Nigerian national who spent two years in prison owing to a typing error in a forensic report is granted bail by the Bombay High Court in the NDPS case.

The Assistant Director realised that he had wrongly stated that the chemicals collected were covered by the Act when they were not more than a year after the report was published.

A typing error was found in the forensic analysis report of the substances that had been seized, leading the Bombay High Court to grant bail to a Nigerian national who had been detained in 2020 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act [Novafor Samuel Inoamaobi vs The State of Maharashtra].

The applicant was detained after an Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) raid revealed several pills and white powder on him.

According to a report by the Assistant Director of a Forensic Science Lab in Mumbai, the pills included caffeine while the powder contained lidocaine and tapentadol.

According to the report, the former was covered by the NDPS Act.

The Assistant Director realised that he had wrongly stated that the chemicals collected were covered by the Act when they were not more than a year after the report was published.

He addressed a letter to the appropriate police inspector after realising the blunder, explaining that it was a typing error.

After ruling that the applicant deserves to be freed on bail, Justice Bharati Dangre stated that the error needed to be properly investigated and that the petitioner could not have been detained.

“Individual freedom is of utmost importance and serves as the foundation of Indian democracy. Everybody has access to this recognised fundamental right, which is protected by Article 21 and is open to both citizens and non-citizens. As a result of the aforementioned explanation, the applicant’s imprisonment is now illegal because, absent this report, no offence could have been proven against him “declared the Court.

She continued by saying that state authorities, particularly those responsible for carrying out laws like the NDPS Act, are obliged to act responsibly.

The Court emphasised that “the State Authorities, although supreme and in-charge of the law and order situation, including implementation of numerous acts meant to achieve specific purposes and particularly a special statute like NDPS, are obligated to conduct in a responsible manner.”

In an effort to defend the detention, Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) AA Takalkar pointed out that the applicant was a citizen of Nigeria and had a criminal history, one of which was under the NDPS Act.

The Court, however, declined to keep him in custody on those grounds, ruling that proper procedure must be followed even when denying a foreign national his freedom.

The Court stated clearly, “Even though the learned APP attempt to justify by stating that the present applicant is a Nigerian citizen, and he has antecedents to his credit, one of which, is under the NDPS Act, he cannot be incarcerated merely because of the same, as the State is expected to follow due procedure while depriving even a foreign national of his liberty.

The Court determined that the applicant should not have been imprisoned and requested that the State government develop a plan to make amends for the applicant since the raid did not result in the discovery of contraband.

This Court would next decide the amount of compensation, as it saw proper. “Let this order be brought to the notice of the Addl. Secretary of the Home Department so that it may outline the method in which it proposes to recompense the applicant,” it instructed.

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