1993 and in para 23 has in terms approved the ratio of that decision.
15. Mr. Ghare is not also right when he contends that Section 50 was applicable as the appellant was personally searched. In our view Section 50 would be applicable only in case the officers empowered under Sections 41 and 42 had made the search of the person on a prior information which has to be specific and pursuant to the said search the contraband is found from the person of the accused or from the luggage carried by him which are in immediate possession of the accused. The said position of law is absolutely clear from the judgment of the Supreme Court in Balbir Singh's case so also the interpretation there of by the Full Bench of this Court in the case of Ebanezer Adebaya alias Monday Obtor v. R. S. Rawat, Collector of Customs (1996 Cri LJ 3210) referred to earlier. We may usefully quote here paragraph 26(1) from the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh (1994 Cri LJ 3702) (supra) :
"26. The questions considered above arise frequently before the trial courts. Therefore we find it necessary to set out our conclusions which are as follows :
(1) If a police officer without any prior information as contemplated under the provisions of the NDPS Act makes a search or arrests a person in the normal course of investigation into an offence or suspected offence as provided under the provisions of Cr.P.C. and when such search is completed at that stage Section 50 of the NDPS Act would not be attracted and the question of complying with the requirements thereunder would not arise. If during such search or arrest there is a chance (of) recovery of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance then the police officer, who is not empowered, should inform the empowered officer who should thereafter proceed in accordance with the provisions of the NDPS Act. If he happens to be an empowered officer also, then from that stage onwards, he should carry out the investigation in accordance with the other provisions of the NDPS Act". .
The Supreme Court in the said case has further observed in sub-para (5) of paragraph 26 as follows :-
(5) On prior information, the empowered officer or authorised officer while acting under Sections 41(2) or 42 should comply with the provisions of Section 50 before the search of the person is made and such person should be informed that if he so requires, he shall be produced before a gazetted officer or a Magistrate as provided thereunder. It is obligatory on the part of such officer to inform the person to be searched. Failure to inform the person to be searched and if such person so requires, failure to take him to the gazetted officer or the Magistrate, would amount to non-compliance of Section 50 which is mandatory and thus it would affect the prosecution case and vitiate the trial. After being so informed whether such person opted for such a course or not would be a question of fact."
16. The Full Bench after quoting in paragraph 4 of their judgment from paragrah 7 of the judgment of the Division Bench in Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 1993 which was referred to it, observed in para 5 as follows :
"......... However, the question which requires consideration is what meaning can be assigned to the phrase "to search any person" used in Section 20 of the NDPS Act. Whether "to search any person" means :
(a) search of articles on the person or body of the person;
(b) would include search of articles in immediate possession such as bag and other luggage carried by him or in physical possession of the person to be searched; or
(c) would include search of bag or luggage which are presumed to be in possession of the person even though it may be lying in a house, or railway compartment or at the airport; and
(d) whether application of Section 50 can be extended to a case of search of a place, a conveyance or a house if the accused is physically present at the time of the search.
In our view, considering the provisions of Sections 42, 43 and 50 of the NDPS Act and the similar provisions of Section 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Sections 50(1), 52 and 102(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, it can be stated that the officer making the search of a person arrested when something is to be searched from the body of the person, then the procedure prescribed under Section 50 of the Act is required to be followed. "To search any person" would mean, to search the articles on the person or body of the person to be searched and would not normally include the articles which are not on the body of the person to be searched."
17. In para 12, after quoting the observations of the Supreme Court in paragraph 22 from Balbir Singh's case (1994 Cri LJ 3702), the Full Bench has observed as follows :
"From the aforesaid observations it would be clear that when search of an arrested person is to be carried out, then the procedure prescribed under Section 50 is to be followed and not in those cases where search is to be carried out of any building, a conveyance or any premises which may be public or private where bags and baggage containing narcotic drugs are lying."
The Full Bench in paragraph 14 of the judgment further observed as follows :
".............. In carrying out such searches if they come across any substance covered by the NDPS Act the question of complying with the provisions of the said Act including Section 50 at that stage would not arise .............."
