Poverty Of Accused Is Not A Mitigating Factor While Awarding Punishment Under NDPS Act: Supreme Court

7th Apr,2021


Poverty Of Accused Is Not A Mitigating Factor While Awarding Punishment Under NDPS Act: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court stated that simply because the accused is a poor man, a carrier, or a single breadwinner cannot be considered mitigating factors in the case of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act when determining the sentence/punishment. Though striking a balance between mitigating and aggravating situations, the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah observed that the public interest and effect on society as a whole would always lean in favour of the appropriate higher penalty.

*FACTUAL BACKGROUND OF THE CASE*
In this case, the perpetrator was found to be in possession of one kilogram of heroin, which is four times the legal minimum. The Special Court found the accused guilty of the crime punishable under Section 21 of the Act and sentenced him to 15 years R.I. and a fine of Rs.2 lakh, plus one year R.I. if the fine was not paid. The accused went to the Supreme Court after the High Court rejected his appeal. The Apex Court bench upheld the conviction and sentence, noting that the amount of narcotic drug recovered is a significant factor that can be considered when imposing a sentence greater than the NDPS Act's minimum penalty.

*CONTENTION MADE IN THE APPEAL*
In the appeal, it was argued that the mitigating circumstances favour the convicted and that, in the facts and circumstances of the case, a punishment/sentence greater than the Act's minimum is not justified. It was reported that the accused is a poor man who is the family's main breadwinner. To counter this argument, the court looked back at the past of the NDPS Act, noting that regulatory regulation over narcotic drugs was exercised in India prior to 1965 through a variety of Central and State statutes. With the passing of time and changes in the field of illegal drug trade and drug abuse on a national and international level, it was observed and discovered that the scheme of penalties outlined in the aforementioned Acts was insufficiently deterrent to meet the challenge posed by well-organized smuggler gangs. As a consequence of the above shortcomings, the NDPS Act, 1985 was passed, and Section 37 of the Act was amended to provide that the convicted of an offence under the Act shall not be released on bail during trial unless the necessary conditions set out in Section 37 are met. As a consequence, simply because the perpetrator is a poor man, a courier, or a single breadwinner cannot be considered mitigating factors in the case of the NDPS Act when deciding the sentence/punishment.