The High court of Chhattisgarh in the case of Chandrashekhar Bharadwaj v. State of Chhattisgarh expounds that, “the evidence of the police witnesses must be carefully scrutinized and independently appreciated. The ability of the members of law enforcement to see the outcome of the prosecution cannot be dismissed as evidence alone.”

The present case arises out of an appeal made by the appellants namely Chandrashekar Bharadwaj and Liladhar Lahare when they were dissatisfied about the judgement from the trial court convicting them under article 20 (b) of the NDPS act 1985. The case was brought before Hon’ble Shri Justice Gautam Chourdiya. Though the incident of this case took place in the year 2017, the court gave a judgement basing its decision on case with similar facts.

FACTS OF THE CASE

Sub inspector Mohammed Qureshi was on patrol duty when he received information from an informant that 2 persons are coming in from Orissa and had ganja in their possession for sale. The police part, with the information at hand in writing , along with independent witnesses Dhankumar and Vijaya kumar Yadav reached the spot and apprehended the appellants. They gave them a legal notice under article 50 of the Narcotic drugs and psychotropic act, 1985 and informed the appellants about their legal rights.

On searching the appellants vehicle, the police confiscated 14 kg of ganja and an FIR was registered against the appellants under article 20 of the NDPS act and after further investigation a charge sheet was filed under section 20(b) of NDPS act. The charges framed by the trial court was denied by the appellants and they prayed for trial.

While seven witnesses were examined by the prosecution, no witness were examined by them in the appellant’s defence. They denied the charges against them and pleaded guilty. The counsel for the appellants submitted that the trial court convicted the appellants by the impugned judgement and without appreciating the overall evidence and they also pointed out that there were major contradictions in the statements of the witness against the appellants. Hence under these circumstances, the judgement of the trial court should be set aside.

They appealed for a reduced sentence by taking the facts of the case of Pritam patel vs state of CG and also by stating that the appellants were young offenders. But the state counsel objected this appeal and stated that the trial court was right in convicting the appellants.

In the present case , out of the seven witnesses of the prosecution, two witnesses did not support the prosecution case but the other five have supported the case and have unequivocally given statements about the search and seizure of the drugs.

CONTENTION OF THE PARTIES

The appellants in this case submit to the high court of Chhattisgarh that the trial court without appreciating the overall evidence on record has wrongfully convicted the appellants based on an impugned judgement. They argue that no independent witnesses in this case support the prosecution case and that there were major contradiction in the statements of the witnesses. They further argue that the mandatory provisions of the NDPS act have not been complied with during the search process, as required by the law.

Hence the conviction of the appellants under article 20 (b) of the NDPS act and the sentence imposed by the trial court are to be set aside.

On the other side, the counsel argues that they support the impugned judgement of the trial court considering all the relevant matters of the case and calls the decision of the trial court to convict the appellants right and there was no need of interference by the high court in this decision.

OBSERVATION OF THE COURT AND JUDGEMENT

 The fact that police informants are employees of law enforcement who are active in the investigation, as well as their willingness to see the prosecution’s outcome, cannot be ignored as evidence on its own. Prudence, on the other hand, requires that the testimony of police officers who are complicit in the investigation’s conclusion be carefully scrutinised and evaluated separately.

The court based its decision on the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Baldev Singh vs. Haryana, which stated that, “there is no legal proposition that evidence of police officials unless supported by independent evidence is unworthy of acceptance. Evidence of police witnesses cannot be discarded merely on the ground that they belong to the police force and interested in the investigation and their desire to see the success of the case. Prudence however requires that the evidence of police officials who are interested in the outcome of the result of the case needs to be carefully scrutinised and independently appreciated. The mere fact that they are police officials does not by itself give rise to any doubt about their creditworthiness.”

It cannot be stated as a rule of law that a police officer can or cannot be a reliable in a criminal case which will always depend upon facts of a given case. If testimony of such a witness is reliable, trustworthy, cogent and duly corroborated by other witnesses or admissible evidence, then statement of such witness cannot be discarded only on ground that he is a police officer and may have some interest in success of the case. Only when his interest in success of case is motivated by overzealousness to an extent of his involving innocent people, then, no credibility can be attached to is statement.

As per evidence available on record, it stands proved that all of the necessary provisions of the NDPS Act have been properly complied with by the investigating officer while conducting an investigation,” the court said while partially allowing the appeal. The defence has been unable to obtain anything from these witnesses that would indicate that they were hostile to the accused or involved in falsely implicating the accused in the crime.”

By taking the case of Pritam patel vs State of CG, the court decided that in the present case, no useful purpose will be served by keeping the appellants behind bars and that justice would be served if they are sentenced to a period already undergone by them and keeping the fine amount imposed intact.

Hence, in this judgement , the appeal is allowed in part.

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