NCB delayed producing Nigerian before judge. HC does the math, orders bail

The Bombay high court ruled that the effective calculation of the 24-hour period would start from the time the accused was out under complete control of the officers with absolute restrictions on his movement.
The Nigerian national petitioned the high court for bail, contending that his rights under Article 22 (2) of the Constitution were violated by NCB.
The Nigerian national petitioned the high court for bail, contending that his rights under Article 22 (2) of the Constitution were violated by NCB.
Updated on Oct 22, 2021 01:27 AM IST
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ByGerard de Souza

PANAJI: A Nigerian national detained for a day before being arrested in March this year was ordered to be released on bail by the Bombay high court at Goa on Thursday because the Narcotics Control Bureau, or NCB, did not produce him before a magistrate within 24 hours of his detention.

Justice Manish Pitale rejected NCB’s contention that the agency formally arrested the 39-year-old Nigerian national on March 8, and the 24-hour period should be calculated from this date.

“It was found that the moment the accused was out under complete control of the officers with absolute restrictions on his movement, his arrest was complete in law,” the judge ruled, granting the accused bail on this ground of delay.

But it will be some time before Ugochukwu Solomon Ubabuko is released on bail. Given that he is already facing four drug trafficking-related cases, the judge ordered him to apply for a fresh passport from jail (since he claimed to have lost his original passport), get a valid visa and then surrender it to the investigating officer. He will also have to report to NCB’s Goa office every Monday once he is released on bail.

Ubabuko petitioned the high court for bail, citing Article 22 (2) of the Constitution which requires “every person who is arrested and detained in custody” to be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of such arrest.

He told the court that NCB raided his house and detained him at 6.25pm on March 7 this year, placed him under arrest at 5.30pm on March 8 and produced him before a magistrate only on March 9.

Ubabuko contended that the failure of NCB to produce him before a magistrate on March 8 violated his right guaranteed by the Indian constitution and was a ground to be granted bail.

According to him, the federal drug enforcement agency officials raided his house in Mazal vaddo Assagao on March 7 this year home where he lived with John Infinity alias David, from Congo. The raids were part of a probe to find out the drug suppliers who allegedly supplied drugs to the intermediaries who ultimately supplied them to actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

According to the case records, Ubabuko resisted a search by officers who knocked on his door on March 7 evening but was brought “under control”. The officers allegedly seized contraband from his house.

Ubabuko and David were taken to the police station and the formalities about the seizures were completed at 1:20am on March 8. He was, however, kept in the police station the entire day of March 8 and on March 9, he was produced before the Magistrate in the morning at about 10am.

According to NCB, there was nothing illegal about his detention since he was placed under arrest at 5:30pm on March 8 (nearly 24-hours after the raid) and was produced at 10 am on March 9 before the magistrate, and at 3 pm before the special NDPS court which remanded him in judicial custody.

“The applicant was neither detained nor arrested during this period (between the raid and his arrest). The procedure of searching the premises of the applicant was followed in a strictly legal manner and that Ubabuko voluntarily accompanied the raiding officers to the police station for recording his statement,” lawyer Mahesh Amonkar, appearing for NCB, argued.

Ubabuko’s lawyer Raju Poulekar contested this claim, contending that he was effectively under arrested from 6:25pm the previous day, when the raid started and his freedom of movement was curtailed.

“Even as per the panchanama, at 6:25pm on March 7 itself, the applicant (Ubabuko) was detained as his movements were controlled and curtailed,” Poulekar said.

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Monday, January 24, 2022