WhatsApp chats are not substantial & sufficient to hold the role of accused at this stage: NDPS Court while granting bail to Paul Bartels
On Thursday the holiday Court sitting at the City Civil & Sessions Court in Mumbai granted bail to Paul Bartels. He is an Australian Architect who was accused by the Narcotics Control Bureau for offences under the NDPS Act (Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act). He is among the arrests made by the NCB in connection to its investigation in the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
The NCB had no case against the accused and at this stage the whatsapp chats between him and other co-accused relied upon by the central agency to prove his involvement are not substantial and sufficient to prove his role as a drug peddler/supplier, noted the Special NDPS Judge HS Satbhai
Charges on Paul Bartels
He was accused of committing offences under Section 8(c) read with Section 20(b) (ii)A. 27 and 29 of the NDPS Act.
Brief facts of the Case
The officers of the NCB searched the house of the accused on 11 November, 2020. No contraband was recovered from the accused also no incriminating material was found in the said search. His arrest was made by officials on the basis that he was found to chatting about drugs and contraband in WhatsApp.
Observation and findings of the Court
- Noting that that the maximum punishment for offences under the present case is one year, the Court observed that, “in such circumstances, a notice contemplated under Section 41A of CrPC to the accused was necessary. It is informed that the accused was summoned by the NCB, Mumbai and in response to the summons he appeared before the agency. Had it been the state of affairs, in view of sub-section 3 of Section 41 A of CrPC, it was necessary for the Investigating Officer to assign the reasons for making arrest of the accused. (Basheer Vs State of Kerala (2004)3 SCC 609). But the Memo of Arrest doesn’t speak assigning the reasons for the arrest of the accused.”
- “It goes to show that there was no material available with the NCB to interrogate the accused and to make further investigation explaining that he is not the consumer of the drugs, but his role is as a peddler/supplier of drugs,” it said.
- The Court further held that, “From the said messages it is tried to contend that the accused is dealing in drugs as a peddler and supplier of drugs. But at this stage, those Whatsapp messages are not substantial and sufficient to hold the role of the accused as a peddler/supplier of drugs. In case in future, if the cogent material is collected by the NCB demonstrating the role of the accused as a peddler/supplier of drugs then scenario would be different.
- Referring to the observation made in Sujit Tiwari Vs State Of Gujarat. Finally grating bail, the Special NDPS Judge ruled that, “In absence of any substantial material, taking into account the fact that no contraband material was found/recovered from accused and except the statements of the accused and whatsapp messages, there is no substantial material to treat the accused as a peddler/supplier of drugs, it may not be justified to refuse to extend the concession of bail.”
- Court also observed that co-accused Nikhil Saldhana has also been enlarged on bail and the other co-accused Agisilaos Demetriades, whose role is similar to Paul Bartels in the case, has been granted bail as well. Thus, on the ground of parity the present accused is also required to be released on bail, Court said.
- While granting bail the Court directed him to furnish a PR Bond of Rs.1, 00,000. And further imposed the following conditions-
(i) The applicant/accused shall surrender his passport to NCB, Mumbai.
(ii) The applicant accused shall not leave the limits of Mumbai, until the disposal of trial, without the permission of the Court.
[ WhatsApp chats are not substantial & sufficient to hold the role of accused at this stage: NDPS Court while granting bail to Paul Bartels ]