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WhatsApp Chats Are Not Substantial & Sufficient To Hold Role Of Accused: NDPS Court Grants Bail To Australian Architect

The Holiday Court of City Civil and Sessions Court in Mumbai granted bail to Paul Bartels, an Australian Architect who was accused of an offense under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substantial Act booked by the Narcotics Control Bureau

By: Rocky Das, Kingston Law College

Special NDPS Judge HS Satbhai observed the matter and concluded that there is no substantial evidence against the accused and the WhatsApp chats and conversation being recovered by the Central agency between the accused and co-accused do not provide enough evidence to prove the accused guilty and treat him as a culprit.

Senior Advocate Aabad Ponda and Advocate Subash Jadhav were leading the case on behalf of the accused while Atul Sarpande was the Public Prosecutor for the Narcotics Control Board. The court observed the key facts presented from both sides and noted that in any of such circumstances, a notice has been contemplated to the accused under Section 41 A of CrPC, and the accused was summoned by NCB, Mumbai and the accused has appeared before the agency following the summon. Considering the state of affairs according to sub-section 3 of Section 41 A of CrPC, the investigating officer should provide necessary reasons for arresting the accused which the officer failed to do so. The court further pointed out that the NCB has not asked NCB custody for the accused before producing him before the Metropolitan Magistrate.

Paul Bartels was being accused under Section 8(c), Section 20(b)(ii), Section 27, and Section 29 of the NDPS act. He was one of the Australian National of the arrests done by the Bureau in relation with the Late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case row. On November 11, 2020 house search was conducted by the officers of the NCB but no contraband and incriminating materials had been recovered from the accused.

According to the investigation done by the NCB and observing the statements made by the co-accused Agisilaos Demetriades and Nikhil Ryston Saldhana, the court concluded that though the chat conversation over WhatsApp suggested that it is being contended that the accused was dealing in drugs as a Peddler/Supplier but these chat conversations won’t be substantially evident enough to prove the accused as a peddler/supplier.

The court also noted that the other two accused have been granted bail. Thus, the accused Paul Bartels should be granted bail on the parity of the case. Granting such bail, the court directed the accused a Rs 1,00,000 PR bond, and some of the rules have been imposed on the accused as the Passport of the accused should be submitted to the NCB and the accused won’t be allowed to leave the limits of Mumbai until further Court’s order.

Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Sujit Tiwari Vs State of Gujarat. Finally granting bail, the Special NDPS Judge observed “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.”

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