The Bombay High Court has directed the state government to pay Rs 2 lakh compensation as an “exceptional case” to a Nigerian national held mistakenly in a drugs bust case. He was later unlawfully incarcerated for over 18 months owing to a typographical error in a chemical analyser’s report.
Justice Bharti Dangre awarded compensation after the government pleader informed the court that it will initiate an inquiry and that at present there is no policy for giving compensation.
At this, Justice Dangre snapped, “So you can keep people behind bars and not give compensation just because there is no policy? When it comes to depriving a person of fundamental rights, do you require a policy?”
While directing that the compensation be paid within six weeks, the court said that the same can be recovered from the officer concerned. “The officer is saying that there was a mistake, what inquiry do you want to conduct now?” she asked.
The Nigerian national was arrested on October 23, 2020 from Powai following a raid by the Anti-Terrorism Squad. At the time, cocaine was purportedly seized from him in the form of white powder, saffron coloured heart shaped pills and pink tablets.
The chemical analysis report said that the drugs found on the Nigerian were not cocaine or ecstasy but lidocaine, tapentadol and caffeine. However, the report by the assistant director of the forensic lab stated that lidocaine and tapentadol drugs “fall under the NDPS Act”. Based on this report, the Thane session court rejected his bail plea in June last year, which the Nigerian national challenged before the HC.
However, after a year, the assistant director of the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory, Aurangabad, expressed his regret and corrected the analysis and stated that the contents do not fall under the NDPS Act. The HC was informed about this on Wednesday.
During the hearing on Friday, Justice Dangre observed that since the substance recovered from the Nigerian was not a narcotic drug, he deserved to be released on bail. She added that liberty is not only guaranteed to all citizens but also to foreign nationals.
“Merely because the applicant is a foreign national and has antecedent and he has been indulging in narcotic drugs do not authorise the state to detain him when the substance found on him was neither a narcotic drug nor psychotropic substance,” said the court while directing his release on against local surety of Rs 25,000.