IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Explained: Significance and impact of SC order on confessions in narcotics cases

4th November, 2020 GOVERNANCE

Context: The Supreme Court has ruled on a long-pending question of law on whether statements recorded under Section 67 of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act can be admissible as confessional statements during criminal trials.

  • The majority judgment ruled that statements recorded by officers under the NDPS Act cannot be treated as confessions.

Why is the Supreme Court judgment significant?

  • The officers under Section 53 of the NDPS Act are not defined as “police officers” but are given the powers of an “officer-in-charge of a police station”, confessions given to them should be admissible in evidence.
  • The officers in the specialised anti-drug probe agency, NCB, can be deputed from various departments of the government including Central Excise, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Customs.
  • The contrary opinion states that safeguards available for accused in international and Indian law, including the Constitution also extend to accused under the NDPS Act.
  • This includes any statement given by a person to a police officer cannot be considered as a confession and cannot be enough to prove guilt.
  • In ‘Tofan Singh vs State of Tamil Nadu’ judges ruled that such statements under the NDPS Act cannot be used as confessional statements.

What did the Supreme Court say?

  • The majority view by Justices Nariman and Justices Sinha held that confessional statements made before an officer under section 53 of the NDPS Act if held as the basis to convict a person would be “a direct infringement” of constitutional guarantees”.
  • Court held that confessional statements before police officers were considered admissible in other special acts including the now repealed Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).