Thursday, August 05, 2021

Kerala High Court quashes NDPS case against Cochin Airport employees falsely implicated for marijuana possession

The Kerala High Court recently quashed a case under the Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act against three engineers employed at the Cochin International Airport, after it found that were falsely implicated by erring excise officers (Reshwant Reddy v. Circle Inspector of Excise).

Single judge Justice K Haripal, exercising the powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and based on an enquiry conducted into the matter, quashed the case against the petitioners who were charged for possession of Marijuana.

"It is very unfortunate that three young officials, who had come to Nedumbassery in search of job, were implicated in false cases.... The agony and trauma suffered by them are immeasurable; the damage caused to their families cannot be compensated in any manner. It does not require much research to say that the case cannot stand and therefore it is liable to be quashed," the Court ordered.

Justice Haripal also issued a show cause notice to Assistant Excise Commissioner (Enforcement) , Sasikumar TS, as to why contempt of court proceedings shouldn't be initiated against him for filing a chargesheet in violation of Court's order.

"Though this Court had specifically directed the Assistant Excise Commissioner who is the Investigating Officer, that he can complete the investigation but shall not lay the charge sheet, ignoring the same he has filed the charge sheet, which is a clear violation of the direction of this Court and it is an act tending to interfere with the due course of justice," the Court said.

The petition was filed by three persons who were employed as Assistant Aviation Officers at Cochin International Airport Ltd. (CIAL) who were arrested in June 2019 allegedly for possession of a total of 13 grams of marijuana.

Advocate Geo Paul, representing the petitioners, asserted that the petitioners were absolutely innocent of the crimes alleged against them and that the case was fabricated.

As a possible reason for this false case, he submitted that due to a change in policy by the Airport Authority of India, eighteen workers were terminated from their jobs so that the technically educated engineers, including the petitioners, were employed in their place.

Paul alleged that it was at the instance of the Union of the terminated workers that the alleged false case was registered against the petitioners.

In July 2019, the petitioners filed a complaint in this regard before the Excise Commissioner who ordered that an enquiry be conducted into the matter.

The enquiry report, Paul submitted, completely endorses the version of the petitioners that it is a false case and recommends that the criminal proceedings be dropped and action be initiated against Excise officials who had erred.

He also highlighted the indignation caused to the petitioners due to the case and how even marriage prospects were affected.

During an earlier hearing of the case, the Court had stayed all proceedings against the petitioner based on the enquiry report.

Later, at the request of the Senior Public Prosecutor CK Suresh, the Court lifted the stay on proceedings only for the completion of the investigation and filing of a final report.

However, in July this year, Suresh informed the Court that in violation of the undertaking given by him, the Assistant Excise Commissioner had filed a chargesheet against the petitioners before the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Angamaly.

The Court immediately stayed these proceedings and demanded a statement as to why the order passed by the Court was negated.

The Court adverted to the decision of the Supreme Court in Anand Kumar Mohatta and Anr. v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi, Department of Home) and Anr., in which it was held the High Court can exercise jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. even when charge sheet is pending with the trial court.

Therefore, it stated that, even though chargesheet was filed negating the directions of this Court, the enquiry report is very clear, "like daylight" about the falsity of the crime registered against them and that alone is sufficient to quash the proceedings.

05/08/21 Giti Pratap/Bar and Bench

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