A technicality in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act has allowed 56-year-old Shabbir Sheikh to escape the death penalty.
Though he was convicted under the stringent Act for the second time, which automatically makes him liable for capital punishment, Sheikh was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the special court.
In 1997, Sheikh was convicted for being found with nearly 400 kg of methaquolone powder. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail. In August 2005, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) seized 65 kg of methaquolone from Sheikh and his accomplices.
However Sheikh’s lawyer, advocate Sayed Taraq, argued that under Article 20(1) of the Constitution ‘no one can be convicted for an offence that did not exist’. So, he said, since the concept of ‘commercial quantity’ did not exist in the NDPS Act during his first conviction Sheikh could not be awarded capital punishment.”
Explaining the order to Sheikh in Hindi, special judge, D R Sirsao, said the term ‘commercial quantity’ was not part of the Act when he was convicted in 1997 and was introduced when it was amended in 2001. Hence, Section 31 A was not applicable against him and he could not be awarded the death sentence. In addition to 15 years, Sheikh was also fined Rs 3 lakh.
On August 30, 2005, the NCB had arrested four persons, including Sheikh, from a shop at Kurar Village, Malad. They seized 65 kg of methaquolone and 4.5 kg of Mandrax tablets.
NCB said Sheikh had been manufacturing methaquolone powder at Sigma Chemicals in Taloja and converting it into mandrax tablets at Kurar.