Of the 4,000 cases registered in 10 years, only 14 people in 10 cases have been convicted.
This is the track record of convictions that the Mumbai police’s Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) has to show.
The rate of conviction in narcotics cases with the ANC in Maharashtra is only 62.9 per cent as compared to Delhi’s 70 per cent and Punjab’s 69 per cent). In Goa, 11 cases resulted in convictions in a single year in 2000 and only one acquittal took place.
Mumbai has replaced Goa as the transit hub for drugs, but when it comes to the ANC in the city, cases tend to fall apart for the most bizarre reasons.
The ANC, in 2005, arrested a Nigerian with charas (cannabis) from a theatre in Malad.
Five months ago, when the case came up in the sessions court, the accused was acquitted because the theatre had been demolished and the place of offence no longer existed.
The ANC blames the poor conviction rate on unreliable witnesses.
“Offences relating to non-chemical drugs like charas, brown sugar and heroin usually take place in the lower strata of the society and the people arrested are mostly slumdwellers,” said Inspector S. Kulkarni, ANC, Mumbai.
During the trial, witnesses do not turn up in court and even if they do, they do not remember minute technicalities, added Kulkarni. Inaccurate profiling of the quality of the drug seized is another reason for cases failing to stand.
“If chemical drugs like LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide) are seized and even if there is a minute discrepancy relating to the purity and quality of the drug in the panchnama and the chemical analysis report, the case fails to stand,” said Kulkarni.
Lawyers, however, claim that most cases registered by the ANC are not genuine.
“Most of the cases are not genuine,” said lawyer Taraq Sayyed. “There are bound to be discrepancies in the statement of the investigating officer and the panchnama if the cases are table-made.”
Sunil Paraskar, the deputy commissioner of police, state ANC, said his priority would now be to make strong cases against drug peddlers and try to secure maximum convictions.
“The lawyers who represent the accused are very experienced and specialised in Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances Act. On the other hand, the knowledge of the investigating officers and the special public prosecutors are limited,” said former director general of police PS Pasricha.
Pasricha added that he had initiated several seminars for the investigation officers and public prosecutors so that they make a strong case.
Experts say the main reason for acquittals is the delay in the trials. “In western countries, a narcotics case trial is completed in less then 10 days. In our country, it takes over two years,” said lawyer Rizwan Merchant.