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Thursday, October 8, 2015

“The notification applicable herein specifies small and commercial quantities of various narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for each contraband material. Entry 56 deals with heroin, Entry 77 deals with morphine, Entry 92 deals with opium, Entry 93 deals with opium derivatives and so on and so forth. Therefore, the notification also makes a distinction not only between opium and morphine but also between opium and opium derivatives. Undoubtedly, morphine is one of the derivatives of the opium. Thus, the requirement under the law is first to identify and classify the recovered substance and then to find out under what entry it is required to be dealt with. If it is opium as defined in clause (a) of Section 2(xv) then the percentage of morphine contents would be totally irrelevant. It is only if the offending substance is found in the form of a mixture as specified in clause (b) of Section 2(xv) of the NDPS Act, that the quantity of morphine contents becomes relevant.” “...where the minimum sentence is provided, we think it would not be at all appropriate to exercise jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India to reduce the sentence on the ground of the so-called mitigating factors as that would tantamount to supplanting statutory mandate and further it would amount to ignoring the substantive statutory provision that prescribes minimum sentence for a criminal act...” Yet again, in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Ayub Khan[8], where the High Court had awarded the lesser punishment this Court while analyzing the position in law has opined thus:- “The legislature, in its wisdom, has fixed a mandatory minimum sentence for certain offences—keeping, possessing arms and ammunition is a serious offence for which sentence shall not be less than three years. The legislature, in its wisdom, felt that there should be a mandatory minimum sentence for such offences having felt the increased need to provide for more stringent punishment to curb unauthorised access to arms and ammunition, especially in a situation where we are facing with menace of terrorism and other anti-national activities. A person who is found to be in possession of country-made barrelled gun with two round bullets and 50 gm explosive without licence, must in the absence of proof to the contrary be presumed to be carrying it with the intention of using it when an opportunity arises which would be detrimental to the people at large. Possibly, taking into consideration all those aspects, including the national interest and safety of the fellow citizens, the legislature in its wisdom has prescribed a minimum mandatory sentence. Once the accused was found guilty for the offence committed under Section 25(1)(a) of the Arms Act, he has necessarily to undergo the minimum mandatory sentence, prescribed under the statute.” 29. In view of the aforesaid analysis, we are unable to sustain the judgment and order of the High Court and, accordingly, unsettle the same and find that the accused-respondents, Mushtaq Ahmad and Gulzar Ahmad, are guilty of offence punishable under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of the NDPS Act and each of them is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for ten years and to pay a fine of Rs.1 lac and, in default of payment of such fine, to suffer rigorous imprisonment for a further period of one year. 30. Resultantly, the appeals are allowed and the judgment and order passed by the High Court in Criminal Appeal Nos.35 and 36 of 2009, is set aside and that of the learned trial Judge, as far as the sentence is concerned, stands modified.

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                   CRIMINAL APPEAL NOs. 1294-1295 OF 2015
                     (@ SLP(Crl) Nos. 8567-8568 of 2015)



State through Intelligence Officer
Narcotics Control Bureau                     ...   Appellant

                                   Versus

Mushtaq Ahmad Etc.                      ... Respondents



                               J U D G M E N T


Dipak Misra, J.


      In this appeal, by special leave, the State of Jammu and  Kashmir  has
called in question the legal propriety of the judgment and order  passed  in
Criminal Appeal Nos. 35 and 36 of 2009 whereby the High Court has  converted
the conviction recorded by the  learned  trial  Judge  holding  the  accused
respondents guilty of the offence punishable under Section 20 (b)  (ii)  (C)
of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,  1985  (for  brevity,
“the NDPS Act”) and sentencing each of them to suffer rigorous  imprisonment
for a period of 12 years and further to pay a fine of Rs.2  lakhs  each  and
in case of default of payment of fine to undergo rigorous  imprisonment  for
period of one year to one under Section 8 read with Section 20 (b) (ii)  (B)
of the NDPS Act and restricted the period of custody to the  period  already
undergone, that is, slightly more than seven years and  to  pay  a  fine  of
Rs.25,000/- each with a modified default clause.
2.    The facts which are necessary to  be  stated  are  that  the  accused-
respondents were chargesheeted under Section 8 read with Section 20  of  the
NDPS Act and accordingly, they were sent  up  for  trial.   Accused  persons
denied the accusations and claimed trial.  The prosecution  to  substantiate
its stand examined number of witnesses and brought in  series  of  documents
in evidence.  The learned trial Judge taking note of the fact  that  Mushtaq
Ahmad, the first respondent and Gulzar Ahmad, the second respondent were  in
possession of 6 kg. 200 gms and  4  kgs.  of  charas  respectively  and  the
prosecution had been able to establish  the  same,  treated  the  contraband
article as commercial quantity and accordingly found  them  guilty  for  the
offence punishable under  Section  20(b)  (ii)  (C)  of  the  NDPS  Act  and
eventually considering the gravity of the offence and the proliferating  and
devastating menace the drugs have been able to create  in  the  society  and
keeping in view the need for eradication, sentenced  each  of  them  as  has
been mentioned hereinabove.
3.     The  aforesaid  judgment  of  conviction  and   order   of   sentence
constrained the respondents-accused to prefer Criminal Appeal  Nos.  35  and
36 of 2009 and the Division Bench of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir  at
Jammu heard both the appeals together.   The  Division  Bench  addressed  to
various aspects and taking into consideration  the law  laid  down  in  Amar
Singh  Ramaji  Bhai  Barot  v.  State  of  Gujarat[1]   and   Samiullah   v.
Superintendent  Narcotic  Control  Bureau[2],  and   E.   Micheal   Raj   v.
Intelligence Officer Narcotic  Control  Bureau[3]  came  to  hold  that  the
narcotic drug proved to have been  recovered  from  the  possession  of  the
accused persons was of “intermediate quantity” in terms of  Section  2(viia)
of the NDPS Act read with S.O. 1055(E) dated 19.1.2001 and the  addition  of
“Note 3” after “Note 4
 did not change the complexion  of  the  matter  for  the  reason  that  the
alleged recovery had been made way back on  5.4.2004,  that  is,  more  than
five years prior to the amendment had come in force and  further  there  was
no allegation that there were more  than  one  narcotic  drugs  or  isomers,
esters, ethers and salts of the narcotic  drug  detected  in  the  recovered
substance.  Being of this view, the  High  Court  opined  that  the  accused
could only be convicted for the offence  punishable  under  Section  8  read
with Section 20(b) (ii) (B) of the NDPS Act.  The High  Court,  accordingly,
held thus:-
“38.  The appellants against the above backdrop  were  to  be  convicted  of
offence punishable under section 8 read with section 20 (b) (ii) (B) of  the
Act and sentenced to the punishment prescribed under  section  20  (b)  (ii)
(B) of the Act  and  not  to  the  punishment  prescribed  for  the  offence
involving  possession  of  “commercial  quantity”  of  narcotic  drug  under
section 20 (b) (ii) (c) of the Act.  However,  the  appellants  arrested  on
5.4.2004 and are in custody for last more than seven years.

