Rigors of Section 37, NDPS Act Must be Duly Met before Suspending the Sentence of a Convict and Granting Bail: SC

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On 11th September 2020, the Supreme Court heard the case of Sheru v Narcotics Control Bureau. The Bench comprised of Hon’ble Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose, and Hon’ble Justice Krishna Murari.

Brief Facts

Conviction of the Appellant was under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. He has been in custody for 8 years.

Appellant’s Arguments

The learned counsel for the Appellant argued that despite the directions of the Supreme Court to treat the case at priority, the case had not reached the hearing stage in 8 years.

Respondent’s Arguments

The Additional Solicitor General appeared on behalf of the Respondent. He stated that it is an established principle that serving many years during the pendency of an appeal cannot be a ground to suspend the sentence and grant bail. This is because Section 37 of the NDPS Act is a stringent provision.

Judgment

The Bench held that the rigours of Section 37 have to be duly met before suspending the sentence of a convict and granting bail. This is as Section 37 is a stringent provision. Further, the mere passage of time cannot be a reason for the same.

Additionally, the Supreme Court might prefer an appeal to suspend the sentence on two grounds. These include:

(1) the convict being in jail for the last three years; and

(2) there is no chance of hearing of his appeal within seven years.

However, this can happen only when the conviction is arising out of the Indian Penal Code but does not satisfy the requirements mentioned under Section 37 of the NDPS Act.

Nevertheless, the Court granted bail to the Appellant to de-congest the jail due to the current pandemic.

Lastly, the Court clarified that the Order passed was in light of the current facts and circumstances of the pandemic. Thus, the Order should not be subsequently treated as a precedent.


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