1. The Division Bench consisting of G. R. Majithia and Vishnu Sahai, JJ. by order dated June 16, 1995 differed with the view taken by the Division Bench consisting of V. H. Bhairavia and P. S. Patankar, JJ. on 21/24th October, 1994 in Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 1993 by observing that the view taken therein requires reconsideration in view of the law laid own by the Apex Court in Mohinder Kumar v. State of Panaji, .
2. In Mohinder Kumar's case (1995 Cri LJ 2074), the Investigation Officer was not an empowered officer and on coming to know about the accused person being in custody of offending articles. he was required to follow the procedure prescribed under S. 42 of the Act before carrying out further search and seizure. The person of the accused was searched and two packets of charas were recovered and samples from the said packets were taken. In that context the Court observed that he did not adhere to the provisions of S. 50 of the Act and in that he did not inform the person to be searched that if he would like to be taken to a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate, a requirement which has been held to be mandatory in Balbir Singh's case (1994 Cri LJ 3702) (SC), was not followed. The Court further held that further procedure provided in Ss. 52 and 57 of the Act, which deals with the steps to be taken by the Officer after making arrest and seizure, which are mandatory in character, were not followed and, therefore, the accused was acquitted.
Paragraph 3 of the said judgment reads thus :
".... In the instant case, the facts show that he accidentally reached the house while on patrolling duty and had it not been for the conduct of the accused persons in trying to run into the house on seeing the police party he would perhaps not have had occasion to enter the house and effect search. But when the conduct of the accused persons raised a suspicion he went there and effected the search, seizure and arrest. It was, therefore, not on any prior information but he purely accidentally stumbled upon the offending articles and not being the empowered person, on coming to know about the accused persons being in custody of the offending articles, he sent for the panchas and on their arrival drew up the panchanama. In the circumstances, from the stage he had reason to believe that the accused persons were in custody of narcotic drugs and sent for panchas, he was under an obligation to proceed further in the matter in accordance with the provisions of the Act, Under S. 42(1) proviso, if the search is carried out between sunset and sunrise, he must record the grounds of his belief. Admittedly, he did not record the grounds of his belief at any stage of the investigation subsequent to his realising that the accused persons were in possession of charas. He also did not forward a copy of the ground to his superior officer, as required by S. 42(2) of the Act because he had not made any record under the proviso to S. 42(1). He also did not adhere to the provisions of S. 50 of the Act in that he did not inform the person to be searched that if he would like to be taken to a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate, a requirement which has been held to be mandatory. In Balbir Singh's case (1994 Cri LJ 3702), it has been further stated that the provisions of Ss. 52 and 57 of the Act, which deal with the steps to be taken by the officer after making arrest or seizure are mandatory in character. In that view of the matter, the learned counsel for the State was not able to show for want of material on record, that the mandatory requirements pointed out above had been adhered to. The accused is, therefore, entitled to be acquitted."
3. On the basis of the aforesaid judgment it is contended that even in a case where the search had been carried out without prior information and the officer carrying out the search himself happens to be an empowered officer, then from the stage he had reason to belive that the accused persons were in custody of narcotic drugs, he is under an obligation to follow the mandatory procedure prescribed under S. 50 of the Act. It is also contended that application of S. 50 is not restricted only to search of articles on the person or body of the person, but the said section would apply to cases where the offending article is to be recovered from a particular vehicle in which the accused is found to be in possession or from his bag or baggage which he may be carrying or which he was in possession at the relevant time. It is also contended that S. 50 would be attracted if a particular suspect or accused is physically present in a conveyance or in a house at the time of the search and non-compliance of the said provisions would be fatal to the prosecution. Reliance is placed on the judgment of the Supreme Court in Ali Mustaffa v. State of Kerala. 1994 AIR SCW 4393 and also on the judgment of the Delhi High Court in Amarjit Singh v. State, 1995 (1) Crimes 777 : (1995 Cri LJ 1623).
4. As against, the Division Bench of this Court in Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 1993, Demniel Onokiti Omoghaghare v. Shri Sunderlal, decided on 21st/24th October, 1994, in paragraph 7 of the judgment, held that :
"The learned Advocate for the appellant in support of this appeal raised three contentions viz.