39.   We therefore, alter the conviction of the  appellants  to  section  20
(b)  (ii)  (B)  of  the  NDPS  Act  and  sentence  the  appellants  to   the
imprisonment already undergone and a fine of Rs.25000/-  each.   In  default
of payment of fine the appellants shall suffer rigorous imprisonment  for  a
further period of six  months.   The  Criminal  Appeal  No.  35/2009  titled
Mushtaq Ahmad v/s State and Cr. Appeal No. 36/2009 titled Gulzar  Ahmad  v/s
State are disposed of accordingly.”

4.    It is submitted by Ms. Sushma  Manchanda,  learned  counsel  appearing
for the State that the High Court has fallen into error  by  converting  the
conviction from Section 20(b)(ii) (C) to Section 20(b)(ii) (B) of  the  NDPS
Act relying on the decisions  in  Amar  Singh  Ramaji  Bhai  Barot  (supra),
Ouseph @ Thankachan v.  State  of  Kerala[4]  and  E.  Micheal  Raj  (supra)
without taking into consideration  the  definition  of  “charas”  under  the
dictionary clause of the NDPS Act and  fallaciously  dwelt  upon  the  other
substance which has no  applicability.  She  has  seriously  criticized  the
finding recorded by the Division Bench of the High Court on the ground  that
neither the definition nor the stipulations  in  the  relevant  notification
lend support to such a finding and, therefore, the conclusion arrived at  by
the High Court is vulnerable in law.
5.    Ms. Nidhi, learned counsel for the respondent, per contra,   submitted
that  the  High  Court  has  rightly  converted  the  offence  from  Section
20(b)(ii) (C) to Section 8 read with Section 20(b)(ii) (B) of the  NDPS  Act
regard being had to the percentage in the seized contraband article and  the
sentence imposed being in the upper limit of the sentence prescribed in  the
provision, the same does not warrant any interference by this Court.  It  is
her further submission that the reliance on the authorities  placed  by  the
High Court cannot be found fault with.  Additionally,  it  is  contended  by
him that the discretion exercised by the High Court cannot  be  regarded  as
injudicious warranting interference by this Court.
6.    We shall deal with the first aspect first, for  our  finding  on  that
score shall foreclose other submissions as there would  be  no  warrant  for
the same.  There is no dispute over the fact that  the  contraband  articles
were seized on 5.4.2004.  Section 8 of the NDPS Act at  that  time  read  as
follows:-
“8. Prohibition of certain operations.—No person shall—

(a) cultivate any coca plant or gather any portion of coca plant; or

(b) cultivate the opium poppy or any cannabis plant; or

(c) produce, manufacture, possess,  sell,  purchase,  transport,  warehouse,
use, consume, import inter-State, export  inter-State,  import  into  India,
export from India or tranship any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance,

except for medical or scientific purposes and  in  the  manner  and  to  the
extent provided by the provisions of this Act or the Rules  or  Orders  made
thereunder and in a case where any such provision, imposes  any  requirement
by way of licence, permit or  authorisation  also  in  accordance  with  the
terms and conditions of such licence, permit or authorisation:

Provided that, and subject to the other  provisions  of  this  Act  and  the
Rules made thereunder,  the  prohibition  against  the  cultivation  of  the
cannabis plant for the production of ganja or  the  production,  possession,
use, consumption, purchase,  sale,  transport,  warehousing,  import  inter-
State and export inter-State of ganja for any  purpose  other  than  medical
and scientific purpose shall take  effect  only  from  the  date  which  the
Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify  in
this behalf:
Provided further that nothing in this section shall apply to the  export  of
poppy straw for decorative purposes.”

