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Mere Possession of Narcotic Substance Alone Not Grounds for Treating it as Part of Stock without Evidence of Intent to Sell: Kerala High Court

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Published on: 8 August 2023 at 12:25 IST

The Kerala High Court has ruled that the preventive detention law cannot be employed as a punitive measure or a substitute for criminal trial, emphasizing that its use is limited to ensuring public order when an individual’s activities pose a threat to society.

The court’s decision came while considering a petition filed by the mother of George Francis, who was detained under the Kerala Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 2007. He was classified as a known goonda under Section 2(oi) of the Act.

The Division Bench composed of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas stated that “Mere possession of a narcotic substance cannot be construed as part of stock unless it is manifested with evidence of intention to sell.”

The court underscored that while generalizing a crime’s impact on society might not be valid, it becomes relevant when applied to a specific crime committed by the individual in question.

Court further emphasized that the nature of the sentence should align with the offense committed by the detainee. If individual cases don’t pertain to the “public order” that detention aims to secure, the detention order could be deemed illegal.

The Court interpreted that the term “stocks” in Section 2(i) refers to substances held not for personal use, but for a commercial motive.

When a commercial intent is evident, such “stocks” could be categorized as acts affecting public order.

The court reiterated that the detaining authority must assess the offenses in relation to public order while issuing detention orders, clarifying that individual actions may lead to penal law consequences and impact law and order, but this doesn’t necessarily cross into matters of public order.

Consequently, the High Court deemed the detention order unlawful and ordered the petitioner’s release.