Drug Dealers Instruments In Causing Death To Vulnerable Victims: Supreme Court (18-04-2021)

New Delhi: Persons dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing death to innocent vulnerable victims and merely because an accused is a poor man and sole bread earner cannot be a mitigating factor to give him lesser punishment, the Supreme Court said.

A bench of D.Y. Chandrachud and MR Shah said while awarding the sentence or punishment in case of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, the interest of the society as a whole is required to be taken in consideration.

Organised activities of the underworld and the clandestine smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into this country and illegal trafficking in such drugs and substances shall lay to drug addiction among a sizeable section of the public, particularly the adolescents and students of both sexes, and the menace has assumed serious and alarming proportions in the recent years, the bench said.

The observation came on an appeal filed by Gurdev Singh challenging a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court confirming the conviction and sentence for the offence punishable under Section 21 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and sentenced the accused to undergo 15 years imprisonment and pay a fine of ? 2 lakh.

The counsel for the accused had submitted that the punishment of 15 years is admittedly higher than the minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years and neither the special court nor the high court have assigned any reasons.

He submitted that the appellant is a first time convict and is a poor person and was only a carrier.

It was also submitted that the main supplier of the narcotic substance had not been arrested, and the appellant-accused being a carrier, sentenced higher than the minimum punishment provided under the Act is not warranted.

The top court said it should be borne in mind that in a murder case, the accused commits murder of one or two persons, while those persons who are dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing death or in inflicting death blow to a number of innocent victims who are vulnerable, and it causes deleterious effects and deadly impact on the society.

Therefore, while striking balance between the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, public interest, impact on the society as a whole, will always be tilted in favour of the suitable higher punishment.

Therefore, merely because the accused is a poor man and/or a carrier and/or is a sole bread earner cannot be such mitigating circumstances in favour of the accused while awarding the sentence/punishment in the case of NDPS, the bench said while dismissing the appeal.

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19 Apr 2021