Seized drug changes colour,court calls for new rules

A Delhi court has asked the government to put in place a time limit within which a person arrested for possessing illegal drugs can ask for re-testing of the seized contraband during trial.

Written by Jayant Sriram | New Delhi | Published: April 13, 2012 1:29:27 am

A Delhi court has asked the government to put in place a time limit within which a person arrested for possessing illegal drugs can ask for re-testing of the seized contraband during trial. The court noted that poor storage conditions can often lead to changes in colour and chemical composition of drugs and this could inadvertently create doubts about the original recovery.

“This court feels that specific guidelines can be laid down even by the legislation for second test in respect of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances,having regard to the fact that there is possibility of great variation in percentage of active content (where resampling is done after a gap of considerable duration),” Additional Sessions Judge Narinder Kumar said.

“Guidelines also need to be framed as up to which period such an application for resampling should be allowed to be filed,” he said. The court made the observation while allowing a plea for resampling made by Prahlad Meena,booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. He had been arrested for allegedly possessing heroine.

Meena alleged that when the case property was opened in court,the colour of the powder was found to be “light brown” whereas the FSL report mentioned the colour as “brown” and that this difference in colour called for re-examination.

Though the application was allowed in the interest of justice,it was noted that time difference had come into play as Meena was arrested on June 16,2009 after which a sample was sent to the FSL for testing. However,the case property was opened in court for the first time,during the trial,in January 2010.

Under the NDPS Act,an accused has the right to request a second test of the samples seized from him at the time of his arrest. A judgement delivered by the Delhi High Court confirms this rule wherein it was observed that re-testing can be sought to ensure that the trial is fair and to dispel any doubt about tampering of case evidence. Though re-testing was allowed,the sessions court noted that the case didn’t mention the time that had elapsed between the arrest and the application filed for re-testing.

ASJ Kumar also referred to a report submitted by the director of a forensic science laboratory in the case. The report stated that if resampling of drugs was done after a gap of considerable duration,large variations could occur in the active content of the drugs which could lead to changes in colour. The report said this could be due in part to improper storage or the fact that natural drugs like heroine,marijuana or opium are prone to bacterial or fungal infection which may cause changes in their chemical composition.

While police usually store samples taken in food contamination cases in a refrigerated unit,samples taken after drug seizures are stored in the station house maalkhanas which are not sealed or temperature-regulated.

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