(i) The first contention raised is that mandatory provision of S. 50(1) of the NDPS Act was not followed as the appellant was not given an option before search as to whether he desired to have search in the presence of the Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate. The learned Advocate relied upon latest judgment of Apex Court , Ali Mustaffa Abdul Rahman Moosa v. State of Kerala. In the said case prior information was received that a foreigner was having charas in his possession and was sitting at the Quilon Railway Station. The raiding party went to Railway Station and accused was found sitting with his bag. The charas was recovered from it. Hence relying upon the judgment in State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh, it was held that there
was non-compliance of mandatory provision of S. 50 and accused was entitled for acquittal. The ratio of this case is not attracted in the present case. The Apex Court while interpreting Ss. 41, 42 and 50 in the case of Balbir Singh has observed as under :
On prior information, the empowered officer or authorised officer while acting under S. 42(2) or 42 should comply with the provisions of S. 50 before the search of the persons is made and such person should be informed that if he so require, 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 a Gazetted Officer or the Magistrate, would amount to non-compliance of S. 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.
However, in the present case raid was not conducted on prior information. The evidence of P.W. 1 C. S. Bisht, Intelligence Officer, attached to Sahar Air Port shows that he was on duty at departure baggages examination hall. Module II. Sahar Airport. He was there for checking cases of smuggling, dealing in narcotic drugs etc. The sniffer dog indicated the yellow bag of carrier make as containing contraban. It was routine check near departure lounge. The appellant was also suspected from his behaviour and hence he kept watch along with his colleagues on the appellant. The bag of the appellant was already checked in and he had completed the formalities of immigration and custom. The appellant thereafter came to be intercepted and interrogated. The appellant became nervous. Therefore, they decided to check his baggages. The appellant was asked to produce the travel documents and appellant produced his air-tickets. passport, boarding card, baggage claim tag etc. The panchas were called for witnessing search and appellant was taken to conveyor belt. He identified the yellow colour suit case of carrier make as belonging to him. The baggage tags tallied. The appellant opened it with his key. There is ample evidence on record of Pancha PW 7 Raghavan Balkrishnan, panchanama at Exh. 6 and evidence of Superintendent of Customs Shri Earnest Samuelraj P.W. 6. There is also statement of appellant Exh. 28 recorded under Section 108 of Customs Act, 1962. All these would go to show that search was not on prior information and it was not from the baggage which was actually with the appellant. The baggage has passed out of his hand after all formalities were over and was on the conveyor belt for loading in the aircraft. Therefore, we reject this contention."
5. In Mohinder Kumar's case, (1995 Cri LJ 2074), the Supreme Court has clarified that even if the search is not effected on prior information if the officer carrying such search happens to be an empowered officer, from the stage he had reason to believe that the accused persons were in possession of Narcotic drugs, he was under an obligation to proceed further in the matter in accordance with the provisions of the Act. However, the question which requires consideration is what meaning can be assigned to the phrase "to search any person" used in Section 50 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;
(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;
(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 of person to be searched. The main object of Section 50 of the Act is to avoid the allegation of planting something or of fabricating evidence by the prosecution or the authorised officer.
6. This interpretation would be clear by referring to Section 50, sub-section (4), of the Act, which provides for searching of a female. Section 50(4) of the Act provides that no female shall be searched by anyone excepting a female. If articles are to be searched which are not on the person or body, then there is no question of a search being carried out by a female. But when articles which are on the body of the person are to be searched, such search could be done only by another female. This is necessary as law enjoins strict regard to decency. This provision also gives clue how to interpret the phrase "to search any person" in Section 50(1).
7. This would be further clear by considering the different requirements of Sections 40, 41 and 42 of the Act. Section 42 empowers the officer mentioned therein to search, seize and arrest any person whom he has reason to believe to have committed any offence punishable under Chapter IV relating to narcotic drug or psychotropic substance without warrant or authorisation. It also provides for search of any place between sunrise and sunset by entering any building, conveyance or enclosed place. It also provides for seizure of such drug or substance and all materials used in the manufacturing thereof and any other article and any animal or conveyance which he has reason to believe to be liable to confiscation under the Act. It also provides for seizure of any document or other article which he has reason to believe may furnish evidence of the commission of any offence. If such search is to be carried out at any time between sunset, it can be done after recording the grounds of his belief.