7.    Section 20 of  the  NDPS  Act  at  the  relevant  time  after  certain
amendments read thus:-
“20.  Punishment  for  contravention  in  relation  to  cannabis  plant  and
cannabis.—Whoever, in contravention of any provision  of  this  Act  or  any
rule or order made or condition of licence granted thereunder,—

(a) cultivates any cannabis plant; or


(b)  produces,  manufactures,  possesses,  sells,   purchases,   transports,
imports  inter-State,  exports  inter-State  or  uses  cannabis,  shall   be
punishable –


(i)  where  such  contravention  relates  to  clause   (a)   with   rigorous
imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten  years  and  shall  also  be
liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees; and


(ii) where such contravention relates to sub-clause (b),--


(A) and involves small quantity,  with  rigorous  imprisonment  for  a  term
which may extend to one  year,  or  with  fine,  which  may  extend  to  ten
thousand rupees, or with both;


(B) and involves quantity lesser than commercial quantity but  greater  than
small quantity, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which  may  extend  to
ten years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees;


(C) and involves commercial quantity, with rigorous imprisonment for a  term
which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to twenty  years
and shall also be liable to fine which shall  not  be  less  than  one  lakh
rupees but which may extend to two lakh rupees:


Provided that the court may, for reasons to be  recorded  in  the  judgment,
impose a fine exceeding two lakh rupees.”


8.    Prior to the amendment, Section 20 of the NDPS Act read as follows:-
“20.  Punishment  for  contravention  in  relation  to  cannabis  plant  and
cannabis.—Whoever, in contravention of any provision  of  this  Act  or  any
rule or order made or condition of licence granted thereunder,—

(a) cultivates any cannabis plant; or


(b)  produces,  manufactures,  possesses,  sells,   purchases,   transports,
imports  inter-State,  exports  inter-State  or  uses  cannabis,  shall   be
punishable, –


(i) where  such  contravention  relates  to  ganja  or  the  cultivation  of
cannabis plant, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which  may  extend  to
five years and shall also be liable  to  fine  which  may  extend  to  fifty
thousand rupees;


(ii) where such contravention relates to cannabis  other  than  ganja,  with
rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years  but
which may extend to twenty years and shall also  be  liable  to  fine  which
shall not be less than one lakh rupees and which  may  extend  to  two  lakh
rupees:

Provided that the court may, for reasons to be  recorded  in  the  judgment,
impose a fine exceeding two lakh rupees.”

9.    The legislature amended certain provisions of the NDPS Act which  came
into effect on 2.10.2001 vide amending Act 9 of  2001.   Be  it  stated  the
said Act rationalized the structure of punishment  under  the  NDPS  Act  by
providing graded sentences linked to the quantity  of  narcotic  product  or
psychotropic substance in relation to which the offence was committed.   The
statement of objects and reasons to the Bill declares the intention thus:-
                      “STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS

Amendment Act 9 of 2001.—The  Narcotic  Drugs  and  Psychotropic  Substances
Act, 1985 provides deterrent punishment for  various  offences  relating  to
illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.  Most  of
the offences invite  uniform  punishment  of  minimum  ten  years’  rigorous
imprisonment which may extend up to twenty years. While  the  Act  envisages
severe punishments for drug traffickers, it envisages  reformative  approach
towards addicts. In view of the general delay in trial  it  has  been  found
that the addicts prefer not to invoke the provisions of the Act. The  strict
bail provisions under  the  Act  add  to  their  misery.  Therefore,  it  is
proposed to rationalise the sentence structure so as to  ensure  that  while
drug  traffickers  who  traffic  in  significant  quantities  of  drugs  are
punished with deterrent sentences, the addicts and  those  who  commit  less
serious offences are sentenced to  less  severe  punishment.  This  requires
rationalisation of the sentence structure provided  under  the  Act.  It  is
also proposed to restrict the  application  of  strict  bail  provisions  to
those offenders who indulge in serious offences.”

10.   Section  41  (1)  of  the  Amending  Act  9  of  2001  determined  the
application or exclusion of the amending  provisions.   The  said  provision
read as follows:-
  “41.  Application  of  this  Act  to  pending  cases.—(1)  Notwithstanding
anything contained in sub-section  (2)  of  Section  1,  all  cases  pending
before the courts or under investigation at the  commencement  of  this  Act
shall be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the principal  Act
as amended by this Act and accordingly,  any  person  found  guilty  of  any
offence punishable under the principal Act, as it stood  immediately  before
such commencement, shall be liable for a punishment  which  is  lesser  than
the punishment for  which  he  is  otherwise  liable  at  the  date  of  the
commission of such offence:
Provided that nothing in this  section  shall  apply  to  cases  pending  in
appeal.”

11.   The question arose with regard to the constitutional validity  of  the
said provision inasmuch as there was a classification  between  the  accused
facing trial and the convicts who  had  already  been  convicted  and  their
appeals were pending after 2.10.2001.  This Court in  Basheer  v.  State  of
Kerala[5],  after   referring   to   certain   authorities   pertaining   to
classification came to hold as follows:-
“In the result, we are of the view that the proviso to Section 41(1) of  the
amending Act 9 of 2001 is constitutional and  is  not  hit  by  Article  14.
Consequently, in all cases, in which the trials had  concluded  and  appeals
were pending on 2-10-2001, when amending Act 9 of 2001 came into force,  the
amendments introduced by the amending Act 9 of 2001 would not be  applicable
and they would have to be disposed of  in  accordance  with  the  NDPS  Act,
1985, as it stood before 2-10-2001.”

