Supreme Court of India
M. Sampat vs The State Of Chhattisgarh on 5 April, 2021Author: Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee
Bench: Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee, Krishna Murari
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 378 OF 2021
[Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 1987/2021]
M. SAMPAT …….APPELLANT
THE STATE OF CHHATISGARH …….RESPONDENT
J U D G M E N T
This appeal is against a judgment and order dated 26-03-2018
passed by the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur in CRA No.113
of 2012 upholding the conviction of the Appellant under Section
20(b)(ii)(C) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,
1985 (NDPS Act).
It was the case of the Prosecution that on 14-09-2009, the
Police received secret information that certain persons were
transporting ‘Ganja’ in a Maruti Omni Van and a Truck. Three
persons were apprehended from the Maruti Omni Van for transporting
26 kgs of ‘Ganja’. These three persons in the Maruti Van were later
Signature Not Verified
Digitally signed by
After searching the Maruti Omni Van and apprehending these
persons, a truck bearing Number 38 L 999 of which the Appellant had
been an employee, was intercepted. The Driver of the Truck,
T. Narsaiya (since deceased) tried to escape, but was apprehended
and the said truck was searched.
In course of the search, 3327 kgs of ‘Ganja’ was found
concealed in the said truck, with Onion bags. The driver T.
Narsaiya, since deceased and the Appellant were taken into custody
and criminal proceedings initiated against them under the NDPS Act.
By a judgment and order dated 14.12.2011, the Special Judge,
NDPS Act, Bastar at Jagdalpur found the Appellant and the said
Narsaiya (since deceased) guilty under Section 20(b)(ii)(C)
of the NDPS Act and sentenced them to maximum punishment of
20 years of rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs.2 lacs.
Both Narsaiya (since deceased) and the Appellant appealed to the
High Court. While the appeal in the High Court was pending,
By the impugned judgment and order dated 26-3-2018, the High
Court affirmed the conviction of the Appellant but modified the
sentence to 15 years rigorous imprisonment instead of 20 years, and
reduced the fine to Rs.1 lac from Rs.2 lacs. Aggrieved by the
judgment and order impugned, the Appellant has approached this
Court. The Appellant has preferred a jail petition and
Ms. Priyanjali Singh, learned counsel has been appointed as an
Amicus Curiae on his behalf.
The Prosecution has successfully established that over 3,300
kgs of ‘Ganja’ that is cannabis, a narcotic drug was illegally
being transported in the aforesaid truck bearing Number 38 L 999.
The Appellant was in the vehicle when the said vehicle was
intercepted by the police.
Ms. Priyanjali Singh strenuously argued that the Appellant,
who was not the owner of the truck, but only a poor conductor,
22/23 years of age at the time of the incident, could not possibly
have committed the offence alleged. He was not even aware of the
fact that ‘Ganja’ was being carried in the truck in question.
Under Section 20(b) whoever produces, manufactures, possesses,
sells, purchases or even transports cannabis (including ‘Ganja’) is
punishable with imprisonment for a term which may not be less than
ten years, but might extend to twenty years, and fine in addition
to imprisonment, which shall not be less than one lakh but might
extend to two lakh rupees.
Having regard to the huge quantity (3332 kgs.) of ‘Ganja’
(cannabis) carried on the truck, it is difficult to accept Ms.
Priyanjali Singh’s argument that the Appellant, an employee of the
truck, described as a conductor, but actually a helper, was not
even aware of the fact that ‘Ganja’ was being carried in the truck.
The truck was almost full of ‘Ganja’ camouflaged with only a few
bags of onions at the top.
After going through the impugned judgment and order of the
High Court, the judgment and order of the Trial Court and after
hearing Ms. Priyanjali Singh, learned Amicus Curiae, and Dr. Rakesh
Pandey, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State of
Chhattisgarh, we do not find any cogent ground to interfere with
the concurrent findings of the High Court and the Trial Court
convicting the Appellant of offence under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of
the NDPS Act.
The Trial Court imposed maximum punishment of rigorous
imprisonment for twenty years and fine of Rs.2 lakhs for the
offence punishable under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of the NDPS Act. In
default of payment of fine each of the accused were to undergo
additional rigorous imprisonment for three years.
However, the order of sentence passed by the Trial Court did
not disclose the reasons for awarding the maximum punishment to the
Appellant. Although the Trial Court has recorded that the accused
and their counsel were heard on the question of sentence, there is
no whisper of the arguments advanced. It appears that the enormity
of the quantity of ‘Ganja’ seized from the lorry, swayed the Trial
Court to impose the maximum punishment. The Trial Court neither
considered the extent of involvement of the Appellant nor
considered if there were any extenuating circumstances for imposing
a lesser punishment.
The High Court allowed the appeal of the Appellant in part.
While maintaining the conviction, the substantive jail sentence was
reduced to 15 years from 20 and the amount of fine reduced to Rs.1
lakh from Rs.2 lakhs. While the High Court has rightly reduced the
sentence, the order of the High Court does not indicate the reasons
why a sentence of imprisonment higher than the minimum was thought
necessary. The Appellant who was only an indigent helper (described
as conductor) on the truck, 22/23 years of age, did not make any
attempt to abscond, unlike the driver Narsaiya. He did not show
any suspicious behaviour.
The owner of the truck is absconding. The driver T. Narsaiya
had made an attempt to flee. There is nothing against the Appellant
except that he was in the truck containing the contraband narcotic
drugs, of which he was helper, and some documents pertaining to the
truck were found from him.
As pointed out by Ms. Priyanjali Singh, learned Amicus Curiae,
the very fact that the Appellant remained in jail and has filed a
jail petition shows the poor financial condition of the Appellant.
As an impecunious helper earning a meager salary, the Appellant
could not possibly have had any say with regard to the articles
loaded in the truck. There is no definite evidence to establish
that the Appellant knowingly committed the offence.
However presumption, having regard to the surrounding circumstances
has resulted in his conviction. Even assuming, he realized that
“Ganja” was being loaded, he could perhaps do little but to remain
a mute spectator to the commission of the offence, as otherwise, he
would have risked his job, his only means of survival, if not his
Ms. Priyanjali Singh submits that the Appellant is a first
time offender. As argued by her, the Appellant is not the owner of
the vehicle. The owner is, as Dr. Rakesh Pandey, learned counsel
for the State of Chhattisgarh has pointed out, absconding. The
driver of the vehicle, who had been convicted, has died in the
Considering the facts and circumstances of the case,
particularly the fact that the Appellant, an indigent helper on a
truck, only 22/23 years of age at the time of incident and a first
time offender, and considering that nothing was recovered from his
custody except for documents pertaining to the vehicle, of which he
was a helper (described as conductor), we deem it appropriate to
reduce the sentence of imprisonment to the period already
undergone, which in any case, far exceeds the minimum sentence of
imprisonment of 10 years.
The appeal is partly allowed and the order of the High Court
is modified to the extent indicated above.
The Appellant shall be set free.
Pending application(s) if any, stand disposed of.
APRIL 05, 2021