18. The aforesaid observations of the Full Bench which are no doubt binding on us, leave us in no manner of doubt that the provisions of Section 50 would become operative only in case there was prior specific information with regard to the commission of offence under the provisions of NDPS Act and secondly pursuant to such specific prior information the search of the person i.e. the search of the articles on the person or body of the person or search of articles in immediate possession of the accused was carried. In this case so far as the suitcase is concerned from which the contraband was found, was not in the immediate possession of the accused. The baggage had passed out of his hands after the formalities were over and could be termed as "checked in" baggage as was the case which was under consideration before the Full Bench. So far as the personal search of the accused was concerned, no contraband was found under the provisions of the NDPS Act but it was only a sum of 500 $ which were recovered from the pockets of the accused when his personal search was taken by the officers of the Customs. In this respect the Full Bench has also distinguished the decision of the Supreme Court in Mohinder Kumar v. State of Panaji where two pieces of charas were actually
recovered from the right pocket of the pant on the person of the accused and hence the provisions of Section 50 were held to be applicable. The Full Bench has, therefore, in para 22 of the judgment has concluded in the following words :
"............ In our view, the Legislature had made distinction between a personal search and search of a conveyance, building or place, whether private or public. In our view, the provisions of Section 50 would be attracted only if it is confined to search of article on the person or body of the person or bag or luggage in physical possession of the person at the time of the search. Therefore, 'personal search' would be confined to Clauses (a) and (b) of paragraph 5 under Section 50, but it would not include and cannot be extended to Clauses (c) and (d) of paragraph 5 as mentioned above ............"
19. The aforesaid view taken by the Full Bench of this Court is doubtless binding on us and finds support from the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Namdi Francis Nwazor v. Union of India, 1996(4) Scale (SP) 1. The facts of that case which appear in para 2 of the judgment in that case are similar to the facts of the present case. The para 2 of the said judgment reads as under :
"2. The petitioner, a Nigerian national, was leaving India on 23-6- 1987 by Air India Flight No. AI-860 from Delhi to Lagos via Bombay. He had reported for customs clearance at the Air India counter at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. A team of the Narcotics Control Bureau present as the Airport suspected the petitioner and wanted to check his baggage. The petitioner was first asked if he was carrying any Narcotics or other contraband goods and on his refusal his luggage was searched. At the point of time when the actual search took place he was carrying two hand bags but nothing incriminating was found therefrom. He had, however, booked one bag which had already been checked in and was lodged in the Aircraft by which he was supposed to travel. This bag was called to the Customs counter at the airport for examination. On examination, it was found that it contained 153 cartons of Tetanus Vaccine. On being opened it was noticed that 152 cartons contained ampules whereas the remaining one carton carried polythene packet containing brown coloured powder packed with black adhesive tape."
In view of the aforesaid facts in para 4 of the judgment, the Supreme Court observed as follows :
"4. On a plain reading of sub-section (1) of Section 50, it is obvious that it applies to cases of search of any person and no search of any article in the sense that the article is at a distant place from where the offender is actually searched.
.... ... ... .... ....
It is another matter that the said article is brought from the place where it is lying to the place where the search takes place but that cannot alter the position in law that the said article was not being carried by the accused on his or her person when apprehended. We must hasten to clarify that if that person is carrying a hand bag or like and the incriminating article is found therefrom, it would still be search of the person of the accused requiring compliance with Section 50 of the Act. However, when an article is lying elsewhere and is not on the person of the accused and is brought to a place where the accused is found, and on search, incriminating articles are found therefrom it cannot attract the requirements of Section 50 of the Act for the simple reason that it was not found on the accused person. So, on the facts of this case it is difficult to hold that Section 50 stood attracted and non-compliance with that provisions was fatal to the prosecution case."
20. In the aforesaid view taken by the Full Bench of this Court and the Supreme Court both in the case of State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh (1994 Cri LJ 3702)(supra) and in the case of Namdi Francis Nwazor v. Union of India (1996 (4) Scale (SP) 1) (supra) the view taken by the Division Bench of this Court in Criminal Appeal No. 599 of 1994 decided on 10th December, 1996 (unreported) cannot be relied on behalf of the appellant. In our view the decision of the Division Bench in Criminal Appeal No. 599 of 1994 in the case of Smt. Asha Mohamadi v. Assistant Collector of Customs is no longer good law. Mr. Agarwal, who had also appeared in the said matter, submits that the aforesaid decision in the case of Smt. Asha Mohamadi (supra) was per incuriam, as it had not considered the Full Bench decision in the case of Ebanezer Adebaya (1996 Cri LJ 3210)(supra) which was binding on it.
