The provision of protection for individuals who are the subject of
an investigation for possession of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance
is provided by Section 50(1) of the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances
Act of 1985, which is widely regarded as one of the statute's most essential
provisions. Any search carried out in accordance with Section 50 must be seen by
a magistrate or another officer who has been gazetted.
In the event that a person who is being searched in accordance with Sections 41,
42, or 43 makes a request to see a Gazetted Officer of one of the agencies named
in Section 42 or a Magistrate, the officer who is conducting the search is
obligated to comply without undue delay. The provision in question can be found
in the Act's Section 50 (1).
Despite the Supreme Court's numerous rulings, it is unclear whether Section 50
(1) applies when a person is subjected to a "composite search," which involves
searching the person's body as well as their bag, car, or other object. In some
of the case laws listed below, it was said that Section 50(1) must be strictly
followed when conducting a "composite search," but in other case laws, the
Supreme Court took a different stance.
The present article analyses the conflict of views.
Supreme Court precedent has consistently upheld the idea that
vehicles, bags, and other such items do not need to comply with Section 50(1) of
the NDPS Act, 1985 unless the search is of the person. The Constitution Bench's
ruling in the Baldev Singh case, namely paragraph 12 of that ruling, provides
the basis for this assertion.
Supreme Court said that "on its plain reading, Section 50 would come into play
only in the case of a search of a person as distinguished from a search of any
premises, etc." This distinction was made by the court because section 50 would
come into play only in the case of a search of a person.
A law enforcement officer has a duty to inform a suspect of his legal rights
under Section 50(1) of the NDPS Act 1985, as implied by the Supreme Court's
decision in State of Punjab vs. Baldev Singh. The Supreme Court's ruling
supports this inference. If this provision is breached in any other way, the
prosecution's case may be further weakened because the recovery may be seen as
questionable. However, the Supreme Court did not directly consider composite
search cases in State of Punjab v. Baldev Singh.
Conflict of views:While the suspect was being physically searched in Madan Lal
v. State of HP, the relevant item turned up in the suspect's bag, which had been
left inside the car. It is not necessary to comply with Section 50 of the NDPS
Act, 1985 if the recovery is performed from a vehicle, a bag, or any other
object. The Supreme Court reached this decision after deliberating on the Baldev
Singh case in a divided panel. The decision stated that Section 50 must be
followed when a physical search is conducted, but that compliance with Section
50 is not needed under any other conditions.
In a different case, Krishna Kanwar v. State of Rajasthan
, a division bench of
the Supreme Court dileverd conflicting opinions about composite searches. In
this case, the acquittal of the third and fourth accused was confirmed because
Section 50 was not compiled, and the Supreme Court made it clear that whenever a
personal search is involved, Section 50 has to be compiled strictly,
irrespective of the fact that recovery was effected from the bag or vehicle.
The Division Bench of the Supreme Court in the cases of the State of Rajasthan
vs. Daulat Ram and the State of Haryana vs. Ranbir
, while relying upon the
of HP vs. Pawan Kumar
, held that Section 50 is not applicable in cases of
"composite search". Subsequently, in Dilip v. State of MP
, nothing was recovered
from the body of the person, but contraband was recovered from the scooter.
SC division bench acquitted the accused of all the charges of NDPS because
Section 50 was not followed, and it was observed that "since the personal search
was involved, it was required by the investigation agency to adhere to Section
The Supreme Court division bench in the case of Union of India v. Shah Alam
noted the Pawan Kumar case and held that the jurisprudence to distinguish the
search of someone's person and baggage carried by him is unexceptional. In this
case, along with the bodily search of the accused's baggage, it was held that
omission to comply with Section 50 is a violation of the law. The judgement
pronounced by the Supreme Court in UOI v. Shah Alam was reiterated by the
Supreme Court division bench in the case of the State of Rajasthan v. Parmanand.
Significantly, the issue again came before the three-judge bench of the Supreme
Court in the case of SK Raju v. the State of West Bengal. In this case, recovery
was not effected by the body but from the jute that was carried by the accused,
and the Supreme Court, while adjudicating this case, referred to many division
bench rulings on this aspect and held that compliance with Section 50 is
mandatory in cases of composite search irrespective of the fact that recovery
was effected from the bag, vehicle, receptacle, etc.
The issue of composite searches again came before the three-judge bench of the
Supreme Court in the case of the State of Punjab v. Baljinder Singh
. The Supreme
Court again relooked the case of State of Punjab vs. Baldev Singh
and said that
the bare reading of Section 50 suggests that its compliance is only required in
personal search cases. The Supreme Court also overruled the division bench
ruling in the case of Dilip vs. State of MP by saying that the judgement was
pronounced by contravening the law laid down in the Baldev Singh case.
Then Kunwar v. the State of Haryana
is a case from the year 2020 that brought
this matter before a Supreme Court division bench. The division bench considered
the arguments presented by both Sk Raju and Baljinder Singh. "It appears that
the inspiration in the Baljinder Singh case is drawn from the Baldev Singh
," the Supreme Court wrote, "and it is not obvious that the judgement of SK
Raju vs. State of West Bengal was not brought to the attention of the Baljinder
Singh case." Therefore, the Supreme Court's division bench relied on the
precedent set in the State of Punjab v. Baljinder Singh.
From the above-mentioned cases, it can be inferred that despite the
plethora of judgements on the issue of "composite search" cases, there is a lot
of unclarity on whether compliance with Section 50(1) is mandatory or not. It is
important to note that the Sk Raju case also examined the Baldev Singh case, and
now the question is which judgement should be adopted by the division bench of
the Supreme Court.
So the only solution is that this issue shall be referred to the larger bench of
the supreme court, and the word etc." appearing in para. 12 of State of Punjab
v. Baldev Singh also requires a wider interpretation.
Further, there is a need for a wider interpretation of Section 50(1), and the
investigation agency should mandatorily adhere to the provision even if
contraband is recovered from a bag, vehicle, receptacle, etc
The question surrounding the composite search needs to be addressed
authoritatively, as the entire jurisprudence is based on the interpretation of
the word "etc".
- Section 50 Ndps Act, 1985.
- State Of Punjab V. Baldev Singh (1999) 6 Scc 172.
- Madam Lal V. State Of Hp (2003) 7 Scc 465.
- Krishna Kanwar V. State Of Rajasthan (2004) 2 Scc 608.
- State Of Rajasthan Vs. Daulat Ram (2005)7 Scc 36.
- State Of Haryana Vs. Ranbir (2006) 5 Scc 167.
- Dilip V. State Of Mp (2007) 1 Scc 450.
- Uoi V. Shah Alam (2009) 16 Scc 450.
- State Of Hp Vs. Pawan Kumar (2005) 4 Scc 350.
- Sk Raju Vs State Of West Bengal (2018) 9 Scc 708.
- State Of Punjab Vs. Baljinder Singh (2019) 10 Scc 473.
- Than Kunwar Vs State Of Haryana (2020) 5 Scc 260.
- State Of Rajasthan Vs Parmanand (2014) 5 Scc 708.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Alok Singh
Authentication No: JL355330903087-2-0723