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Manipur High Court’s Interpretation of Section 43 NDPS Act in ‘Chance Recovery’ Cases

Manipur High Court's Interpretation of Section 43 NDPS Act in 'Chance Recovery' Cases


The Manipur High Court recently ruled on the applicability of Section 43 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) in cases of chance recovery from a public place. The case involved the detection and seizure of narcotic substances by locals and subsequent police action, leading to significant legal interpretations regarding jurisdiction and compliance with procedural mandates under the NDPS Act.


Case Overview

The revision petition was filed against the decision of the Special Trial Court, Thoubal, which had discharged the accused/respondents under the NDPS Act. The case arose when locals in Phoudel detected narcotic substances in a vehicle that had broken down. For safety, the vehicle was moved to Thoubal, where the local police seized it and arrested the accused with the help of local residents.

Grounds for Discharge by Special Trial Court

The Special Trial Court discharged the accused on two grounds:

  1. The change of the place of occurrence from Phoudel to Thoubal was seen as irregular.
  2. Non-compliance with mandatory provisions of Sections 41, 42, and 50 of the NDPS Act by the police.

High Court’s Analysis

Jurisdiction and Place of Occurrence under Section 43 NDPS Act

The High Court examined Sections 177 and 178 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which deal with the place of trial and occurrence of an offence. It noted that these sections refer to the court’s jurisdiction to conduct a trial, not the police station’s jurisdiction.

Justice A. Guneshwar Sharma observed:

“…the offence of possession and transportation of narcotic substance of commercial quantity is still a continuing offence. It started from Moreh border town in Manipur and the drugs were to travel through Assam and Tripura before reaching Bangladesh. This Court is of the opinion that…Phoudel cannot be stated as the only place of occurrence. Accordingly, it is held that the Special Court (ND&PS), Thoubal has committed manifest error in concluding that the campus of Thoubal PS is not a place of occurrence.”

Application of Section 43 NDPS Act

The court differentiated between Sections 41, 42, and 50 of the NDPS Act, which require prior knowledge for the search and seizure, and Section 43, which applies to chance recoveries in public places. 

The court held:

“The provisions of Section 43 of ND&PS Act will be attracted in case of chance seizure of narcotic substance in transit or arrest in any public place…Section 43 of the Act will be applicable where the search and seizure is made from the vehicle used by way of chance recovery from public place. Prior knowledge is not a mandatory requirement of Section 43, unlike Sections 41 and 42 of ND&PS Act.”

Observations on Non-Compliance of Mandatory Provisions

The High Court noted that the examination of non-compliance with mandatory provisions by the Trial Court should occur during the trial and not at the stage of the charge hearing. It remarked that since the police had no prior information about the narcotics, Sections 41 and 42 did not apply, making Section 43 the relevant provision for this case.

 Conclusion on the Interpretation of Section 43 NDPS Act

The Manipur High Court’s ruling provides clarity on the application of Section 43 of the NDPS Act in situations of chance recovery. By differentiating between the provisions requiring prior knowledge and those applicable to incidental discoveries, the court upheld the principle that the jurisdiction of the place of occurrence must be broadly interpreted to ensure effective enforcement of the law.

Case Title: State of Manipur & Anr. vs. Mohammad Hussain @ Thoiba & Ors., Cril.Revision Petition No. 10 of 2021




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