Gaining a first-hand account about the state of trials in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (“NDPS”) cases pending in all the States where the undertrial has been incarcerated for a period exceeding five, the Supreme Court of India formulated the following guidelines restricted only to the proceedings under the NDPS Act:
No NDPS court would grant adjournments at the request of a party except where the circumstances are beyond the control of the party. This exception must be treated as an exception and must not be allowed to swallow the generic rule against grant of adjournments. Further, where the date for hearing has been fixed as per the convenience of the counsel, no adjournment shall be granted without exception.
Examination of Witnesses:
The concerned courts to adopt the method of “session’s trials” (i.e. conducting examination and crossexamination of a witness on consecutive days over a block period of three to four days) and assign block dates for examination of witnesses. Also, the concerned courts to make most of Section 293 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and save time by taking evidence from official witnesses in the form of affidavits.
(i) Each state, in consultation with the High Court, particularly the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir (where the pendency of cases over five years is stated to be high), is directed to establish Special Courts which would deal exclusively with offences under the NDPS Act.
(ii) The number of these courts must be proportionate to, and sufficient for, handling the volume of pending cases in the State.
(iii) Till exclusive courts for the purpose of disposing of NDPS cases under the NDPS Act are established, these cases will be prioritized over all other matters; after the setting up of the special courts for NDPS cases, only after the clearance of matters under the NDPS Act will an NDPS court be permitted to take up any other matter.
(i) The Centre must ensure equal access to Central Forensic Science Laboratories (CFSL) from different parts of the country. The current four CFSL’s only cater to the needs of northern and some areas of western and eastern parts of the country. Therefore, besides the three in the pipeline, more CFSL’s must be established, especially to cater to the needs of southern and eastern parts of the country.
(ii) Analogous directions are issued to the states. Several states do not possess any existing infrastructure to facilitate analysis of samples and are hence, compelled to send them to laboratories in other parts of the country for scrutiny. Therefore, each state is required to establish state level and regional level forensic science laboratories. However, the decision as to the numbers of such laboratories would depend on the backlog of cases in the state.
(iii) The above mentioned authorities must ensure adequate employment of technical staff and provision of facilities and resources for the purposes of proper, smooth and efficient running of the facilities of Forensic Science Laboratories under them and the Laboratories should furnish their reports expeditiously to the concerned agencies.
Directorate of Forensic Science Services, Ministry of Home Affairs to fill the vacancies at CFSLs, namely Chandigarh, Kolkata and Hyderabad on an urgent basis.
After the completion of necessary tests by the concerned laboratories, results of the same must be furnished to all parties concerned with the matter. Any requests as to re-testing/re-sampling shall not be entertained under the NDPS Act as a matter of course. These may, however, be permitted, in extremely exceptional circumstances, for cogent reasons to be recorded by the Presiding Judge. An application in such rare cases must be made within a period of fifteen days of the receipt of the test report; no applications for re-testing/resampling shall be entertained thereafter. However, in the absence of any compelling circumstances, any form of retesting/re-sampling is strictly prohibited under the NDPS Act.
Nodal officers be appointed in all the departments dealing with the NDPS cases, for monitoring the progress of investigation and trial. This nodal officer must be equivalent or superior to the rank of Superintendent of Police, who shall ensure that the trial is not delayed on account of non-supply of documents, nonavailability of the witnesses, or for any other reason. Also, there must be one Pairvi Officer or other such officer for each court who shall report the day’s proceedings to the nodal officer assigned for that court.
The District and Sessions Judge shall make recommendations for appointments of public prosecutors in consultation with the Administrative Judge/Portfolio Judge/Inspecting Judge, incharge of looking after the administration of the concerned Sessions Division.
The filing of the charge- sheet and supply of other documents must also be provided in electronic form. However, this direction must not be treated as a substitute for hard copies of the same which are indispensable for court proceedings.