Supreme Court of India
Sk.Sakkar @ Mannan vs The State Of West Bengal on 3 February, 2021Author: Surya Kant

Bench: N.V. Ramana, Surya Kant, Aniruddha Bose




Sk. Sakkar @ Mannan …..APPELLANT


State of West Bengal …..RESPONDENT

Surya Kant, J:

The appellant Sk. Sakkar @ Mannan assails the judgement dated

09.12.2009 passed by the High Court at Calcutta whereby his appeal

against the judgement and order dated 26.05.2004 and 27.05.2004

passed by Special Judge, Birbhum convicting him for offences under

Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

(“NDPS Act”) and imposing a sentence of five years rigorous

imprisonment (RI) and a fine of Rs. 20,000/­ (in default, whereof to

further undergo RI for one additional year), has been dismissed.

2. The prosecution case in brief is that upon receiving secret
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Date: 2021.02.08
16:02:31 IST
D.S.P. Headquarter, Birbhum conducted a raid on

16.11.1997 and intercepted an Ambassador car bearing no. BRW 312.

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Since the car was detained inside a forest area, 3/4 occupants of the car

managed to flee, while only 2 of the occupants, including the appellant,

were caught and arrested. 11kgs of ganja was seized following the

statutory procedure. The suspects were thereafter interrogated, and a

formal FIR was registered at Police Station Sadaipur. Charge sheet was

submitted against five persons including the appellant.

3. The appellant and his co­accused, except one Kalachand Saha,

were charged under Section 20 of the NDPS Act. Since they pleaded not

guilty, trial was conducted, and the charges against them were proved.

The Special Judge, Birbhum convicted and sentenced the appellant as

noted in paragraph 1 of this order.

4. The appellant assailed his conviction before the High Court,

contending, inter alia, that the prosecution case was suffering from

inherent weakness, and that the testimonies of the witnesses were not

credible. The plea of absence of independent witnesses, more so when

PW­2, PW­3 and PW­8 were declared hostile, was also pressed into

service. It was also highlighted that although Kalachand Saha was

claimed to have been arrested along with the appellant, he was not even


5. The High Court minutely scrutinized the entire evidence and has

extensively discussed the depositions made by PW­1, PW­6, PW­7 and

PW­9. It then firmly held that about 11 kgs of ganja was recovered from

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the appellant and Kalachand Saha. As regard to other three co­accused,

the High Court opined that since they were not arrested at the spot and

were roped in only with the aid of confessional statement of the arrested

person(s), the case against them was not proved beyond reasonable

doubt. The High Court thus acquitted the appellant’s co­accused, but

dismissed his appeal upholding the conviction and sentence awarded by

the Special Judge.

6. The still aggrieved appellant approached this Court through Special

Leave to Appeal, in which leave was granted on 27.08.2010. Thereafter,

having regards to the fact that the appellant had already undergone

actual sentence for a period of 2 years 4 months and 16 days, out of the

total sentence of RI for five years, this Court vide order dated 02.11.2012

suspended the sentence and released the appellant on bail.

7. We have heard learned counsel for the parties at considerable

length and perused the record. In sum and substance, it is urged on

behalf of the appellant that the courts below have not correctly

appreciated the statements of the witnesses or the evidence comprising

seizure memo etc. It is also argued that PW­2, PW­3 and PW­8 having

been declared hostile, the remaining ocular evidence falls short of

proving the appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

8. We are, however, not impressed by these contentions. What has

been sought to be argued is essentially either a question of fact or an

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abortive attempt for re­appreciation of evidence on record. Such

discourse ordinarily does not fall within the scope and ambit of powers

vested in this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution 1. The

appellant’s claim for parity with his acquitted co­accused is also

misconceived, for unlike the appellant, none of them were apprehended

at the spot; and as found by the High Court, no evidence was produced

to connect them with the alleged offence. Contrarily, not only was the

appellant apprehended at the spot of the incident but also was found in

conscious possession of the ganja. As regard to his co­accused

Kalachand Saha, there is unfortunately no material on record to shed

light on the circumstances in which charge sheet was not filed against

him. The appellant, however, did not rely upon this fact either in his

defense statement under Section 313, CrPC or otherwise. The

aforementioned supplication therefore cannot be entertained at this

belated stage. There is no other substantial question of law raised on

behalf of the appellant. We are, thus, not inclined to interfere with the

concurrent finding of fact returned by the courts below.

9. Faced with this, learned Senior Counsel for the appellant relies

upon several mitigating circumstances to persuade us to reduce the

sentence period. He passionately urges that: (i) the appellant has

(i) Surendra Puri v. State of Uttarakhand, (2016) 13 SCC 274; (ii) Mangu Khan
and Others v. State of Rajasthan (2005) 10 SCC 374; (iii) Pritam Singh v. State, AIR
1950 SC 169.

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suffered protracted trial for more than 23 years; (ii) he alone has been

convicted while his co­accused are acquitted; (iii) the appellant was not

involved in any other case under the NDPS Act or other Penal Laws; (iv)

the appellant has already undergone actual sentence of 2 years 4

months and 16 days out of the total sentence of five years; (v) and that

the appellant has not misused the concession of bail granted by this

Court on 02.11.2012.

10. We find some merit in the submission noticed above. It may be

noted that the appellant committed the crime in the year 1997, i.e.,

much before the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances

(Amendment) Act, 2001 came into force. The punishment for

contravention in relation to cannabis plant or any other provision of the

NDPS Act, in his case, would thus be regulated by the unamended

Section 20 of the NDPS Act, as it stood before the amendment of 2001

and which reads 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 license granted

(a) cultivates any cannabis plant; or

(b) produces, manufactures, possesses, sells, purchases,
transports, imports inter­State, exports inter­State or uses
cannabis, shall be punishable,­

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(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

(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.”

(emphasis supplied)

11. It is manifest from Section 20(i) of NDPS Act (as it stood in 1997),

that even though a maximum sentence of five years RI and a fine of upto

Rs. 50,000/­ was prescribed but there was no minimum mandatory

sentence. The Legislature had in its wisdom left it to the judicious

discretion of a court to award the minimum sentence albeit guided by

the well known principles on the proportionality of sentence. Taking into

consideration the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, it

appears to us that the ends of justice would be adequately met if the

appellant’s sentence is reduced to the extent of the period he has already

undergone. We order accordingly.

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12. For the reasons(s) stated above, the appeal is allowed in part; the

impugned judgments of the Special Judge and the High Court are

modified and the sentence of five years RI awarded to the appellant is

reduced to the period of sentence already undergone. The bail bond of

the appellant is discharged. However, the appellant shall be liable to pay

fine of Rs. 20,000/­ within two months, if already not deposited and in

default thereof he will be liable to undergo RI for six months.

…………………………….. J.

……………………………… J.

……..………………………. J.
DATED : 03.02.2021

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