Concerned over inefficiency of Police, Home Deptt comes out with SOPs for NDPSA cases

DGP, IGPs, SSPs asked to shun insensitivity

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Oct 5: Concerned over inefficiency of Jammu and Kashmir Police in dealing with Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPSA) cases, which is leading to alarming level of acquittals, the Home Department has come out with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and asked the Director General of Police as well as IGPs of both the provinces to shun insensitivity and ensure strict compliance to the mechanism to save young generation from falling prey to the menace.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act provide for stringent provisions for offences related to drug abuse and trafficking. Despite the fact that major offences under the Act are non-bailable, it has been observed by the State Home Department that in several cases the drug offenders secure acquittal on technical grounds mainly because of inefficiency of the J&K Police personnel, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
“A large number of offenders in NDPSA cases are acquitted due to non-compliance of mandatory provisions and the prescribed procedure. In this way, the acquittals are creating a sense of insecurity in the society and undermining the faith of the common man in the administration of criminal justice”, they further said while disclosing that the number of acquittals in NDPSA cases greatly out-numbers the convictions. For every conviction there are about nine acquittals in Jammu and Kashmir.
The non-serious approach of the J&K Police in dealing with NDPSA cases has also been taken seriously by the State High Court and Division Bench in a PIL titled “Court on its own motion Versus State and Others” is monitoring the progress of steps taken by the State to ensure that in NDPSA cases the investigation is conducted in a proper and professional manner by adhering to the mandatory provisions of the Act in order to minimize the acquittals.
Concerned over the inefficiency of J&K Police, the Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department R K Goyal recently directed the State Crime Branch to prepare Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed in NDPSA cases. Now, the Home Secretary has issued directions to the Director General of Police, Inspector General of Police Kashmir/Jammu, all SSPs and SPs to strictly adhere to the SOPs prepared by the Crime Branch, the copies of which have also been sent to these officers.
“In view of the alarming level of acquittals, all the officers of the State Police entrusted with the investigation and prosecution in NDPSA cases are directed to strictly adhere to the provisions of the Act and procedures laid down in Standard Operating Procedures”, read the order of the Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR.
Through the order, these police officers have also been asked to shun insensitivity and ensure that investigating officers and prosecutors discharge their assigned duties in a professional manner to achieve the desired objective of the law.
In the SOPs, the common reasons for failure of cases have also been identified. It has been observed that civil witnesses are not associated during the course of investigation despite their availability on the spot. Moreover, Army and para-military forces personnel are not cited as witness during a joint surprise check.
“Weight balance is often taken from the open market either from some fruit vendor or shopkeeper but weighing of the contraband is not proved at the stage of trial. This is because the person from whom such weighing machine/balance was taken is invariably not examined as a witness”, the Home Department has observed.
It has also been pointed out that contraband in a huge quality is seized and sealed on the spot by the Investigating Officer. However, during the course of trial the seizure is proved to be of lesser quantity and not in consonance with the seizure memo. Moreover, the weight of samples taken and sent to Forensic Science Laboratory for chemical analysis are often disputed as bigger quantity of samples taken by the IO in the presence of a Magistrate and sent to FSL turns out to be of lesser quantity when weighed by the FSL expert thereby raising a suspicion.
“No entries are made in the Malkhana register about the seizures, samples taken for re-sealing etc in order to prove the safe custody of the seized contraband. The samples are usually sent late to the FSL and their retention under safe custody is not proved through the entries made in the Malkhana register during the course of trial”, the Home Department has further observed.
Tampering of seals of samples by the person in whose custody the sample seals are kept has also been detected as one of the reasons behind failure of cases in the court of law. “Mandatory provisions are not complied with and there is an intentional and deliberate breach of Section 55 by the Investigating Officers”, the Home Department said, adding “in majority of the cases police witnesses including SHO, IO, FSL expert, complainant and ex-Magistrate are not examined by the prosecution which results in the failure of the cases”.
The other shortcomings/common reasons for failure of cases pointed out by the Home Department and Crime Branch include non-examination of witnesses during the course of trial or lesser number of witnesses, non-production of case property in the court for the purpose of identification by the prosecution and lack of seriousness on the part of prosecution in examining the material witnesses including the IO which has a direct bearing on the case.
“Investigating Officers often fail to explain the contradiction which emerges out from the facts of the case and the testimony of witnesses during the course of trial”, the Home Department has further pointed out, adding “strict compliance to the SOPs and NDPSA is imperative to check the acquittals and save the young generation from falling prey to the menace”.