Udta Punjab let 500 traffickers slip away in four years

CHANDIGARH: Nearly 5,100 people were convicted for between 2013 and 2017. However, more than 500 people were acquitted by the courts, either because the police department was not equipped with trained staff or lacked sniffer dogs and infrastructure to deal with narcotics cases. This has been pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General () in its report tabled in the Punjab assembly on Thursday.

The report has listed several shortcomings in the Punjab police that led to ineffective detection, probe and prosecution in drug trafficking cases and observed the police did not follow the required technique to identify real culprits involved in the trade.

It adds that (PSNCB) was established in May 2015 to unearth drug smuggling networks from origin to final destination, “yet the Punjab police never followed/adopted ‘controlled delivery’ technique to identify the real persons behind the operation and ultimate recipients of the illicit consignment”.

70% accused freed due to cop witnesses

Between 2013 and 2017, 5,099 accused were convicted and 756 were acquitted by the courts. Of the acquittals, 532 (70%) were freed because of deficiencies in testimony statements by police officials in seven police districts that were audited. The audited districts include Jalandhar, Amritsar (rural), Fazilka, Gurdaspur, Bathinda, Hoshiarpur and Mohali.

Pointing to a lack of seriousness in the police department, the report says that according to March 2011 guidelines in the handbook on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, a seized sample must be sent immediately and not later than 72 hours to an authorised laboratory as its report is essential for conviction.

But the auditors noticed that samples in 8,011 out of 10,642 cases (75%) were sent to the laboratory with delays ranging up to 476 days. This delayed prosecution.

CAG also pointed out insufficient number of sniffer dogs with the police. Till March 2017, only seven trained sniffer dogs could be procured at a cost of Rs 21 lakh. Besides, there are only two incinerators, one each in Mansa and , to dispose of large quantities of drugs lying in police stations.

“Delay in destruction of contraband entails the risk of substance pilferage which could then again find its way into the markets,” said the report, stating that though Punjab police had plans to install four new incinerators at Amritsar, Ludhiana, Faridkot and Patiala but till November 2017, the plans were only on files.

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