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Death penalty for first-time drug offenders not right:Ex-judge probing false cases

Gill’s statement comes at a time the CM is facing heat from within the party and his cabinet for alleged police-drug dealer nexus in the state.

punjab Updated: Jul 08, 2018 14:14 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Death penalty,drug offenders,drugs
Justice Mehtab Singh Gill (Retd) (HT Photo)

The first voice of dissent from within the government against the Punjab cabinet decision to seek death penalty for first-time drug offenders has come from the man heading a commission to probe political vendetta cases in the 10-year rule of the SAD-BJP. The panel was formed by chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh after Congress came to power last year.

“The role of police is not above suspicion. In several cases, they were not found to be truthful and honest. Under the NDPS Act, the police is the complainant, the witness and the one filing the FIR. No FIR can be same but in case of drug cases, many FIRs are a cut-and-paste job. It says the person was caught at the naka with a particular quantity of drugs. So everything is in the hands of the police,” justice Mehtab Singh Gill (retired) told HT on Saturday.

Citing section 31A of the NDPS Act, the former judge of Punjab and Haryana high court said the law already has a provision for death penalty for second-time offenders. “Amending the law to award capital punishment to first-time offenders is not right as police can falsely implicate people,” he said.

Of the 73 cases recommended by the commission for cancellation of false FIRs in its various interim reports, nearly a third (24) are related to drugs. Of the 73, the districts courts have accepted cancellation reports in 19 cases. The panel has recommended action, including relief to complainant, in 323 cases so far.

Gill’s statement comes at a time the CM is facing heat from within the party and his cabinet for alleged police-drug dealer nexus in the state. The most recent alarmbells on the long-standing issue first came as civil society groups took it up on social media and the streets after a spate of deaths purportedly related to drugs. Then came fireworks at Monday’s cabinet meeting between some cabinet ministers and Punjab police chief Suresh Arora over “drug-tainted” cops. After that, the CM, who heads the home department, has replaced Moga SSP Raj Jit Singh, and dismissed a Ferozepur DSP, Daljit Singh Dhillon, from service over allegations of pushing two women into drugs. The government also transferred 130 DSPs on Saturday also in an apparent bid to rein in the drug menace.

The CM had to also face embarrassment last week in the high court during hearing of another case when justice Daya Chaudhary pointed out to him that false drug cases are on the rise and challans were being presented in drug cases without forensic reports.

The high court on Monday acquitted a Hoshiarpur resident convicted in a drug case by a trial court in 2015 because the contraband shown to have been recovered from him was different from what was sent for chemical analysis. In that case, justice Amol Rattan Singh in his ruling said, “Misuse of NDPS Act is not an uncommon phenomenon... it is practically impossible to attribute 100% truthfulness to the police version.”

In June last year, justice Rajan Gupta had even asked DGP Arora to examine whether a nodal agency can be constituted to supervise investigations into FIRs to ensure that no innocent citizen is implicated under the NDPS Act.

Even the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal during his regime had to order a probe after some inmates in the de-addiction centre of the Amritsar central jail had alleged “false” cases have been registered against them by the police after “planting” intoxicating powder on them.

The fight for acquittal after a false case is not easy. A Patiala court had in June last year acquitted two persons and indicted assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Hansraj for implicating them in a false drug case. The ASI himself was complainant in the case and had shown the arrest after tip-off from sources. The defence counsel had, however, succeeded to prove, through mobile phone location details, that the ASI was not present at the spot of arrest.

The Gill-led commission has recommended action against former SAD minister Sucha Singh Langah and an SHO too for foisting a false NDPS case against a man of Gurdaspur . Even the HC has asked the commission to look into some complaints of vendetta and accepted its recommendations.

First Published: Jul 08, 2018 09:59 IST