The Supreme Court has ordered that requests for re-testing or re-sampling should not be entertained under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act as a matter of course.
The bench comprising justices DK Jain and JS Khehar ruled that in the absence of any compelling circumstances, any form of re-testing or re-sampling was strictly prohibited under the NDPS Act and may be permitted only in extremely exceptional circumstances, for cogent reasons to be recorded by the presiding judge.
Such directions promise to bring a major transformation in handling matters pertaining to offences under the NDPS Act.
The revenue department in the union ministry of finance on March 22 had conveyed a series of apex court directions on various aspects of proceedings under the NDPS Act. The directions are an outcome of a bail matter in criminal appeal - Thana Singh v/s Central Bureau of Narcotics.
The apex court said that the NDPS Act did not permit re-sampling or re-testing of samples.
Yet, the NDPS courts had been consistently obliging the applications of re-testing and re-sampling. "These applications add to delays as they are often received at advanced stages of trials after significant lapse of time. While re-testing may be an important right of an accused, the haphazard manner in which the right is imported from other legislations without its accompanying restrictions, however, is impermissible," the apex court said.
The SC said under the NDPS Act, re-testing and re-sampling was rampant at every stage of the trial contrary to other legislations, which defined a specific time frame within which the right might be available. In light of Section 52-A of the NDPS Act, which permitted swift disposal of some hazardous substances, the time frame within which any application for re-testing might be permitted ought to be strictly defined, the SC said.
Regarding the adjournments granted in the NDPS matters, the SC said that lavishness with which adjournments were granted was not an aliment exclusive of narcotics trails.
The institutionalisation of generous dispensation of adjournment was exploited to prolong trials for varied considerations and the practice deserved complete abolition.
The apex court, thus, issued directions that no NDPS court would grant adjournments at the request of a party except where the circumstances were beyond the party's control.
The exception must be treated as an exception and must not be allowed to swallow the generic rule against grant of adjournments, the court said.
The apex court said that between harmonising the rights and duties of the accused and the victim, the witness was often forgotten.
"No legal system can render justice if it is not accompanied with a conducive environment that encourages and invites witnesses to give testimony," the SC said. Conclusion of examination alone often takes more than a day which serves a huge inconvenience to a witness.
The SC has directed the courts concerned to thus adopt a method of sessions trials which is to conduct examination and cross examination of a witness on consecutive days over a block period of three to four days and assign block dates for examination of witnesses.
The SC has also directed that nodal officers be appointed in all departments dealing with NDPS cases for monitoring the progress and trials.
The nodal officers will ensure that the trial is not delayed on account of non-supply of documents or non-availability of witnesses.