Shimla: Overturning a trail court acquittal in a case where narcotic police had made a catch of 13 Kgs of charas in 2001, the Himachal Pradesh High Court convicted Jeet Ram and sentenced him to 15 years of rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakhs.
After scrutinizing the evidence presented by the prosecution, the double bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Rajiv Sharma held “we are clearly of the view that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and has proved that 13 Kgs of charas was recovered from the exclusive possession of the accused who was managing the dhabha in question.”
The case in question was that on 18th June, 2001 RP Singh, an intelligence officer in the narcotics control bureau, Chandigarh along with other officials reached a dhabha at Nangal Devi temple near Theog, where they ordered meals and tea.
While they were waiting for food to be served, Singh smelled the odour of Charas and questioned Jeet Ram, the owner of the dhabha, about it. Ram became nervous and when he was further questioned, he attempted to run away.
The accused was apprehended and taken to the counter, below which there was a gunny bag which contained 13 Kgs of charas.
Before the trial court, four prosecution witnesses were examined and all happened to be narcotic control bureau officials. Defence took the stand that it was a false case as neither the dhabha nor the case property belonged to Jeet Ram.
The trial court acquitted the accused on the grounds that the prosecution case was not supported by independent witnesses; had failed to prove that the charas was recovered from the dhabha or was found in possession of the accused and was an unnatural and improbable case.
However the higher court concluded that the dhabha was constructed on the land belonging to one Kasushalya Devi, who was none other but the wife of the accused.
With 13 Kgs of charas recovered by senior officials of a police party and the defence of the accused being that the charas charas did not belong to him or his servants but was planted by the police officials, the court upheld the prosecution story and observed “in the absence of any plausible explanation, the charas is proved to have been recovered from the conscious and exclusive possession of the accused.”
The NCB officials in no uncertain terms stated they had genuine information that trafficking of charas was going on in the area, the judges noted.
Before announcing the quantum of punishment, the court took the convicts age of being 57 years old into consideration, and the fact that 11 years had elapsed since the crime was registered but decreed that “a sentence must not be only punitive but should also be deterrent to send a message to similar offenders.”
“Should the convict not be able to pay the fine, then he would have to undergo another year in jail,” the judges ordered.