Rafiq Qureshi v. Narcotic Control Bureau Eastern Zonal Unit - Supreme Court Important Judgment 2019

Rafiq Qureshi v. Narcotic Control Bureau Eastern Zonal Unit - Supreme Court Important Judgment 2019 - 


On 7th May, 2019, in the case of Rafiq Qureshi v. Narcotic Control Bureau Eastern Zonal Unit [Criminal Appeal No. 567 of 2019], wherein the trial court had convicted the appellant and sentenced him under Section 21(c) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 to rigorous imprisonment for eighteen years; and the High Court while maintaining the conviction had reduced the sentence to sixteen years rigorous imprisonment, the issue before the Supreme Court was limited to the quantum of the sentence.


The appellant submitted before the Supreme Court that he could not have been awarded sentence of more than ten years which is the minimum sentence provided for offence under Section 21(c), since the Courts below did not advert to Section 32B and had not returned any finding that any of the factors for imposing punishment higher than the minimum term of imprisonment as enumerated in clauses (a) to (f) of Section 32B were present in the facts of the present case. Consequently, the Supreme Court came to examine and interpret Section 32B of the Act.


On consideration of the statutory scheme of Section 32B, the Supreme Court held that it “indicates that the decision to impose a punishment higher than the minimum is not confined or limited to the factors enumerated in clauses (a) to (f)” and “the Court’s discretion to consider such factors as it may deem fit is not taken away or tinkered.” It was held that “quantity of substance with which an accused is charged is a relevant factor, which can be taken into consideration while fixing quantum of the punishment” even though “Clauses (a) to (f) as enumerated in Section 32B do not enumerate any factor regarding quantity of substance as a factor for determining the punishment.”


The Supreme Court held that the “punishment awarded by the trial court of a sentence higher than the minimum relying on the quantity of substance cannot be faulted even though the Court had not adverted to the factors mentioned in clauses (a) to (b) as enumerated under Section 32B. However, when taking any factor into consideration other than the factors enumerated in Section 32B, (a) to (f), the Court imposes a punishment higher than the minimum sentence, it can be examined by higher Courts as to whether factor taken into consideration by the Court is a relevant factor or not. Thus in a case where Court imposes a punishment higher than minimum relying on a irrelevant factor and no other factor as enumerated in Section 32B (a to f) are present award of sentence higher than minimum can be interfered with.”


In the present case, considering that the quantity of narcotic drugs found in possession of appellant was much higher than the commercial quantity, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the trial court and the High Court awarding punishment higher than the minimum, however, looking to all the facts and circumstances of the case including the fact that it was found by the High Court that the appellant was only a carrier, reduced the sentence to 12 years rigorous imprisonment.


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