Private Vehicles not ‘Public Place’ decides the Supreme Court

Recently, in the case of Boota Singh v. State of Haryana, the Supreme Court of India held that Private Vehicles even if parked on public roads do not fall within the ambit of S.43 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act).

In the said case, Police Officials were present at the canal bridge on Surtia-Rori road as they had received secret information to the effect that the accused are selling poppy straw (drug) in a vehicle (jeep). Accordingly, a raid was conducted on the jeep and the accused was found along with two bags kept in the said jeep. The search of the bags led to the recovery of poppy straw (drug). The case was brought to and decided by High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh.

During the trial at the High Court, the accused’s council argued for acquittal on the bases of non-compliance of S.43 of the NDPS Act. S.43 of the NDPS Act states the Power of seizure and arrest in public place as per which both seizing of narcotic substances found in public places by the police/officer (as under S.42 of the NDPS Act) as well as detaining the persons liable for holding such substances is valid.

However, the High Court did not let this argument stand and convicted the accused Boota Singh, Gurdeep Singh and Gurmohinder Singh, under Section 15 of the NDPS Act and sentenced them to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 10 years with imposition of fine in the sum of Rs.1,00,000/-, in default whereof they were directed to undergo further rigorous imprisonment for a period of two years. The accused persons to oppose this order of the High Court approached the Supreme Court with an appeal.  

The Supreme Court stated that ‘The explanation to Section 43 shows that a private vehicle would not come within the expression “public place” as explained in Section 43 of the NDPS Act.’ Pertaining to this, the acquitted the accused persons and further states that the right section to bring this case under would have been S.42 of the NDPS Act which allows for power of entry, search, seizure and arrest without warrant or authorisation.

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