8. As against this, Section 43 provides for seizure and arrest in public places. It empowers the authorised officer to seize, in any public or in transit, any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance which are liable to be confiscated under the Act. It also empowered the authorised officer to seize any animal or conveyance or article liable to confiscation under the Act as also any document or other article which he has reason to believe may furnish evidence of the commission of an offence under the Act. Section 43 also provides that if narcotic drug or psychotropic substance is found from the possession of any person and if such possession appears to him to be unlawful, then the officer can arrest that person and any other person in his company. This would indicate that different procedure are prescribed for search of any building, conveyance or place and also for search of public places. Section 49 empowers an authorised officer to stop and search any animal or conveyance if he has reason to suspect that such animal or conveyance is, or is about to be, used for the transport of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance in contravention of the Act.
9. However, with regard to the search of persons, it is provided under Section 50 that when any officer duly authorised under Section 42 is about to search any person under the provisions of Sections 41, 42 or 43, then the procedure under section 50 is to be followed for search of the individual.
10. There is a similar provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 and also in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Section 51, part three, of the Code of Criminal Procedure, provides that the officer making the arrest or, when the arrest is made by a private person, the police officer to whom he makes over the person arrested, may search such person, and place in safe custody all articles, other than necessary wearing apparel, found upon him. With regard to search of a female. Section 51(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, provides that whenever it is necessary to cause a female to be searched, the search shall be made by another female with strict regard to decency. Same safeguards are provided in Section 102(3) of the 1898 Code and Section 100 of the 1973 Code.
11. Considering the aforesaid provisions, the inference which can be drawn is that "to search any person" would mean only search of the body or wearing apparels of such person and in that case the procedure which is required to be followed would be the one prescribed under Section
50. In contract, if search of any building, conveyance or place, including a public place, is to be carried out, then there is no question of following the procedure prescribed under section 50. But when a suspected or arrested person is to be searched, then the procedure prescribed under section 50 comes into operation and the procedure thereunder is required to be followed, This can be seen by referring to Section 100(3) of the 1973 Code which provides that where any person is reasonably suspected of concealing about his person any article for which search should be made, such person may be searched and if such person is a woman, the search shall be made by another woman with strict regard to decency. The concealment which is suspected is on the person or about his person.
12. The provisions of Section 50 are exhaustively construed by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh, . We would straight-away refer to the relevant
observations made in paragraph 22 of the aforesaid judgment which deals with this aspect. It is as under :-
"22. Both under sections 41 and 42, the officers empowered can enter and search the place and also arrest the person suspected to have committed the offence either on the basis of his own knowledge or on the basis of information reduced to writing. If an arrest is made and a person is to be searched, then as noted above Section 50 comes into operation and the search of the person has to be carried out in the manner provided thereunder.
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 of any premises which may be public or private where bags and baggage containing narcotic drugs are lying. The object and purpose of such search is also discussed in the said judgment and the relevant observations are as under :-
"This provision is introduced to avoid any harm to be innocent persons and to avoid raising of allegation of planting or fabrication by the prosecuting authorities. It lays down that if the person to be searched so required, the officer who is about to search him under the provisions of Ss. 41 to 43, shall take such person without any unnecessary delay to the nearest Gazetted Officer of any of the departments mentioned in S. 42 or to the nearest magistrate. One of the questions raised is that what meaning is to be given to the words "if the person to be searched so requires". Do they cast a duty upon the officer about to make the search to intimate such person that if he so requires he would be taken before the nearest Gazetted Officer or the nearest magistrate for the purpose of making search in their presence or it is for such person to make such a request on his own without being informed by the officer ?"
13. In paragraph 6 the Court observed :-
"..... But when a police office carrying on the investigation including search, seizure or arrest empowered under the provisions of the Cr.P.C. comes across a person being in possession of the narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances then two aspects will arise. If he happens to be one of those empowered officers under the NDPS Act also then he must follow thereafter the provisions of the NDPS Act and continue the investigation as provided thereunder. If on the other hand he is not empowered then the obvious thing he should do is that he must informed the empowered officer under the NDPS Act who should thereafter proceed from that stage in accordance with the provisions of the NDPS Act. But at this state the question of resorting to S. 50 and informing the accused persons that if he so wants, he would be taken to a Gazetted Officer and taking to Gazetted Officer thus would not arise because by then search would have been over. As laid down in S. 50 the steps contemplated thereunder namely, informing and taking him to Gazetted Officer should be done before the search. When the search is already over in the usual course of investigation under the provisions of Cr.P.C. then the question of complying with S. 50 would not arise.