21. After going through the said unreported judgment of the Division Bench in the case of Smt. Asha Mohamadi we find that the above referred judgment of the Full Bench of this Court so also other observations of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh do not seem to have been brought to the notice of that Bench and therefore, were not considered. In facts in the case of Asha Mohomadi v. Assistant Collector in Criminal Appeal No. 599 of 1994 were similar to the facts which were considered by the Full Bench in the case of Ebanezer Adebaya v. B. S. Rawat (1996 Cri LJ 3210) (supra). In both these cases the suspicion had arisen because the sniffer dog had indicated that the baggage of the accused was containing narcotic drugs and no other contraband inasmuch as the sniffer dog was trained to notice or indicate the narcotic drugs and not other contraband like gold, silver, diamonds or the foreign currency. Even then the Full Bench was of the view that the officers were acting without prior information which is sine qua non for invoking the provisions of Section 50 of the NDPS Act.
22. So far as the present case is concerned the suspicion was not even as strong as in the case of the Full Bench decision where the indication was given by the sniffer dog. In this case, when the black dots were shown on the X-ray machine when the concerned baggage i.e. suitcase Art. No. 1 was put in the X-ray machine, the suspicion could have been not only in respect of the narcotic drugs but also could be in respect of contraband like gold, sliver and diamonds to which the provisions of the NDPS Act are not applicable. We, therefore, have no hesitation in rejecting the contention of Mr. Ghare that the provisions of Section 50 was applicable and there was non-compliance therewith and therefore the trial is vitiated. Even his argument that when the personal search was taken of the appellant, the requirement with regard to the search in the presence of gazetted officer was necessary cannot be accepted since during the personal search of the appellant no contraband in the nature of narcotic drugs to which the NDPS Act is applicable was recovered and recovery of 500 dollars from the pant pocket of the appellant would attract the provisions of FERA Act or Customs Act and not N.D.P.S. Act.
23. During the course of hearing, Mr. Ghare submitted further written submissions as "COUNTER REPLY/SUBMISSIONS ON BEHALF OF THE APPELLANT" and in para 2 thereof submitted that he did not want to press the additional ground and would not rely on the judgment of Division Bench in Criminal Appeal No. 599 of 1994. It would be relevant to quote para 2 of the said submissions which are as follows :
"PRELIMINARY SUBMISSION :- The appellant does not want to press the additional ground and would not rely on the judgment of Hon. Justice Agrawal and Rebello JJ in Criminal Appeal No. 599 of 1994 dated 10-12- 1996 and would argue the case on the remaining points of law and merits of the case."
Since the said judgment was cited before us and arguments were advanced on the basis of the said judgment by both sides, we considered it proper to refer to the said judgment and deal with the arguments of the counsel.
24. Mr. Ghare also cited the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of T. P. Razak v. State of Kerala, 1996 SCC (Cri) 57. That case was considered by the Full Bench in the case of Ebabezer Adebaya (1996 Cri LJ 3210) and was distinguished on the ground that the person of the accused was searched and from whose possession a match box containing four small packets containing brown sugar was found and, therefore, it was held that the provisions of Section 50 ought to have been complied with. Mr. Ghare also relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Saiyad Mohd. Saiyad Umar Saiyad v. State of Gujarat, 1995 SCC (Cri) 564 : (1995 Cri LJ 2662) with regard to the applicability of Section 50 of the NDPS Act. The said decision of the Supreme Court also can be distinguished on the ground that in that case the Police Sub Inspector had received a definite information that the accused was doing the business of selling charas and when his place was raided and searched, charas was found from each of the three accused persons, and, therefore, the ratio of that decision also will be of no assistance to the appellant in this case.
25. Mr. Ghare then argued that the fact of the accused giving the combination number of the lock put on the baggage i.e. the suitcase being Article No. 1 was not mentioned in the panchanama and, therefore, it cannot be said only on the basis of the evidence of the witnesses that it was the appellant who gave the combination number pursuant to which the officers of the Customs opened the suitcase. It is true that the said fact is not mentioned in the panchanama (Exh. 12). However, the same has been deposed to by the witness PW 1 Mir Negi in Paragraph 5 of his examination-in-chief that the suitcase Article No. 1 had lock with combination numbers. Para 5 of examination-in-chief of PW 1 reads as under :
"5. The suit-case was also taken charge of by me in the presence of panchas. The suitcase had a lock with combination numbers. The accused was asked in the presence of panchas to open the suitcase. The accused was asked to provide the numbers for opening the lock in the presence of panchas. The accused informed us the numbers as 786 for opening that lock. Thereafter with the help of these numbers I opened the lock of the suitcase in the presence of the panchas in baggage examination counter of Customs."
