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Drugs case: Punjab IPS officer faces HC wrath for failing to answer key questions

Accused acquitted due to ‘sloppy’ probe

Chandigarh, November 23

In a major embarrassment for the Punjab Police, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that an IPS officer, called as a “witness to the recovery of a contraband”, completely faltered in her cross-examination.

Despite being a senior officer of the state, she could not remember or come out with the details in a case where the accused were ultimately acquitted. The investigation, too, was carried out in a slapdash manner.

The High Court also made it clear that the drug menace was undoubtedly increasing at a “very fast pace”. However, that alone was not sufficient to fasten criminal liability on the accused and the prosecution was required to prove its case by leading cogent evidence.

The assertions by the Bench of Justice Augustine George Masih and Justice Vikram Aggarwal came on an application by the state for “leave to appeal” against the judgment dated October 9, 2019, passed by a Fatehgarh Sahib Special Court acquitting two persons accused of carrying injections. It was contended on behalf of the state that the trial court gave undue weightage to minor contradictions in the statements of witnesses and the evidence produced by the prosecution.

The Bench, among other things, asserted that the prosecution’s star witness, IPS officer Dr Ravjot Grewal, was called to the spot when the accused were suspected to be carrying narcotics. The officer stated in her cross-examination that she did not remember whether the investigating officer had asked anyone to join as independent witnesses or whether any document was prepared.

She could not tell whether any guard or official worker was present and did not know whether CCTV cameras were installed. She also could not tell whether the investigating officer had recorded the statement of any witness or any site plan was prepared in her presence.

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Aggarwal asserted that the probe by the investigating officer was “very shoddy”. He did not verify from the manufacturing company the genuineness of the alleged contraband. He also did not verify from the company about the wholesaler or retailer who had purchased the contraband. The source of contraband purchased by the accused was also not verified.

Dismissing the plea, the Bench added that “very stringent punishment” was provided for in the NDPS Act if the accused was found to have committed an offence. As such, it was all the more important for the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. It was for this reason that several safeguards had been provided and it was obligatory on the part of the investigating agency and the prosecution to comply with the provisions. “The trial court has passed a very well-reasoned judgment discussing each aspect. We find no reason to differ,” the Bench concluded.

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