The Himachal Pradesh High Court has emphasised that Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985's strict bail restrictions cannot be continuously exploited to curtail the accused's right to a speedy trial. When giving bail to a guy detained since March 30, 2021, Justice Satyen Vaidya made the observation. The man had been arrested on allegations under the NDPS Act for illegally possessing charas.
The Court stated that the restrictions imposed by Section 37 of the NDPS Act had played a significant role in depriving the accused of their right to bail.
The judge continued, saying, "The question that arises for consideration is, can the provisions of Section 37 of the Act, be construed to have the same efficacy, throughout the pendency of the trial, notwithstanding the period of custody of the accused, particularly, when it is weighed against his fundamental right to have expeditious disposal of trial?"
Justice Vaidya responded "In the opinion of this Court, the Constitutional provision of rapid trial cannot be weakened by applying the rigours of Section 37 of ND&PS Act in perpetuity," when answering this question negatively.
The NDPS Act's Section 37 makes it somewhat challenging for an accused person to obtain bail. According to this clause, a court must determine that the following requirements are met before granting bail to a person charged with a crime under the NDPS Act: the public prosecutor must be given a chance to object to the request for such release; and if the public prosecutor opposes the application, the court must be persuaded that there are good reasons to believe that the defendant is innocent of the charged offence and is unlikely to commit another crime while out on bail.
In this case, the accused went to the High Court to request bail because he had been detained for around a year and ten months while the trial was still proceeding slowly. He claimed that as a result, his constitutional right to a speedy trial was being violated. The State rejected the bail plea, arguing that Section 37 of the NDPS Act would continue to be in effect and that a failure to reach a verdict in the case could not be an excuse for the accused's release on bail. The State's position, however, was rejected by the Court. Justice Vaidya pointed out that despite the petitioner being held since March 2021, no prosecution witnesses had yet been questioned.
The judge further pointed out that, in several instances, both the Supreme Court and coordinate benches of the High Court had granted bail to defendants accused under the NDPS Act because they had been detained for protracted periods before the trial.
As a result, the High Court granted bail in this case as well, noting, " "The petitioner has been detained since March 30, 2021, and according to the evidence, the trial is not likely to be over soon. Nothing in the record suggests that the petitioner is to blame for the trial's postponement."
In contrast to Additional Advocates General Manoj Chauhan and Varun Chandel, who represented the State, advocate Yashveer Singh Rathore represented the petitioner.