Ugochukwu Ogboke, a Nigerian national charged with possession of narcotics under the NDPS act, was set free by the Additional Sessions Court, Panjim, on technical grounds.
The police had not properly appraised him of his right to be searched by a gazetted officer.
Ogboke was set free seven years after the raid was conducted at the residence where he was living.
On April 30, 2015, a police team from the Anjuna police station conducted the raid and recovered a cache of assorted drugs from him.
The haul included 3 kg and 10 gms of charas, 505 LSD papers, 113 gms of MDMA, 42 gms of cocaine and 20 Ecstacy tablets.
The prosecution claimed that all safeguards of the NDPS Act were complied with but there were inconsistencies with compliance of Section 50(1), which states that the officer conducting the raid “shall, if the person so requires, take such person without unnecessary delay to the nearest gazetted officer of any department."
In the case of a raid, it essentially means a gazetted officer must be present.
The Supreme Court had ruled that non-compliance with Section 50(1) would render the recovery of the narcotics suspect and vitiate the conviction.
During the trial, the PI and constable told the court that the accused was told that he has a right to be searched before a gazetted officer or magistrate of his choice, but the accused declined the offer.
However, one of the prosecution witnesses deposed that the police informed the accused that he could be searched either on the spot or after taking him to the police station before a gazetted officer.
The judge concluded that “the evidence of the prosecution witness shows that the accused was not apprised of his right to be searched before a gazetted officer."
The court also held that in a criminal case if there are two views, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the view which favours the accused should be adopted.
On these grounds, Ogboke was acquitted of all charges.
Had he been convicted, Ogboke would have to serve not less than 10 years in prison which may be extended to 20 years.
Ogboke was in jail without bail for over seven years.