12.   In the case at hand, admittedly the  occurrence  had  taken  place  in
2004 and, therefore,  2001  Act  applies.   The  ‘Notes’  that  came  to  be
inserted by way of amendment at a later date need not  be  debated  upon  in
this case, for the simon pure reason the said Notes would not  be  attracted
regard being had to the factual score in the present case.    Presently,  we
shall refer to certain pertinent provisions of  the  NDPS  Act.   Section  2
(viia) of the NDPS Act defines commercial quantity.  It is as follows:-
“2.  (viia)  “commercial  quantity”,  in  relation  to  narcotic  drugs  and
psychotropic substances,  means  any  quantity  greater  than  the  quantity
specified  by  the  Central  Government  by  notification  in  the  Official
Gazette;”

13.   Section 2 (xxiiia) of the NDPS Act defines small quantity.   It  reads
as follows:-
  “2.  (xxiiia)  “small  quantity”,  in  relation  to  narcotic  drugs   and
psychotropic  substances,  means  any  quantity  lesser  than  the  quantity
specified  by  the  Central  Government  by  notification  in  the  Official
Gazette;”

14.   At this juncture, it is appropriate to  refer  to  the  definition  of
cannabis (hemp) as contained in Section 2(iii) of the NDPS Act:-
“(a) charas, that is, the separated resin, in whatever form,  whether  crude
or  purified,  obtained  from  the  cannabis   plant   and   also   includes
concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;
(b) ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops  of  the  cannabis  plant
(excluding the seeds and leaves  when  not  accompanied  by  the  tops),  by
whatever name they may be known or designated; and
(c) any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of  the  above
forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom;”
                                                         [Emphasis supplied]
15.    It  is  pertinent  to  reproduce  the  relevant  extract   from   the
notification dated  19th  October,  2001  issued  under  Clause  (viia)  and
(xxiiia) of Section 2 of the NDPS Act.  The requisite part of the  table  is
reproduced below:-

|“Sl.|Name of Narcotic   |Other     |Chemical    |Small |Commercia|
|    |Drug and           |non-propri|Name        |Quanti|l        |
|No. |Psychotropic       |etary name|            |ty (in|Quantity |
|    |Substance          |          |            |gm.)  |(in      |
|    |[International     |          |            |      |gm/kg)   |
|    |non-proprietary    |          |            |      |         |
|    |name (INN)]        |          |            |      |         |
|(1) |(2)                |(3)       |(4)         |(5)   |(6)      |
|23. |Cannabis and       |CHARAS,   |EXTRACTS AND|100   |1 kg.    |
|    |cannabis resin     |HASHISH   |TINCTURES OF|      |         |
|    |                   |          |CANNABIS    |      |         |
|150 |Tetrahydrocannababi|          |The         |2     |50 gm    |
|    |nol                |          |following   |      |         |
|    |                   |          |isomers and |      |         |
|    |                   |          |their       |      |         |
|    |                   |          |stereochemim|      |         |
|    |                   |          |ical        |      |         |
|    |                   |          |variants:-  |      |         |
|    |                   |          |7,8,9,10-   |      |         |
|    |                   |          |tetrahydro-6|      |         |
|    |                   |          |,6,9-       |      |         |
|    |                   |          |trimethyl-3-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |pentyl-6H-  |      |         |
|    |                   |          |dibenzo     |      |         |
|    |                   |          |[b,d]       |      |         |
|    |                   |          |pyran-1-o1  |      |         |
|    |                   |          |(9R, 10aR)- |      |         |
|    |                   |          |8,9,10,10a- |      |         |
|    |                   |          |tetrahydro-6|      |         |
|    |                   |          |,6,9-trimeth|      |         |
|    |                   |          |y1-3-pentyl-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |6H-dibenzo[b|      |         |
|    |                   |          |,d]         |      |         |
|    |                   |          |pyranl-ol   |      |         |
|    |                   |          |(6aR, 9R,   |      |         |
|    |                   |          |10aR)- 6a,  |      |         |
|    |                   |          |9,10,10a-   |      |         |
|    |                   |          |tetrahydro-6|      |         |
|    |                   |          |,6,9-       |      |         |
|    |                   |          |trimethyl-3-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |penty1 – 6H-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |dibenzo     |      |         |
|    |                   |          |[b,d]       |      |         |
|    |                   |          |pyran-1-o1  |      |         |
|    |                   |          |(6aR, 10aR)-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |6a,         |      |         |
|    |                   |          |7,10,10a-   |      |         |
|    |                   |          |tetrahydro- |      |         |
|    |                   |          |6,6,9-      |      |         |
|    |                   |          |trimethyl – |      |         |
|    |                   |          |3-penty1-6H-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |dibenzo     |      |         |
|    |                   |          |[b,d] pyran-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |1-ol        |      |         |
|    |                   |          |6a,7,8,9-   |      |         |
|    |                   |          |tetrahydro- |      |         |
|    |                   |          |6,6,9-trimet|      |         |
|    |                   |          |hyl-3-pentyl|      |         |
|    |                   |          |-6H-dibenzo |      |         |
|    |                   |          |[b,d]       |      |         |
|    |                   |          |pyran-l-ol  |      |         |
|    |                   |          |(6aR, 10aR)-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |6a,7,8,9,10,|      |         |
|    |                   |          |10a-        |      |         |
|    |                   |          |hexahydro-6,|      |         |
|    |                   |          |6-dimthyl-I-|      |         |
|    |                   |          |9- methylene|      |         |
|    |                   |          |3-          |      |         |
|    |                   |          |pentyl-6H-  |      |         |
|    |                   |          |dibenzo     |      |         |
|    |                   |          |[b,d]       |      |         |
|    |                   |          |pyran-1-o]” |      |         |


                                                         [Emphasis supplied]

