Section 50 of the NDPS Act was not applicable to the recovery from the bag: Supreme Court

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On October 06, 2023, the Supreme Court while hearing the Ranjan Kumar Chadha vs. the State of Himachal Pradesh case held that Section 50 of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, was not applicable to the recovery from bag. A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice MM Sundresh and Justice JB Pardiwala heard the matter on October 06, 2023. In this case, the accused Ranjan Kumar Chadha (accused) was charge-sheeted for carrying 1.25 Kg of Charas containing charas resin content of 33.58%. The incident took place at Sarbari Bus Stand, Kullu. He was charged under Section 20 of the NDPS Act. While hearing the matter, the bench also summarized the principles related to Section 50 of the NDPS Act which prescribes various conditions under which a search of the persons should be conducted. 

During the Supreme Court proceedings, the bench addressed the question of whether the statute would apply to the search of a bag and observed that “It is a well-settled principle in law that the Court should not read anything into a statutory provision which is plain and unambiguous. A statute is an edict of the legislature. The language employed in a statute is the determinative factor of the legislative intent. The first and primary rule of construction is that the intention of the legislation must be found in the words used by the legislature itself. The question is not what may be supposed and has been intended but what has been said.” It also pointed out that “Section 50 applies exclusively to personal searches and not to searches of vehicles or bags, meaning that non-compliance during a personal search does not affect the validity of recoveries from vehicles or bags.” After hearing the contentions, the SC bench ordered “We are of the view that the High Court was justified in holding the appellant guilty of the offence under the NDPS Act, and at the same time, the High Court was also correct in saying that Section 50 of the NDPS Act was not required to be complied with as the recovery was from the bag.” The appeals were further dismissed by the Supreme Court bench.