HC acquits 30-year-old found with 34 kg charas

He had been arrested in 2006 after 34 kg of charas were recovered from his home. The 30-year-old had contended that he was innocent, and had been picked up from the footpath by police and framed.

Arrested for possession
On March 4, 2006, the Worli unit of the ANC received a tip-off that absconding accused Javed Chikna, along with his wife Banu, were peddling drugs from Halim Manzil building at Nishanpada in Dongri. Police had also learnt that he stored his contraband in a building at Mazgaon.

Javed’s helper, the informant told them, was Abdul Jabbar Abdul Gaffar, who packed charas at Mazgaon. When cops arrived there and knocked on the door, Gaffar opened it. A search yielded 234 balls of charas, totalling 34 kg, in the house. The drugs were sealed and Gaffar was arrested.

Cross exam cop-out
Two samples were taken from the haul and sealed in brown envelopes. The rest of the charas was sealed separately. During cross examination in the trial, ASI Vinayak Kocharekar revealed that he had safely deposited the sealed samples at Kalina FSL. While he denied having tampered with the seals, he also admitted that though there are six units of the ANC in the city, all of them use a common seal, which was kept at the Cuffe Parade office.

The tip-off had been recorded in the station diary by Inspector Ramchandra Mane. Mane contradicted Kocharekar’s evidence, saying there were in fact only five different seals. But he had no idea if seals from different ANC units had different identifying marks. PSI Manjusha Parab, who was part of the raiding party, stated that the brass seal used to seal the contraband had an inscription on it in Marathi: ‘Senior Inspector of Police, ANC’. The court noted that there was nothing to show that the charas had been sealed by the Worli unit.

Moreover, the seal itself had some letters missing, contradicting Parab’s statement about the inscription. Both cops however, denied that the record was fabricated. Despite the discrepancies, Gaffar was convicted by the NDPS court of possessing narcotic substance and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Tables turned by HC
Arguing on Gaffar’s behalf, advocate Sartaj Shaikh told the court that the panch witnesses of the raid were not examined during the trial, therefore there was no proof that the incriminating evidence had been seized from her client. The prosecution had also not examined any of Gaffar’s neighbours to testify that he lived in the building, poking serious holes in their case.

Police had also introduced a panchanama bearing Gaffar’s thumb impression. However Gaffar had informed the court that cops had taken his thumb impression on a blank sheet of paper, without explaining to him why it was being taken.

Justice RC Chavan, while acquitting Gaffar on February 5 observed, “In this case, panchas could not be examined, and in the absence of the appellant’s signature/thumb impression on the sample packet the possibility of police officers sealing the property the way they liked could not be ruled out.” 

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