16.   The learned trial Judge had  treated  the  seized  contraband  article
falling within the definition of commercial quantity and  accordingly  found
the accused persons guilty and imposed the sentence.  He has taken  note  of
the fact that the notification issued on 19.10.2001 clearly shows that  more
than one kilogram is commercial quantity.  The High  Court  while  reversing
the finding pertaining to commercial quantity has stated thus:-
“It needs  to  be  pointed  out  that  the  Chemical  Examiner  as  per  the
prosecution case did not only analyze the samples to  find  out  whether  it
comprised of or contained any Narcotic Drug but went a step further to  find
out “percentage by weight” of the Narcotic Drug in the sample. The  Chemical
Examiner as per his reports  dated  25.04.2004  certified  that  the  sample
taken from one of the seven brownish stick shaped substance tested  positive
for Charas and the Tetra hydrocannabinol (THC) content  in  the  sample  was
5.1 percent.  In  case  of  sample  lifted  from  one  of  the  five  sticks
recovered from the  appellant  Mushtaq  Ahmad  Tetra  hydrocannabinol  (THC)
content in the sample was 5.1 percent.  In case of sample  lifted  from  one
of the  five  sticks  recovered  from  the  appellant  Mushtaq  Ahmad  Tetra
hydrocannabinol (THC) content in the sample was found  to  be  4.9  percent.
In the circumstances, if the samples lifted  from  the  substance  recovered
from the appellants would be 45 gms and  39  gms  respectively  taking  each
stick to have average weight of 890  (6.2  Kg-7)  and  800  (4.0  Kg-5)  gms
respectively.  However, if, working on the assumption made by learned  trial
Court that in view of confessional statements of the appellants,  the  whole
substance was to be taken as Charas  irrespective  of  restricted  sampling,
the Narcotic Drug  content  in  the  entire  substance  recovered  from  the
appellants still would work out to be 316 gms and 196 gms respectively.”

17.   We have reproduced the aforesaid  paragraph  to  appreciate  that  the
High Court has been guided  by  presence  of  “Tetra-hydrocannabinol”  (THC)
content and on that foundation has proceeded to hold that  the  seized  item
from both the accused persons is beyond the small quantity but  lesser  than
the commercial quantity.  To arrive at the  said  conclusion,  reliance  has
been placed essentially on Ouseph @ Thankachan (supra) and  E.  Micheal  Raj
(supra).
18.   We think it appropriate to analyse the ratio of  the  said  decisions.
In Ouseph @ Thankachan (supra), the accused was found in possession  of  110
ampoules of buprenorphine trade name  of  which  is  Tidigesic.   The  court
addressed to the issue whether psychotropic substance was in small  quantity
and if so, whether it was for personal consumption.   In  that  regard,  the
Court proceeded to state thus:-
“The question to be considered by us is whether the  psychotropic  substance
was in a small quantity and if so, whether  it  was  intended  for  personal
consumption. The words “small quantity” have been specified by  the  Central
Government by the notification dated  23-7-1996.  Learned  counsel  for  the
State has brought to our notice that as  per  the  said  notification  small
quantity has been specified as 1 gram. If so, the  quantity  recovered  from
the appellant is far below the limit of  small  quantity  specified  in  the
notification issued by the Central Government.  It  is  admitted  that  each
ampoule contained only 2 ml and each ml contains only .3 mg. This means  the
total quantity found in the possession of the  appellant  was  only  66  mg.
This is less than 1/10th of the limit of small quantity specified under  the
notification.”

19.   In E. Micheal Raj (supra), a two-Judge Bench while  dealing  with  the
determination of a small or commercial  quantity  in  relation  to  narcotic
drug or psychotropic substance  in  a  mixture  with  one  or  more  neutral
substance opined that the quantity of neutral substance is not to  be  taken
into consideration and it is the  only  actual  content  by  weight  of  the
offending drug which is relevant for the purpose of determining  whether  it
would  constitute  small  quantity  or   commercial   quantity   should   be
considered.  The question arose in E. Micheal Raj (supra) under which  Entry
of the notification the substance found  in  possession  of  the  appellants
would fall, that is, whether Entry 56 or Entry 239.  After referring to  the
Entries, the Court held as under:-
“14. As a consequence of the amending Act, the sentence structure  underwent
a drastic change. The  amending  Act  for  the  first  time  introduced  the
concept  of  “commercial  quantity”  in  relation  to  narcotic   drugs   or
psychotropic substances  by  adding  Clause  (vii-a)  in  Section  2,  which
defines this term as any quantity greater than a quantity specified  by  the
Central Government by notification in the  Official  Gazette.  Further,  the
term “small quantity” is defined in  Section  2(xxiii-a),  as  any  quantity
lesser  than  the  quantity  specified  by   the   Central   Government   by
notification in  the  Official  Gazette.  Under  the  rationalised  sentence
structure, the punishment would vary depending upon whether the quantity  of
offending material is “small quantity”, “commercial quantity”  or  something
in-between.

15. It appears from the Statement of Objects and  Reasons  of  the  amending
Act of 2001 that the intention of the legislature  was  to  rationalise  the
sentence structure so as to ensure that while drug traffickers  who  traffic
in significant quantities of drugs are  punished  with  deterrent  sentence,
the addicts and those who commit less  serious  offences  are  sentenced  to
less severe punishment.  Under  the  rationalised  sentence  structure,  the
punishment would vary depending upon the  quantity  of  offending  material.
Thus, we find it difficult to accept the argument advanced on behalf of  the
respondent that the rate of  purity  is  irrelevant  since  any  preparation
which is more than the commercial quantity of 250 gm and  contains  0.2%  of
heroin or more would be punishable under Section  21(c)  of  the  NDPS  Act,
because the intention of the legislature as it appears  to  us  is  to  levy
punishment based on the content of the offending drug  in  the  mixture  and
not on the weight of the  mixture  as  such.  This  may  be  tested  on  the
following rationale. Supposing 4 gm of heroin is recovered from an  accused,
it would amount to a small quantity, but when the same 4 gm  is  mixed  with
50 kg of powdered sugar, it would be quantified as  a  commercial  quantity.
In the mixture of a narcotic drug or a psychotropic substance  with  one  or
more neutral substance(s), the quantity of the neutral substance(s)  is  not
to be taken into consideration  while  determining  the  small  quantity  or
commercial quantity of a narcotic drug  or  psychotropic  substance.  It  is
only the actual content by weight of the narcotic  drug  which  is  relevant
for the purposes of determining whether it would constitute  small  quantity
or commercial quantity. The intention of the  legislature  for  introduction
of the amendment as it appears to us is to  punish  the  people  who  commit
less serious offences with less  severe  punishment  and  those  who  commit
grave crimes, such as  trafficking  in  significant  quantities,  with  more
severe punishment.”

