Tri HC | Mere possession of counterfeit currency not sufficient to prove commission of offence punishable under S. 489-C IPC

Tripura High Court: S. Talapatra, J. allowed an appeal against the decision of the Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 489-C (possession of forged or counterfeit currency-notes or banknotes) IPC.

The appellant was found in possession of 27 fake counterfeit Indian currency-notes. He was charged and convicted as stated above. H.K. Bhowmik, Advocate representing the appellant submitted that the seizure was not proved and the procedure of seizing the purported counterfeit currencies was visited by serious defects and incongruities. Per contra, A. Acharjee, Special Public Prosecutor appearing for the State submitted that on the discovery of minor discrepancy, considering the nature of human conduct, no weight should not be given.

After considering the evidence on record, the High Court went on to consider the question — whether there was any proof of integrity of the seized materials and chain of custody? The Court found that in the State Forensic Science Laboratory Report it was not at all noted as to how the purported counterfeit currency was received. Further, it could not be ascertained as to who had marked the bank notes as A-1 to A-27. Still, further, the seized counterfeit currency was not sealed within a packet in presence of witnesses. It was observed: “There is no evidence in relation to the chain of custody or the sampling in order to preserve the integrity of the seized materials. There is no evidence except the possession of the so-called ‘counterfeit currencies’. Even there is no evidence of mens rea. In absence of the evidence, mere possession, cannot prove that offence punishable under Section 489 of the IPC has been committed.”

In such view of the matter, the Court was of the opinion that the appellant was to be given benefit of doubt. Resultantly, the appeal was allowed and the impugned judgment was set aside.[Bishu Ranjan Das v. State of Tripura, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 200, decided on 24-04-2019]

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