HC dismisses plea of international drug trafficker

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Mumbai, Sep 21 (UNI) The Bombay High Court has dismissed the plea of an international drug trafficker, seeking to set aside his prosecution under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, on the ground that it will amount to double prosecution.

Jitendra Panchaal, a member of an international gang of drug traffickers who has undergone 54 months of imprisonment in the United States for trafficking a large quantity of hashish there from Nepal via India, will have to face another prosecution in Mumbai.

On October 17, 2002, the Detroit Field office of the the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized a consignment of 565.2 kg of hashish at Newark, which was concealed in a pickle exported by Mahesh Food Products in Mumbai. The seizure of the consignment was due to the joint efforts by the US DEA, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of India and drug enforcement agencies in Germany and Austria.

Officers of the US DEA traced Panchaal in Vienna and arrested him from there on December 5, 2002, after his name cropped up during the investigation besides the name of one Niranjan Shah. After his extradiation, Panchaal was prosecuted in the US and was ultimately handed a prison term of 54 months after he pleaded guilty for possessing and distributing hashish in the US.

After serving the sentence, the US authorities deported Panchaal and when he reached New Delhi, on April 5 this year, he was again nabbed by the NCB and brought to Mumbai.

When he was produced in the special NDPS court here for facing another prosecution, he raised the point of double prosecution, saying that he had already undergone prosecution and served a jail term in the US and could not be compelled to face another prosecution in the same case. He had moved the High Court after the special trial court dismissed his objections.

A division bench, comprising Justices R M S Khandeparkar and V K Tahilramani, too dismissed his plea, saying the charges framed against the petitioner in the US and the proposed charges here were completely different.

The court also observed that principle of double prosecution was not applicable to the case at all.

UNI

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