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SC seeks explanation from NCB for delay in filing plea against HC verdict

The Supreme Court has termed as “atrocious” the manner in which a “sensitive matter” of narcotics has been sought to be prosecuted, and directed the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to give an explanation over the delay in filing a plea against the Rajasthan High Court verdict in the case. The apex court, which observed that a petition challenging the high court’s December 2018 verdict acquitting the accused persons in a narcotics case has been filed before it after a delay of 652 days, noted the “glaring gaps” and said the NCB headquarters had sat on the file for one year.

“We find that in a sensitive matter relating to narcotics the manner in which the present proceedings are sought to be prosecuted is atrocious. The special leave petitions have been filed after a delay of 652 days,” a bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy said in its February 1 order.

The case pertains to alleged recovery of over 5 Kg contraband heroin from a car in 2013.

While referring to the explanation given by the NCB, the bench noted that the “glaring gaps which are apparent” are — the opinion of the special public prosecutor was given after six months to the department on May 16, 2019 and the draft special leave petition (SLP) is stated to have been received by NCB headquarters on August 22, 2019 and was forwarded to department concerned for corrections on August 22, 2020 after one year.

“Thus, the NCB headquarters sat on the file for one year,” the bench said, adding, “We call for an explanation from the NCB headquarters as to how the aforesaid has transpired and what responsibility has been fixed on which officer for such negligence.”

“We would also like to know what steps are being taken to streamline the process. The affidavit will be filed under the signatures of the Director-General, NCB. The affidavit be filed within four weeks,” the top court said and posted the matter for hearing after four weeks.

The apex court was hearing a plea filed by the Centre, through the NCB, against the high court’s December 6, 2018 verdict. The high court had acquitted some accused in a case lodged under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, saying that prosecution was not able to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt.

The high court had delivered the judgement while dealing with appeals filed by some of the accused who had challenged the trial court orders convicting and sentencing them in the case. The high court had also dismissed the separate plea challenging the trial court order acquitting two other accused in the case.

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