A local court on Monday handed a 13-year jail term to Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and former Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) zonal director Saji Mohan (47) in a drug pilferage case. Former NCB superintendent Balwinder Kumar also got 13-year jail, drug peddler Naseeb Chand got 10 years and Jammu and Kashmir police constable Naveen Kumar would have to serve six months in prison, according to the quantum of sentence announced by additional district and sessions judge Shalini Nagpal, who had convicted the four men on Friday. Another J&K police constable, Davinder Pal Singh, has been acquitted.
It was in March 2009 that Mohan, a 1995-batch J&K-cadre officer, and the four others were booked by the Chandigarh police on the charge of pilfering heroin from unclaimed seizures lying in the storeroom (maalkhana) of the NCB zonal headquarters in Sector 2 here.
Earlier, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Mumbai, had booked Mohan in January 2009 after he was caught with 12kg heroin. Mohan was posted as the deputy director of the enforcement directorate (ED) at Kochi (Kerala) when he was arrested, following which the NCB, Chandigarh, had launched its own investigation.
The judge observed, "Such offences, committed by officers of the Narcotic Control Bureau, brought in to being to control the menace, strike a serious blow to the rule of law." She underlined that the punishment cannot depend on social status: "(Mohan and Balwinder) having occupied responsible positions in NCB, Chandigarh, took advantage of the public office in committing the offence. Therefore, they are liable for higher than the minimum punishment."
Earlier, the counsel for Mohan and Balwinder asserted that no recovery of contraband had been made from his two clients, who had earned several commendations during their service tenure. Therefore, they deserved minimum sentence, he argued.
According to the prosecution, Mohan, during his tenure as the NCB zonal director here, had mixed slaked lime in drugs, keeping aside the 'pure' contraband for personal gains. The subordinate staff was said to be aware of the pilferage, and the cash seized from smugglers was allegedly distributed among staff members. It was alleged that 10kg heroin was handed over to Naseeb, a drug smuggler from Jammu. In its probe, the NCB had also accused the then NCB superintendent Balwinder Kumar of helping Mohan.
Naseeb, who earlier worked as an informer for the BSF and other agencies, was offered Rs 50,000 per kg for the sale of heroin by Mohan, it was alleged.
False evidence: witnesses face action
The court on Monday also ordered a complaint against two witnesses who misguided the judicial proceedings. Virat Dutt Chaudhary and Pushpdeep Singh, both NCB staff, falsely stated that the recovery of 10kg heroin on August 27, 2008, in the area of Ramkot was an "unclaimed seizure". Also, the court noted that MMS Bhandari, Rakesh Kumar Roshan, head constable Vijay Pal Singh and then NCB superintendent Balwinder prepared a false document dated May 15, 2008, that wrongly recorded the place of sealing and sampling of 60kg heroin recovered from the Indo-Pak border.
Convicts and their roles
Son of an ex-army officer, Saji Mohan was a veterinary doctor and made it to IPS in 1995. He was posted in terrorist-infested J&K for 10 years before joining NCB at Chandigarh, got President's Award for gallantry and was even sent him on UN duty for two years. Court noted he has ailing parents. His son is autistic and there is no other male member in the family. A first-time offender, he is likely to lose government service due to the conviction. Besides three years in jail, he has been fined Rs 3 lakh. He is facing another corruption case by the Chandigarh police for embezzling Rs 13.81 lakh.
A former NCB superintendent, Balwinder Kumar is the sole breadwinner of his family, and is likely to lose government service. Never convicted earlier, he got many commendation certificates during service period. He has got 13 years in jail and a fine of Rs 3 lakh.
A farmer and drug peddler from Jammu, Nasib Chand is 72 and has heart problems. He has never been convicted previously. However, he has got got 10 years in jail and fine of Rs 3 lakh.
A constable in J&K police, Naveen has ailing parents besides his wife and a minor child. Sole breadwinner of his family, he has been convicted for the first time and is set to lose his job. He has got only six months in jail and a fine of Rs 10,000.
Tears, and some relief
IPS officer Saji Mohan was trying to guide his counsel to question the judge on what pretext the quantum was being pronounced. "Question her (about) the quantity… whether commercial or something else," he kept saying. The judge did mention that the jail term was because of possession of commercial quantity.
Former NCB superintendent Balwinder Kumar and his wife broke down on hearing the sentence. He said, "Jo upaar wale ko manzur hai (Whatever God wills)!" Peddler Naseeb Chand looked calm, while constable Naveen's wife had a faint smile, as her husband got just a 6-month sentence.