Set up department to store seized contraband: Court

A city court has recommended the setting up of a separate department with proper infrastructure to store seized narcotic and other contraband items.

The court made the observation after noting that there were often delays in sending sample of seized material to the forensic Science Laboratories (FSLs) by the police. As a result of this, the samples spoil, providing the defence advocates a window to allege that they have been tampered with.

Additional Sessions Judge Narinder Kumar said this while convicting and sentencing two men arrested for carrying 31 kg of marijuana in 2010. "It is up to the legislature, the government and the authorities concerned to take steps in this regard," said the court.

The defence advocate pointed out that the narcotic substance allegedly seized from the two accused had not been sent to FSL for over 15 days. He said the samples received by the FSL weighed much less than the what was noted by the police in its seizure memo.

Any material seized by police are sealed and stored in the 'maalkhana' or storage room of a police station. Usually, the storage room does not have any special facilities, such as provisions to regulate temperature and humidity, due to which the weather takes a toll on the stored evidence.

Often, there is a delay of several days between the seizure and sending of the evidence to FSLs for examination.

In various cases, the High Court and the Supreme Court have held that the delay in sending samples raises doubts regarding tampering with the evidence.

"From day-to-day experience, this court finds that in order to avoid such delay and rule out any possibility of tampering with case property, including the samples during the period the same is kept in the maalkhana, provision can be made for deposit and storage of case property, with any department other than the police, soon after its recovery/ seizure," ASJ Kumar said.

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