Section 50 of the NDPS Act – Provisions that needs to be followed.

Section 50 of the NDPS Act – Provisions that needs to be followed.

Section 50 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act advises the conditions that are essential under which personal search of a “person” is to be conducted.

The biggest question that normally arises is, what does the term “person” actually stands for? Is it applicable if the drug is found from the body or clothes of a person? Or is it applicable if the drug is found in a bag or car that is in possession of the person?

In the case of State Of Himachal Pradesh v. Pawan Kumar[1], it was clearly stated that search of any "person", as per Section 50 of the Act, would also apply to any bag or briefcase or any such article or container carried by arrested person. And in the very recent judgment of Jeet Ram v. Narcotics Control Bureau, Chandigarh[2], the Supreme Court supported the same as a gunny bag carrying ‘charas’ belonged to the accused.

Section 50 of the Act also talks about various other provisions that need to be followed while arresting or detaining someone.

Sub-section (1) of the given section mentions when the authorised or appointed officer is about to search any person, he shall, if required so, take him to the nearest Gazetted officer or the Magistrate. And as per sub-section (2), if such an appeal is made by the person in-custody, the appointed officer may detain that person until presented before the Gazetted officer or the Magistrate.

However, in one case, Delhi High Court clarified that use of different terms for a Gazetted Officer, such as “Rajpatrit Adhikari” or “Gazetted Adhikari” may create a doubt if the notice under Section 50 of the Act had been illuminated to the respondent.[3]

Moving forward, sub-section (4) of the given act has a special mention for the arrest of females. It lays down that search of a female shall only be conducted by a female officer. The same idea of search or arrest of a female by a female officer has been highlighted in Section 51(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Adding to this, the Division Bench in the case of Mrs. Veenela Tilak v. Shri. Shahasane Asstt. Collector of Customs and Another[4] mentioned that a female accused should be searched in seclusion and to the exclusion of males or not within the gaze of males. The search should neither be done in presence of male officers nor in a public place as mentioned in a judgment to preserve the dignity and respect of a woman.

Sub-sections (5) and (6) offers when the appointed officer believes that it is impossible to take the detainee to the nearest Gazetted Officer or Magistrate, the search may be proceeded and the reason for the same shall be submitted in writing to the superior within seventy-two hours.

Although, the points mentioned in the Section 50 of the NDPS Act are crisp, precise and strong yet if any of the provisions are not complied, the detained or arrested person is eligible for bail and can be released.

[1] Appeal (crl.) 222 of 1997, [2] CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.688 OF 2013 [3] Section 50 of the NDPS Act: Use of different terms describing a gazetted officer may create a doubt about the compliance of requirements, LATEST NEWS, 09 Oct 2019, [4] 1997 All MR (Cri) 368

Credit: Bhriti Mackdani

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