Absence of independent witness cannot be the ground for acquittal of accused under NDPS Act

Punjab and Haryana High Court: The appellant in the present case was convicted under S. 15 of the NDPS Act, 1985 and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one year and thus, appealed against the sentence before the High Court.

The main contention of the petitioner was that the learned trial Court failed to appreciate this fact that recovery was affected from the appellant on a public passage but no independent witness was joined. On hearing the prayer of the appellant, Surendra Gupta, J. framed the issue in consideration that is, as to whether the testimony of official witnesses examined by the prosecution should be discarded only on the ground that it did not find independent corroboration.

The Court to answer the question arising went on to observe that it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Ajmer Singh v. State of Haryana, (2010) 3 SCC 746; though in cases like the case in hand, independent evidence is required, but accused cannot be acquitted merely because no independent witness produced. In light of the precedents cited, the Court held that the trial court had committed no error in law in convicting the accused and acquittal could not be granted only because no independent witness was joined.

The appellant also pleaded before the court that he was only 30 years old with no criminal antecedents and also, the sole bread earner of the family. Keeping in mind the circumstances, the Court decided to reduce the sentence from rigorous imprisonment of one year to rigorous imprisonment of 6 months. [Iqlakh Mohammad v. State of Haryana, 2017 SCC OnLine P&H 1880, decided on 3-7-2017]

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