February 17, 2021 5:10:19 am
A special court on Monday rejected a plea by eight Pakistani nationals, arrested from a boat in 2015 allegedly with 232kg of heroin, seeking to be deported to Karachi.
The arrested, facing trial in the case under charges of the Narcotic Drugs and Pyschotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, filed the plea, stating that the court in Mumbai has no territorial jurisdiction to conduct the trial as the boat in which they were apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard was on international waters.
The prosecution countered saying that the waters in which the arrest took place was within the exclusive economic zone and hence the plea made was “without merit”.
“I am of the opinion, that considering the seriousness of the alleged offences, the quantity of the narcotic drugs allegedly seized from the boat in question and that the aspect of national security is involved, it will be just and proper to give the prosecution reasonable time and proper opportunity to prove the aspect of jurisdiction of court and it case of merits,” the special court said, adding that the application was “premature”.
It added that since the trial has already commenced in the case, it can be expedited instead.
In 2015, the Yellow Gate police station in the city had registered a complaint against the eight men after they were apprehended by the Coast Guard for carrying the contraband valued at Rs 6.96 crore.
The defence lawyer of the eight claimed that while being cross-examined, the second witness in the case, an official who had registered the FIR, has said the accused were found 157 nautical miles from Mithaport, the closest Indian port from the location.
The lawyer submitted that this deposition shows that the location of their arrest did not fall in India’s jurisdiction and hence the court in Mumbai cannot continue with the trial.
The lawyer also referred to an order of a court in Porbandar, when the men were produced first in 2015, which had said that Indian courts do not have the jurisdiction to try offences committed by a foreign national on a foreign vessel outside India’s territorial jurisdiction.
He sought that the men be deported to be tried before a court in Pakistan.
The special public prosecutor, however, opposed the plea stating that the area where the arrest took place falls under the exclusive economic zone as per the Maritime Act and the resolution adopted during a United Nations convention against illicit traffic of drugs.
He further submitted that as per these, even if the offence is committed outside India’s territory, if it is within 200 nautical miles in the exclusive economic zone, Indian courts will have the jurisdiction to try such cases.
The court agreed with this contention. “…the alleged offence in the present case can be very well termed as ‘the offence involving economic offences as well as offences concerning the national security’ and therefore, the prosecution of the applicants/accused is legal and proper and further opportunity should be given to the prosecution to lead evidence to prove the point of jurisdiction and case on merits,” the court said.
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