Simply because the panchanama does not mention the fact that it was the accused who had given the combination number of the lock would not be sufficient ground to discard the evidence of this witness. It is a case of omission and cannot amount to contradiction to disbelieve the prosecution case. In any event the ownership of the suitcase Article No. 1 is established when the identification tag numbers on the said suitcase and the tag affixed to the Air ticket of the appellant tallied.
26. Mr. Ghare also contended that when the suitcase in question was seized there is no mention about the security ribbon which ought to have been fixed around the said suitcase when it is cleared by the security and PW 1 has stated that he did not find the security check-in label on the suitcase Article No. 1 and according to PW 3 Pesi Lalla, who was the Airport Superintendent of the Kenya Airways, who had issued the Air ticket to the appellant, had stated that the baggage had got to have a yellow security staring or a tag for which yellow plastic ribbon is used. It appears that since the yellow plastic ribbon was not tied to the suitcase, it would only mean that the suitcase was intercepted before the same had passed the security.
27. Mr. Ghare also contented that the manifest bearing the name of the passengers for the particular flight was not proved inasmuch as what is on record is only the xerox copy and not the original. The manifest only shows the name of the appellant at Sr. No. 258 and it has been relied only for the purpose of showing that the appellant was to travel by that particular airlines on that particular date. That fact not having been denied by the appellant, non-production of the original manifest would not weaken in any way the prosecution case.
28. Mr. Ghare next argued that although it is the case of the prosecution that on the personal search of the appellant $ 500 were recovered from his pocket but the same were not produced at the time of the trial and the prosecution has not proved where they lie. He therefore contends that the case of the prosecution about entire seizure cannot be believed. So far as the recovery of $ 500 is concerned, that is a subject matter of charge under the provisions of FERA and Customs Acts and the non-production of the said $ 500 by the prosecution would not in any way otherwise weaken the prosecution case. The conviction of the appellant under the provisions of FERA and Customs Acts was, however, not challenged before us.
29. Mr. Ghare also contended that the statement of the appellant recorded under Section 108 of the Customs Act (Exh. 20) cannot be relied on by the prosecution firstly, because the scribe or the writer of the said statement who had also translated the same to the appellant was not examined. Secondly, he contended that the said statement was retracted by the appellant which according to him was obtained by force and coercion. In this connection the defence has examined Dr. Varade as defence witness No. 1. Dr. Varade was the Chief Medical Officer attached to the Bombay Central Prison at the relevant time. He has produced the medical case papers pertaining to the appellant at Exh. E-3. On the basis of the said medical certificate and his retraction. Mr. Ghare contends that the statement of the appellant which is otherwise admissible, cannot be relied upon. In this connection he also relies on the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Sevantilal Modi v. State of Maharashtra, . In that case the
conviction of the accused under Section 120-B of Penal Code and Section 135 of the Customs Act was set aside on the ground that the confessional statement was obtained by coercion. That was the extreme case where the evidence was led not only about the injuries which were suffered by the accused but the manner in which the co-accused was treated by the officers of the Customs was unconscionable. The retraction of the confession of the accused quoted by the Supreme Court in paragraph 7 of the judgment reads as under :
"From the 14th instant at 12 noon till about 3 p.m. I was locked up along in one room with some Customs Officers who continuously interrogated me, threatened and physically assaulted me to make and sign a statement prepared by them after ascertaining a few personal questions from me pertaining to my family and myself. I was not allowed to sleep during the entire night of the 14th/15th and was not allowed to see any person. The statement was written out by the officers themselves in English language and it was not explained to me and my signature was obtained which I have signed in Gujarathi. As a result of this threat, coercion and complete exhaustion, I had no alternative but to sign the statement after which only I was allowed to rest."