20.   In the said case, the Court accepted the  submission  that  purity  of
heroin was 1.4% and  1.6%  respectively  and,  therefore,  the  quantity  of
heroin in possession was only 60 gms and on that  ground  treated  it  as  a
small quantity.

21.   In Amar Singh Ramaji  Bhai  Barot  (supra)  the  appellant  was  found
carrying a black packet which contained black colour liquid  substance  that
smelled  like  opium.   The  police  officer  weighed  the  said   substance
recovered from him and found the weight to be 920 gms. 4.250 kg  of  a  grey
coloured substance suspected to be a drug,  was  recovered  from  the  other
accused who had already died.  Out of the 920 gms opium recovered  from  the
appellant, samples were  sent  to  the  Forensic  Science  Laboratory  which
opined that  substance  which  had  been  sent  was  opium  containing  2.8%
anhydride morphine and also pieces of poppy flowers  (posedoda).   Both  the
accused persons faced trial and the trial court found both  of  them  guilty
for the offences punishable under Section 17 and 18 read with Section 29  of
the NDPS Act and sentenced each of them to undergo rigorous imprisonment  of
10 years with fine of Rs. 1 lakh each with the default clause.   The  appeal
preferred by the other accused abated as he expired during the  pendency  of
the appeal and the appeal of the Amarsingh Ramjibhai  Barot  was  dismissed.
A contention was canvassed before this Court that the High Court had  fallen
into error by taking a total quantity of the offending  substance  recovered
from the two accused jointly and holding that the  said  quantity  was  more
than the commercial quantity, warranting punishment under Section  21(C)  of
the NDPS Act.  This Court addressed in detail to the factum  of   possession
of 920 gms of black liquid and the FSL report that indicated  the  substance
recovered from it was opium containing 2.8% anhydride morphine,  apart  from
pieces of poppy (posedoda) flowers found in the sample.  The Court  referred
to definition of opium in Section 2(xv) and 2(xvi) and  proceeded  to  state
thus:-
“14. There does not appear to be any  acceptable  evidence  that  the  black
substance found with the  appellant  was  “coagulated  juice  of  the  opium
poppy” and “any mixture, with  or  without  any  neutral  material,  of  the
coagulated juice of the opium poppy”. FSL has given its opinion that  it  is
“opium as described in the NDPS Act”. That is not binding on the court.
15. The evidence also does not indicate that the  substance  recovered  from
the appellant would fall within the meaning of sub-clauses (a), (b), (c)  or
(d) of Section 2(xvi). The residuary clause (e) would take  into  its  sweep
all preparations containing more than 0.2 per  cent  of  morphine.  The  FSL
report proves that the substance recovered from the appellant  had  2.8  per
cent  anhydride  morphine.  Consequently,  it   would   amount   to   “opium
derivative” within the meaning of Section 2(xvi)(e). Clause (a)  of  Section
2(xi) defines the expression “manufactured drug” as:
“2. (xi) ‘manufactured drug’ means—
(a) all coca derivatives, medicinal cannabis, opium  derivatives  and  poppy
straw concentrate;
(b)   *     *    *”
All “opium derivatives” fall within the expression  “manufactured  drug”  as
defined in Section 2(xi) of the NDPS Act. Thus, we arrive at the  conclusion
that what was recovered from the appellant was  “manufactured  drug”  within
the meaning of Section 2(xi) of  the  NDPS  Act.  The  material  on  record,
therefore, indicates that the offence  proved  against  the  appellant  fell
clearly within Section  21  of  the  NDPS  Act  for  illicit  possession  of
“manufactured drug”.”

22.   Being of this view, this Court concurred with the  decision  taken  by
the High Court that it was a commercial quantity.   The  said  decision  has
been distinguished in E. Micheal Raj (supra) by opining thus:-

“18.  Being aggrieved, Amarsingh approached this Court. This Court has  held
in para 14 of the judgment as under:

“14. There does not appear to be any  acceptable  evidence  that  the  black
substance found with the  appellant  was  ‘coagulated  juice  of  the  opium
poppy’ and ‘any mixture, with  or  without  any  neutral  material,  of  the
coagulated juice of the opium poppy’. FSL has given its opinion that  it  is
‘opium as described in the NDPS Act’. That is not binding on the court.”

The Court further held that the evidence also does  not  indicate  that  the
substance recovered from the appellant would fall within the meaning of sub-
clauses (a), (b), (c) or (d) of Section 2(xvi),  but  residuary  Clause  (e)
would apply and consequently it would amount  to  opium  derivative  as  all
opium derivatives fall within the  expression  “manufactured  drugs”.  Thus,
the Court arrived at  the  conclusion  that  what  was  recovered  from  the
appellant  was  manufactured  drug  and  the  offence  proved  against   the
appellant fell clearly within  Section  21  of  the  NDPS  Act  for  illicit
possession of manufactured drug. The Court concluded and held in para 17  as
under:

“17.  In  respect  of  opium  derivatives  (at  Sl.  No.  93)  in  the  said
notification, 5 grams is specified as ‘small  quantity’  and  250  grams  as
‘commercial quantity’. The High Court was, therefore, right in finding  that
the appellant was guilty of unlawful possession of ‘commercial quantity’  of
a manufactured drug. Consequently, his case would be covered by  Clause  (c)
and not Clause (a) or (b) of Section 21 of the NDPS Act.”