14. Thereafter the Court considered the provisions of Section 100 and 165 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which deal with search of the premises and the person. Section 100(1) deals with the search of closed place and Section 100(3) deals with search of a person, whereas Section 165 deals with search by a police officer from any place. The Court observed that if there is non-compliance of Section 100 or 165 that itself cannot be a ground for rejecting the prosecution case outright. The effect of such non-compliance will have a bearing on appreciation of evidence of official witnesses and other material depending upon facts and circumstances of each case. 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. When the contraband seized during such arrests or searches attracts the provisions of the NDPS Act then from that stage the remaining relevant provisions of NDPS Act would he attracted and the further steps have to be taken in accordance with the provisions of the said Act.
15. Thereafter the Court considered whether failure to comply with conditions laid down in Section 50 of the NDPS Act by the empowered or authorised officer while conducting the search affects the prosecution case, and held as under :-
"... It is obvious that the legislature keeping in view the menace of illicit drug trafficking deemed it fit to provide for corresponding safeguards to check the misuse of power thus conferred so that any harm to the innocent persons is avoided and to minimise the allegations of planting or fabricating by the prosecution. Section 50 is enacted."
The Court thereafter held as under :
"..... When such is the importance of a right given to an accused person in custody in general, the right by way of safeguard conferred under Section 50 in the context is all the more important and valuable. Therefore it is to be taken as an imperative requirement on the part of the officer intending to search to inform the person to be searched of his right that if he so chooses, he will be searched in the presence of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate. Thus the provisions of Section 50 are mandatory."
16. Coming then to the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in the case of Ali Mustaffa v. State of Kerala, 1994 AIR SCW 4393. In that case it was alleged by the prosecution that Sub-Inspector of Police attached to Quilon Railway Station, on receipt of reliable information that a foreigner having charas in his possession was sitting at the Quilon Railway Station, went to the First Class Waiting Room with a Police Constable. The accused was found sitting with a bag. On being questioned by the Police Officer, the accused took out a small packet of charas from his bag and handed it over to the Police Officer. Then on further questioning and search, three big packets of charas were recovered from the bag which was in possession of the accused. The accused denied the seizure and disowned the bag from which the contraband was recovered and asserted that it was an abandoned bag and that he had been unnecessarily linked up with the seizure of the contraband on misguided suspicion. In that case the Court observed that undoubtedly when the search of the appellant-accused was made, he was not given any option whether he was to be searched before a Gazetted Officer or Magistrate as envisaged by Section 50 and, therefore, there was violation of the provisions of Section 50 of the Act. Hence the conviction was set aside. In view of this enunciation, it can be said that 'personal search' would include and can be extended to search as stated in paragraph 5(b) as mentioned above.
17. Learned Counsel for the accused relied upon Mohinder Kumar's case (1995 Cri LJ 2074) (supra) to contend that the provisions of Section 50 are attracted even to cases where bag or baggage containing the contraband may not be in physical possession of the accused at the time of the search and the same may be lying in a house, a conveyance or premises to be searched for the recovery of the contraband articles. It was also contended that if a particular suspect of accused is present at the time of search of a conveyance or a house, compliance of Section 50 is necessary. As stated above, in Mohinder Kumar's case the facts are narrated in paragraph 1 of the judgment wherein it is specifically mentioned that "The person of the accused was searched and two pieces of charas from the right pocket of his pant were recovered weighing about 10 gms. and samples therefrom were also taken." Apart from this aspect it was also found that the search and seizure took place in the evening between 7.45 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. i.e. after sunset. In that context the Court, after referring to Balbir Singh's case (1994 Cri LJ 3702) held that if a police officer, without prior information, makes a search and effect arrest of persons and if during such search he stumbles on a chance recovery of any narcotic drugs or psychotropic substance and if he happens to be a police officer who is not empowered under the Act to effect search and seizure, he should inform the empowered officer as required by the Act. It was further held that if he himself happens to be the empowered officer, then from the stage onwards the investigation must be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The Court further held that from the stage the police officer had reason to believe that the accused persons were in custody of narcotic drugs and sent for panchas, he was under an obligation to fproceed further in the matter in accordance with the provisions of the Act, which was not followed in that case. As stated above, while searching the person also the police officer had not adhered to the provisions of Section 50 of the Act and, therefore, the accused was acquitted. Therefore, in our opinion, the ratio of Mohinder Kumar's case (1995 Cri LJ 2074) does not support the contentions canvassed by the learned counsel for the accused.
