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Private Vehicle belonging to Accused does not fall under "Public Place", compliance of Sec 42 NDPS Act mandatory; SC

The SC on April 16, 2021 {BOOTA SINGH & OTHERS vs. STATE OF HARYANA} held that Section 42 of the NDPS Act having not been complied with at all, the appellants were entitled to acquittal in terms of law laid down in the Constitution Bench decision of the Court in Karnail Singh v. State of Haryana (2009) 8 SCC 539.

It was held by the Bench, comprising of Justice U.U. Lalit and Justice K.M. Joseph that the compliance with the requirements of Sections 42(1) and 42(2) in regard to writing down the information received and sending a copy thereof to the superior officer, should normally precede the entry, search and seizure by the officer. But in special circumstances involving emergent situations, the recording of the information in writing and sending a copy thereof to the official superior may get postponed by a reasonable period, that is, after the search, entry and seizure. The question is one of urgency and expediency. As laid down in aforesaid judgment of Constitution Bench of the Court.

The question fell for consideration before the SC was whether the case comes within the scope of Section 42 of the NDPS Act when the vehicle in question was a private vehicle belonging to accused Gurdeep Singh and was not a public conveyance, though parked on a public road.

The Supreme Court held that the evidence in the present case clearly shows that the vehicle was not a public conveyance but was a vehicle belonging to accused Gurdeep Singh. It was held that the Registration Certificate of the vehicle, which has been placed on record also does not indicate it to be a Public Transport Vehicle. It was further held that the explanation to Section 43 shows that a private vehicle would not come within the expression “public place” as explained in Section 43 of the NDPS Act.

It was concluded that it is an admitted position that there was total non-compliance of the requirements of Section 42 of the NDPS Act. In the circumstances, it was held that the courts below fell in error in rejecting the submissions advanced on behalf of the appellants. The Supreme Court allowed the appeal, set-aside the view taken by the High Court and acquitted the appellants of the charge levelled against them.

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