This Court has, therefore,  upheld  the  imposition  of  minimum  punishment
under Section 21(c) of 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment with  fine  of  Rs  1
lakh.

19.   On going through Amarsingh case we do not  find  that  the  Court  was
considering the question of mixture  of  a  narcotic  drug  or  psychotropic
substance with one or more neutral substance(s). In fact that  was  not  the
issue before the Court. The black-coloured liquid substance was taken as  an
opium derivative and the FSL report to the effect  that  it  contained  2.8%
anhydride morphine was considered only for  the  purposes  of  bringing  the
substance within the sweep of Section 2(xvi)(e) as “opium derivative”  which
requires a minimum 0.2%  morphine.  The  content  found  of  2.8%  anhydride
morphine was not at all considered for the purposes of deciding whether  the
substance recovered was a small or commercial quantity and  the  Court  took
into consideration the entire substance as an  opium  derivative  which  was
not mixed with one  or  more  neutral  substance(s).  Thus,  Amarsingh  case
cannot be taken to be an authority for advancing  the  proposition  made  by
the learned counsel for the respondent that the entire  substance  recovered
and seized irrespective of the content of the narcotic drug or  psychotropic
substance in it would be considered for application of  Section  21  of  the
NDPS Act for the purpose of imposition of punishment. We  are  of  the  view
that when any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance is  found  mixed  with
one  or  more  neutral  substance(s),  for  the  purpose  of  imposition  of
punishment it is the content of the narcotic drug or psychotropic  substance
which shall be taken into consideration.”

23.   We have referred to the said decision as the learned counsel  for  the
State submitted that the said decision applies to the present case.  In  our
considered opinion,  the  factual  matrix  in  the  said  case  was  totally
different and, in fact, it  was  dealing  with  the  manufacturing  and  the
percentage content and hence, we need not delve into the same.
24.   In the present case, the contraband article that has  been  seized  is
“charas” and the dictionary clause clearly states that it can  be  crude  or
purified obtained from the cannabis plant  and  also  includes  concentrated
preparation  and  resin  known  as  hashish  oil  or  liquid  hashish.   The
definition also indicates that any  mixture  with  or  without  any  neutral
material of any of the  cannabis  or  any  drink  prepared  therefrom.   The
reference in Section 2(iii)(c) refers to any mixture  which  has  a  further
reference to charas, which states crude or purified.  The chemical name  for
charas and hashish is  “extracts  and  tinctures  of  cannabis”.   It  finds
mention  at  Entry  No.23  of  the  Notification.  Serial  No.150   of   the
Notification deals with “tetrahydrocannababinol” having a long list.
24.   Regard being had to the aforesaid factual score, reference to  a  two-
Judge Bench decision in Harjit Singh v. State of Punjab[6],  would  be  apt.
In the said case 7.10  kgs.  of  opium  was  ceased  from  the  accused.   A
contention was raised before this Court that the opium  recovered  from  the
appellant weighing 7.10 kgs. contained 0.8% morphine, that  is,  56.96  gms.
and hence, the quantity was below the commercial  quantity.   The  two-Judge
Bench referred to the pronouncement in E. Micheal Raj (supra)  and  referred
to various Entries in the notification, namely, Entry  77  that  deals  with
morphine, Entry 92 that deals with opium and Entry 93 that deals with  opium
derivatives.  The Court posed the  question  whether  the  case  would  fall
under Entry 92 or Entry 93 or any other Entry.  The Court  referred  to  the
definition of opium under the NDPS Act, the chemical analysis  made  by  the
Forensic Science Laboratory, took note of the percentage  of  morphine,  the
amendment brought in 2001 and came to hold thus:-
“21. In the instant case, the material  recovered  from  the  appellant  was
opium. It was of a commercial quantity and could not have been for  personal
consumption of the appellant. Thus the appellant being in possession of  the
contraband substance had violated the provisions of Section 8  of  the  NDPS
Act and was rightly convicted under Section  18(b)  of  the  NDPS  Act.  The
instant case squarely falls under clause (a) of Section 2(xv)  of  the  NDPS
Act and clause (b) thereof is not attracted for the simple reason  that  the
substance recovered was opium in the form of the  coagulated  juice  of  the
opium poppy.  It  was  not  a  mixture  of  opium  with  any  other  neutral
substance. There was no preparation to produce any new  substance  from  the
said coagulated juice. For the purpose of imposition of  punishment  if  the
quantity of morphine in opium is  taken  as  a  decisive  factor,  Entry  92
becomes totally redundant.

22. Thus, as the case falls under clause (a) of Section  2(xv),  no  further
consideration is required on the issue. More so, opium derivatives  have  to
be dealt with under Entry 93, so in case of pure opium falling under  clause
(a) of Section 2(xv), determination of  the  quantity  of  morphine  is  not
required. Entry 92 is exclusively applicable for  ascertaining  whether  the
quantity of opium falls within the category of small quantity or  commercial
quantity.”

25.   In the said case, the judgment referred in E. Micheal Raj (supra)  was
distinguished by stating thus:-
“The judgment in E. Micheal Raj has dealt with heroin i.e.  diacetylmorphine
which is an “opium derivative” within the meaning of the term as defined  in
Section 2(xvi) of the NDPS Act and therefore, a “manufactured  drug”  within
the meaning of Section 2(xi)(a) of the NDPS Act. As such the  ratio  of  the
said judgment is not relevant to the adjudication of the present case.”

