Detention Becomes Unlawful as High Court Invalidates Extension Order in Narcotics Case

The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently issued a significant ruling, stating that the further detention of an accused individual can be deemed unlawful if the order granting an extension to submit the final report under Section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is overturned. In a revision petition filed by Rajpal alias Billu, who challenged the dismissal of his application for default regular bail in a case registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the court delivered its verdict.

The case centered around an incident where the police, acting on secret information, intercepted two individuals, Mani Ram and Vishal, suspected of transporting a substantial quantity of charas (a type of cannabis resin) in a car. Subsequently, the police arrested Mani Ram and the driver, Rajpal alias Billu, while Vishal managed to escape. Authorities seized 1.8 kilograms of charas from the vehicle.

Rajpal had been in custody since February 13, 2022. The Investigating Officer sought an extension of time to submit the report under Section 173(2) of the CrPC, as the initial 180-day period was about to expire. On August 2, 2022, the application was granted, and an extension of 90 days was provided.

Later, on August 30, 2022, Rajpal filed an application for default bail under Section 167(2) of the CrPC, which was subsequently dismissed on August 31, 2022. Rajpal argued that since the application for default bail had been declined solely due to the extension of the period for presenting the challan (charge sheet) by 90 days, he was now entitled to default bail as the extension order had been set aside by the High Court in a separate proceeding on May 16, 2023.

Acknowledging the petitioner’s argument, the State conceded that if the extension order was invalidated, Rajpal would be eligible for bail under the aforementioned provision.

Justice Jasjit Singh Bedi, examining Section 167(2) proviso (a) of the CrPC, emphasized that an accused person possesses an undeniable right to default bail if the Investigating Agency fails to submit the report under Section 173 of the CrPC within the prescribed period.

Furthermore, Justice Bedi observed that since the extension order itself had been deemed unlawful by the High Court, the continued detention of the petitioners would violate Section 167(2) of the CrPC, read in conjunction with Section 36A(4) of the NDPS Act (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act). Consequently, the court ordered the release of the accused.

This ruling by the Punjab and Haryana High Court carries significant implications for the legality of an accused person’s detention, emphasizing the importance of adherence to procedural requirements and the consequences of overturning extension orders.

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