BRIEF UPDATE: ACCUSED CANNOT BE ACQUITTED MERELY BECAUSE INVESTIGATING OFFICER IS THE COMPLAINANT

The Supreme Court has in a recent matter of Mukesh Singh vs State (Narcotic Branch of Delhi) passed a Judgment dated 31-08-2020 and made the following observations regarding whether the accused is entitled to acquittal merely on the ground that the investigating officer himself is the complainant under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (the NDPS Act):

  1. The NDPS Act does not specifically bar the informant/complainant from being an investigator and/or officer-in-charge of a police station for the investigation of offences under the said Act.
  2. Further, in case there is any doubt in the mind of the accused that the investigating officer, being the complainant/informant himself, would not conduct a fair investigation, then such question of bias or prejudice would be decided at the time of trial.
  3. That in such cases the reverse burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove that the investigation was conducted in a fair and judicious manner. The defence would also get a fair chance to cross-examine the officer and any other witnesses to the alleged crime.
  4. Thus, the credibility of the complaint and the informant should not be doubted and the accused should not be acquitted, merely on the ground the complainant himself has conducted the investigation.
  5. In the event that it is proved that the investigating officer has acted maliciously, then he would be punished under Section 58 of the NDPS Act for vexatious entry, search, seizure or arrest without reasonable ground of suspicion. The punishment extends to six months imprisonment or Rs. 1000/- fine or with both. In case of wilfully providing false information and causing arrest, the punishment extends to two years imprisonment or fine or both.
  6. Therefore, the Apex Court has overruled its judgment in Mohan Lal vs State of Punjab (2018) 17 SCC 627, and held that the accused cannot be granted acquittal merely on the ground that the trial has been vitiated because the informant and the investigator is the same person.

The Supreme Court Judgment Mukesh Singh vs State (Narcotic Branch of Delhi) 2020 SCC Online SC 700 is attached below:

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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