Liberty may override statutory embargo u/s 37(1)(b) NDPS Act if trial cannot be concluded in reasonable time: SC

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Section 37 of NDPS Act deals with the grant of bail to a person accused of an offence punishable under section 19 or section 24 or section 27A and also for offences involving commercial quantity

The Supreme Court has said in case where trial cannot be concluded within reasonable time conditional liberty overriding the statutory embargo created under Section 37(1)(b) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, (NDPS Act) may be considered.

"It is to observe that failure to conclude the trial within a reasonable time resulting in prolonged incarceration militates against   the precious fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and as such, conditional liberty overriding the statutory embargo created under Section 37(1)(b) of the NDPS Act may, in such circumstances, be considered", a vacation bench of Justices JK Maheshwari and KV Vishwanathan has said.

With this view, court has granted bail to one Ankur Chaudhary.

Chaudhary was in custody since last more than two years in connection with an FIR registered at Indore (M.P.) for the offences punishable under Section 8 read with Sections 22 and 29 of the NDPS Act.

Top Court noted that when in May last Chaudhary had approached it his bail petition was not entertained but liberty was granted to approach the trial court for bail, after the examination of the panch witnesses.

"Learned counsel for the petitioner submits that the panch witnesses viz., PW3 (Sunder Pal) and PW4 (Vinod Rathore) have been examined and they have not supported the case of prosecution. On being applied afresh, the trial Court rejected his bail application only on the pretext that the Investigation Officer may also be a panch witness who has yet to examine. The High Court also rejected the bail application affirming those findings by the impugned order...", the top court's vacation bench was further told.

Thus, while grating bail to the accused, court has said that he would regularly attend trial until exempted by orders of the Court.