The Supreme Court has also noted how the co-accused i.e. accused No. 15 in that case, was treated by the same officers. In human manner in which the co-accused, being accused No. 15 in that case, was treated by the Customs Officers has been mentioned in paragraph 6 of the said judgment quoting the words of the co-accused himself. In that context the Supreme Court felt that the accused in question who was acquitted by the Supreme Court must have received more or less similar treatment in order to coerce him to sign the statement prepared by the Customs Officers. In this case we, find after the perusal of the statement itself which is confessional in nature that very many particulars made in the said statement could have been given by the accused himself. The medical examination of the appellant shows injuries like tenderness. In any event the confessional statement (Exh. 20) in this case is not the sole basis for the conviction of the accused. There is otherwise credible evidence led by the prosecution i.e. the evidence of PW 1, Mr. Negi, who was the Preventive Officer of the Customs, then evidence of PW2 who was the superior officer being the Superintendent of Customs, by name K. Sanjeva corroborated by panch witness PW 4 Tanaji Adhav and to certain extent corroborated by PW 10 Dilip Sawant who was at the relevant time Security Assistant and had the occasion to take the suit case, Article No. 1, belonging to the appellant through X-ray machine for screening and on seeing the black dots on the screen entertaining suspicions about the contents of the suit case and, therefore, informed about the same to PW 1.
30. Next Mr. Ghare also sought to contend that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond doubt and the appellant has been falsely implicated instead of passenger by name Ashraf whose name was shown on manifest at Sr. No. 50. There is no doubt that there are two Ashrafs shown on the manifest, one at Sr. No. 50 and the other at Sr. No. 258. The said manifest is at Exhibit D-1. At Sr. No. 50 the name Ashraf/K is shown and at Sr. No. 258 the name Shaikh Ashraf/A. K. is shown, which is the name of the appellant. This would leave no doubt that the names of these two passengers are different and only common name among them is the first name i.e. Ashraf. There is no doubt that the appellant's name is Shaikh Ashraf Abdul Kader which tallies exactly with the name noted at Sr. No. 258 of the said manifest. The identification tag found on the air-ticket carried by the appellant tallied with the number of the baggage identification tag affixed to the suitcase in question and so the ownership of the suit case Art. No. 1 cannot be in doubt.
31. Mr. Ghare next contended that the samples taken out from out from the seized contraband remained with the Customs between the period from 7-8-1989 to 24-8-1989 without being noted down anywhere in records and thereafter sent to the Deputy Chief Chemist, Customs House by PW 6 Pradeep Kumar and, therefore, the C.A. report cannot be relied upon and the same must be discarded. We are unable to accept this contention of Mr. Ghare as well. PW 1, Mr. Negi, who was the Preventive Officer, has stated in his evidence that after the seizure was effected and panchanama was prepared the contraband as well as the travel documents were handed over to PW 2, K. Sanjeeva of Customs who was the superior officer and the gazetted officer. PW 2 K. Sanjeeva in para 11 of his deposition has stated that PW 1 Mr. Negi handed over the property i.e. the mandrex tablets and the heroin powder and the samples of the same so also the travel documents, the manifest, the baggage tag and the 500 US $ to him and that he kept the said property in his custody under lock and key. The said property was in the custody of PW 2 under lock and key until 24th August, 1989 when the same was sent to the office of the Deputy Chief Chemist, Customs House, through PW 6 Pradeep Kumar Lawrence. The prosecution has further led the evidence of PW 5 Vasant Kanchghar from the office of the Deputy Chief Chemist, Customs House who had found the seal appearing on the sample packets intact and tallied with the description of the test memo at the time when he received the sample packets along with the test memo (Exh. 26). The said facts are also mentioned in the report of the C.A. This does not leave any manner of doubt about the fact that the contraband along with the samples meant for analysis were kept in the safe custody of PW 2 until they were handed over to the office of the Deputy Chief Chemist. In view of the said evidence, the reliance by Mr. Ghare on behalf of the appellant on the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Valsala v. State of Kerala will be of no
assistance. In the case before the Supreme Court the seized articles were sent to the Court after more than three months and three was no evidence led about the safe custody of the seized articles. There was no evidence to show that the article was sealed and kept in proper custody in police station. The court had doubted whether the very seized article was sent to the Chemical Examiner. Mr. Ghare also relied on the case of Mohd. Hussain B. Ramzan v. State of Maharashtra, 1994 Cri LJ 1020, decided by the Division Bench of this Court. The ratio of that case also would be of no assistance to Mr. Ghare in support of his contention. In that case the entire raid was held to be suspicious. The samples taken from the seized contraband remained with Police Officer for three days without being noted down anywhere in records and thereafter sent to Chemical Analyser and there was no satisfactory explanation given by the prosecution to exclude the possibility of tampering with the same during the period when it was with the police officer and the court did not consider the evidence of police officer sufficient to base the conviction. That is not the case here. The prosecution witnesses have deposed about the register which is maintained in which the entries are made about the property received and taken out of the godown. In this respect the prosecution has examined PW 7 Mrs. Inyat Naqvi. She has stated in her evidence that the godown register is maintained in the Customs Ware-house and entries are made in respect of the property received at the godown and entries are also made in the said register in respect of the property taken out of the godown. She further stated that when the property was brought back in the godown, entry was made in the register. She has also pointed out on the basis of the entries made in the said register, that the samples were received on 24-8-1989. This is also corroborated by the evidence of PW 5 Vasant Kanchghar, the Assistant Chemical Examiner from the office of the Deputy Chief Chemist, Customs House, Bombay.