18. While considering the case with regard to compliance of Section 50 of the Act, the Supreme Court in Surajmal Kania Lal Soni v. State of Gujarat, , held that whether there was compliance of Section 50 or not would be a question of fact and no foundation was laid in the cross-examination of the Police Inspector as to whether the police officers informed the accused as required under Section 50 of the Act and, therefore, the Court rejected the said contention.
19. Same view is taken by the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court in the case of Kanhailal Chowhan v. State of West Bengal, 1995 Cri LJ 3283. In that case it was held as under (Para 5) :
"...... Again it has to be noticed that the question of compliance or non-compliance of Section 50, NDPS Act is relevant only where search of a person is involved and the said section is not applicable nor attracted where no search of person is involved. Search of and recovery from any building, house, room, conveyance or place does not come within the ambit of Section 50 because firstly Section 50 expressly speaks of search of person only, secondly the section speaks of taking of the person to be searched to the Gazetted Officer or Magistrate for the purpose of search and it is physically impossible to shift or carry any building, room or immovable place from its position and take it to a Gazetted Officer or Magistrate for such purpose and thirdly the Supreme Court in interpreting Section 50, NDPS Act also speaks of search of person only in paragraph 26(5) of the decision in State of Punjab v. Balbir Sing, 1994 Cri LJ 3702 (SC) (supra)."
20. The same inference also can be drawn from the decision rendered by the Supreme Court in the case of T. P. Razak and Naoappan Razak v. State of Kerala, 1995(2) Scale 385, wherein the Court considered a case where a Sub-Inspector of Police reached the Highway Tourist Home and searched the accused person from whose possession a match-box containing four small packets containing brown sugar weighing 370 mg. was found. In that context the Court held that procedure prescribed under Section 50 of the Act was not followed.
21. It is true that the observations made by the Delhi High Court in Amarjit Singh's case (1995 (1) Crimes 777 : 1995 Cri LJ 1623) (supra) do support the propositions advanced by the learned Counsel for the accused. In paragraph 26 (of crimes) (Para 31 of Cri LJ) of the said judgment, it was observed by the Delhi High Court as under :-
"...... The words 'personal search' appearing in Section 50 of the Act would, in our view, mean that if accused is in possession of the drug, may be on his body or may be on a particular vehicle in which he is found to be in possession or may be having the contraband in his bags which he may be carrying of which he was in physical possession at the relevant time, the provisions of Section 50 of the Act have to be complied with if there is prior information with the authorities with regard to possibility of a suspect being in possession of contraband drugs."
Then in paragraph of 28 (of crimes) : (Para 33 of Cri LJ of the said judgment, it is further observed :
"We are of the view that if a particular suspect or accused is physically present in a conveyance or in a house at the time of the search, in our view, the compliance of mandatory provisions of Section 50 of the Act must be made because the purpose of introducing Section 50 is to ensure that fair investigation is being carried out and recovery being effected remains without any suspicion or doubt. Obviously, if accused in such a situation wants presence of a gazetted officer or a Magistrate before being searched and such a search is carried out in presence of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate and some contraband drug is recovered, that would strengthen the prosecution case and there would remain very less suspicion with regard to recovery being effected from a particular accused in such a situation. So, we hold that in the present case there has been non-compliance of the provisions of Section 50 of the Act. The law laid down by the Bombay High Court in this respect is not correct as in the case before the Supreme Court, cited above, the recovery was not effected from any physical body of the accused but was effected from a bag and still it was held by the Supreme Court that mandatory provisions of Section 50 of the Act were applicable. In view of the above discussion, we hold that the appellants deserve to be acquitted by giving then benefit of doubt."
22. With due respect to the learned Judges of the Delhi High Court, we find ourselves unable to agree with the interpretation put by them on Section 50. In our view, the Legislature has 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. If, however, the contraband is recovered in a search of a house, building, conveyance or public place, Section 50 will not be attracted. We are, therefore, in agreement with the view taken by the Division Bench in Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 1993 that if the narcotic drugs recovered from the baggage which was not in actual possession of the accused, the question of compliance with Section 50 does not arise.
23. In view of the aforesaid discussion, in our view, the decision rendered by the Division Bench consisting of V. H. Bhairavia and P. S. Patankar, JJ. on 21st/24th October 1994 in Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 1993 does not require any reconsideration.
24. We have already indicated that the words "personal search" in Section 50 would include and can be extended to "searches" covered by clauses (a) and (b) of paragraph 5 and would not include cases covered by clauses (c) and (d) of the said paragraph.
25. We answer the reference accordingly.
26. Reference answered.