Published on: 3 August 2023 at 10:30 IST
The Karnataka High Court has clarified that an accused cannot be subjected to police custody for a second time in the same case after having already spent a considerable duration in judicial custody.
The judgment, delivered by Justice M Nagaprasanna, firmly establishes that seeking repeated police custody after the accused has been in judicial custody is not permissible under the law.
The case pertains to charges under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act), where the petitioner had been placed in judicial custody for an extended period.
The special court had granted police custody to the petitioner six months after the initial arrest and judicial remand, a decision now deemed illegal by the High Court. During this second round of police custody between May 21, 2021, and May 23, 2021, the police recorded statements from the petitioner.
The High Court has declared these statements as unlawfully obtained during the illegal custody period.
Senior Advocate Hashmath Pasha represented the petitioner, while CGC Narasimhan S appeared for the respondent.
The petitioner was arrested following the seizure of 610 grams of MDMA from the Foreign Post Office in Bengaluru’s Chamarajpet in December 2020.
After an initial statement and five days of police custody, the petitioner was remanded to judicial custody. Later, the Narcotic Control Bureau sought police custody for three more days in May 2021, which was granted.
Challenging the second police custody and the statements obtained during that period, the petitioner sought their exclusion from the case.
The High Court clarified that as per the law, police custody can only be sought and granted for the first 15 days after the accused’s initial arrest.
Once the accused is remanded to judicial custody, the prosecution cannot seek police custody again based on the argument that the 15-day custody period is not yet exhausted.
Regarding the plea to exclude the statements recorded during the illegal custody, the Court referred to a Supreme Court ruling and stated that while it does not have the authority to entirely exclude these statements, the concerned court can assess their veracity and proceed accordingly.
The High Court’s ruling sets a precedent on the limitations of police custody in NDPS cases and emphasizes the importance of upholding the rights of the accused during the legal process.