32. Mr. Ghare then contended that the appellant had not been shown in conscious possession of the contraband. According to him the ownership of the suit case, Article No. 1, was denied by the appellant. The appellant has denied that he was knowing about the contents of the contraband in the said suit case. As pointed out earlier the prosecution has proved that the Art. No. 1, suitcase in question in which the contraband was found belonged to the appellant. Secondly, under Section 35 there is a presumption of culpable mental state. Section 35 mandates as follows :
"35. Presumption of culpable mental state. - In any prosecution for an offence under this Act, which requires a culpable mental state of the accused, the court shall presume the existence of such mental state but it shall be a defence for the accused to prove the fact that he had no such mental state with respect to the act charged as an offence in that prosecution.
Explanation. - In this section "culpable mental state" includes intention, motive, knowledge of a fact and belief in, or reason to believe, a fact.
(2) For the purpose of this section, a fact is said to be proved only when the court believes it to exist beyond a reasonable doubt and not merely when its existence is established by a preponderance of probability."
33. The appellant has not been able to even create doubt in our minds about his culpable mental state, leave alone proving the absence of his culpable mental state beyond reasonable doubt as enjoined by sub-section (2) of Section 35. A reference may also be made to the provision of Section 54 of the NDPS Act which is as follows :
"54. Presumption from possession of illicit articles. - In trials under this Act, it may be presumed, unless and until the contrary is proved, that the accused has committed an offence under Chapter IV in respect of -
(a) any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance;
(b) any opium poppy, cannabis plant or coca plant growing on any land which he has cultivated;
(c) any apparatus specially designed or any group of utensils specially adopted for the manufacture of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance; or
(d) any materials which have undergone any process towards the manufacture of a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, or any residue left of the materials from which any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance has been manufactured, for the possession of which he fails to account satisfactorily."
In this case the presumption laid down under Section 54 of the Act would be applicable that the appellant had committed an offence under Chapter IV in respect of narcotic drug and psychotropic substance and in our view the appellant has not proved contrary thereto.
34. Mr. Ghare lastly submitted that the trail of the appellant by the NDPS Special Court was illegal and without jurisdiction as the offence related to the period prior to the constitution of NDPS Special Court which was constituted on 6-4-1991 and the trial had begun initially by framing of charges at Exhibit 2 by the Court of Sessions presided over by Judge Y.N. Athalye on 18-1-1991 when the cognizance can be said to have been taken by the Court and the subsequent transfer of the case to the Special Court as per Section 36D of the NDPS Act was not proper or in any event was opposed to the pure procedural law. Mr. Ghare in support of his contention relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee v. Union of India 1995 SCC (Cri) 39 : (1994 AIR SCW 5115) and two other decisions i.e. Union of India v. Major General Madan Lal Yadav (Retd.),
and Commr. of Income-tax v. Dhadi Sahu, (1992) 6 JT 714 : (1993 AIR SCW 3578). Out of the three aforesaid judgments relied on by Mr. Ghare, the first one pertains to the NDPS Act. The perusal of the said judgment does not show that the Special Court does not have jurisdiction to try a case in respect of which charges were framed by the Sessions Court earlier and subsequently came to be transferred to the Special Court. In that case the Supreme Court was considering the amended provision of Section 36D. Referring to the amended provision of Section 36D of the Act, in para 11 of the judgment the Supreme Court observed that so far as the transitional period was concerned it is taken care of by Section 36D of the Act, during the time gap between the coming into force of the amended provisions with effect from 29th May, 1989 and the constitution of a special court. Section 36D provides that even after the constitution of the Special Court under the NDPS Act the trial would not be vitiated if the same has taken place before the Sessions Court if the Sessions Court had already taken cognizance thereof. This does not mean that the Special Court had no jurisdiction to try such a case. In fact the record shows after the charges were framed by the Sessions Court, the special courts were constituted and thereafter the matter was transferred to the Special Court and the Special Court had also framed the charges anew. The Special Court under the NDPS Act was constituted on 6-4-1991 and this case was transferred and placed before the Special Judge 25-4-1991 and the charge was framed by the Special Court on 3-9-1991. It would be pertinent to point out that the Roznama dated 9th Jan. 1992 shows that thereafter this Court had transferred the case to the Court of Special Judge Shri J. W. Singh who ultimately tried this case of the appellant. The said case seems to have been transferred to the said learned Judge as the appellant wanted his trail to be expedited. The other two decisions cited by Mr. Ghare have no relevance in this case.