      Eventually, in paragraph 25 the Court held thus:-
“The  notification  applicable  herein  specifies   small   and   commercial
quantities of various narcotic drugs and psychotropic  substances  for  each
contraband material. Entry  56  deals  with  heroin,  Entry  77  deals  with
morphine, Entry 92 deals with opium, Entry 93 deals with  opium  derivatives
and  so  on  and  so  forth.  Therefore,  the  notification  also  makes   a
distinction not only between opium and morphine but also between  opium  and
opium derivatives. Undoubtedly, morphine is one of the  derivatives  of  the
opium. Thus, the  requirement  under  the  law  is  first  to  identify  and
classify the recovered substance and then to find out under  what  entry  it
is required to be dealt with. If it is opium as defined  in  clause  (a)  of
Section 2(xv) then the percentage of  morphine  contents  would  be  totally
irrelevant. It is only if the offending substance is found in the form of  a
mixture as specified in clause (b) of Section 2(xv) of the  NDPS  Act,  that
the quantity of morphine contents becomes relevant.”

26.   Another aspect needs to be noted.  The High Court in paragraph 28  has
found  that  the  seized  article  contained  more  than   50   gms.   Tetra
hydrocannabinol in respect of both  the  accused  persons.   The  commercial
quantity for the contraband article, namely, Tetra hydrocannabinol (THC)  as
stated in Entry no. 150 is 50 gms.  Even assuming  the  said  percentage  is
found in the seized item then also the contraband article  would  go  beyond
the “intermediate”  quantity  and  fall  under  the  “commercial”  quantity.
Judged from any score, we do not find the view expressed by the  High  Court
is correct.  Therefore, we conclude and  hold  that  the  seized  item  fell
under the commercial quantity and  hence  the  conviction  recorded  by  the
trial court under Section 20 (b) (ii) (C) is absolutely impeccable.
27.   We will be failing in  our  duty  if  we  do  not  deal  with  another
submission put forth by the learned  counsel  for  the  respondents-accused.
It is her submission that the accused persons have already spent  more  than
seven years in custody and,  therefore,  they  should  not  be  incarcerated
again.  Section 20 (b) (ii) (C) stipulates that the  minimum  sentence  will
be ten years  which  may  extend  to  twenty  years  and  the  minimum  fine
imposable is one lakhs rupees which may extend to  two  lakhs  rupees.   The
provision  also  provides  about  the  default   clause   which   stipulates
imposition of fine  exceeding  two  lakh  rupees,  for  the  reasons  to  be
recorded by the Court.  When a minimum punishment is  prescribed,  no  court
can impose lesser punishment.   In Narendra Champaklal Trivedi v.  State  of
Gujarat[7], while a submission was advanced that in exercise of power  under
Article 142 of the Constitution, this Court can impose a  lesser  punishment
than the prescribed one, this Court ruled that:-
“...where the minimum sentence is provided, we think it would not be at  all
appropriate to exercise jurisdiction under Article 142 of  the  Constitution
of India to reduce the sentence on the ground of  the  so-called  mitigating
factors as that  would  tantamount  to  supplanting  statutory  mandate  and
further it would amount to  ignoring  the  substantive  statutory  provision
that prescribes minimum sentence for a criminal act...”

28.   Yet again, in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Ayub Khan[8], where the  High
Court had awarded the lesser  punishment  this  Court  while  analyzing  the
position in law has opined thus:-
“The legislature, in its wisdom, has fixed a mandatory minimum sentence  for
certain offences—keeping,  possessing  arms  and  ammunition  is  a  serious
offence for  which  sentence  shall  not  be  less  than  three  years.  The
legislature, in its wisdom, felt that there should be  a  mandatory  minimum
sentence for such offences having felt the increased  need  to  provide  for
more  stringent  punishment  to  curb  unauthorised  access  to   arms   and
ammunition, especially in a situation where we are  facing  with  menace  of
terrorism and other anti-national activities. A person who is  found  to  be
in possession of country-made barrelled gun with two round  bullets  and  50
gm explosive without licence, must in the absence of proof to  the  contrary
be presumed to be carrying it  with  the  intention  of  using  it  when  an
opportunity arises which would  be  detrimental  to  the  people  at  large.
Possibly,  taking  into  consideration  all  those  aspects,  including  the
national interest and safety of the fellow citizens, the legislature in  its
wisdom has prescribed a minimum mandatory sentence.  Once  the  accused  was
found guilty for the offence committed under Section 25(1)(a)  of  the  Arms
Act,  he  has  necessarily  to  undergo  the  minimum  mandatory   sentence,
prescribed under the statute.”

29.   In view of the aforesaid  analysis,  we  are  unable  to  sustain  the
judgment and order of the High Court and,  accordingly,  unsettle  the  same
and find that the accused-respondents, Mushtaq Ahmad and Gulzar  Ahmad,  are
guilty of offence punishable under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of the NDPS Act  and
each of them is sentenced to undergo rigorous  imprisonment  for  ten  years
and to pay a fine of Rs.1 lac and, in default of payment of  such  fine,  to
suffer rigorous imprisonment for a further period of one year.
30.   Resultantly, the appeals  are  allowed  and  the  judgment  and  order
passed by the High Court in Criminal Appeal Nos.35 and 36 of  2009,  is  set
aside and that of the learned  trial  Judge,  as  far  as  the  sentence  is
concerned, stands modified.



                                           ...............................J.
[Dipak Misra]



                                           ...............................J.
                                                   [Prafulla C. Pant]
New Delhi
October 06, 2015.



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[1]     (2005) 7 SCC 55
[2]     AIR 2009 SC 1357
[3]     (2008) 5 SCC 161
[4]     (2004) 4 SCC 446
[5]     (2004) 3 SCC 609
[6]     (2011) 4 SCC 441
[7]     (2012) 7  SCC 80
[8]     (2012) 8 SCC 676

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