35. Mr. Agarwal appearing for the respondent No. 2 relied on the decision of the Division Bench of this Court reported in the case of reference made by Shri H. S. Ghare, Additional Sessions Judge, Bombay reported in 1993 Cri LJ 1573. In paragraph 25(3)(b) it is mentioned that the cases filed under the Act (NDPS Act) after 25th May, 1989 should be tried by the Special Courts constituted under the Act. If the cognizance of the case was taken by the Sessions Court, during transitional period in the absence of constitution of special court in the real sense, the Sessions Court was not required to transfer the same to the Special Court if it had substantially proceeded with the trial. Relying on the said decision Mr. Agarwal contends that in this case the trial had not even commenced and only the charges were framed by the Sessions Judge and, therefore, the transfer of the case before the Special Court was not illegal. In any way it cannot be said that the Special Court had no jurisdiction to try the present case. Normally after the constitution of the Special Court it is the Sessions Court which has got no jurisdiction to try cases under the NDPS Act and the Sessions Court was empowered to try such cases only during the transitional period as adverted to by the Supreme Court in the above referred case while interpreting the amended provision of Section 36D of the said Act. It cannot be said that the Special Judge who tried the case had no jurisdiction. This is not a case of want of jurisdiction. Section 36(D) is only an enabling provision which would prevent the trial from being vitiated before Session Court and does not mandate that the trial ought to have taken place before the Sessions Court only, in the sense that the trial before the Special Judge was bad in law for want to jurisdiction. It is one thing to say that the trial before the Session Court was permitted by law during transitional period and it is altogether different thing to say that during that period only Sessions Court had jurisdiction in the sense that trial before Special Court would be vitiated for want of jurisdiction. In that view of the matter the trial cannot be said to have been vitiated. Any way the appellant had not only not objected to the trial by Special Court but submitted to the jurisdiction of the Special Court and no prejudice is shown or alleged to have been caused to the appellant for trial having taken place before the Special Court.
36. Mr. Agarwal has also pointed out the provisions under the Criminal Procedure Code more particularly Section 407(c) and Sections 461 and 462 of Cr.P.C. and contended that unless a prejudice is shown to have been caused because of any irregularity, the trial cannot be said to have been vitiated. In this case we are satisfied that the Special Judge did have the jurisdiction to try the case as by that time Special Courts were constitutioned and in fact the offence in question was committed after 29th May, 1989 that is the day when the amendment had come into force.
37. Barring the aforesaid contentions, no other contention was raised on behalf of the appellant challenging the conviction under the various offences under different Acts including the Customs and FERA Acts.
38. Mr. Ghare has not challenged the correctness of the sentences imposed by the trial court and we see no reason to interfere with the orders of sentence passed by the trial court as the substantive sentences as well as the amount of fine imposed are the minimum prescribed under the law.
39. In view of the above we are of the view that there is no merit in this appeal. We uphold and confirm the order of conviction and the sentence recorded by the Special Judge, Greater Bombay on 16th Oct. 1992 in NDPS Special Case No. 916 of 1989 against the Appellant and accordingly dismiss the above appeal.
40. Appeal dismissed.