CHENNAI: When the mandatory minimum amount of the fine, as specified under the Narcotic Drugs and Pyschotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, cannot be reduced in view of the legislative mandate, Can the award of imprisonment in default of payment of the fine be reduced on account of inability of the accused?
This sensitive, but technical question has been raised in the Madras High Court and Justice S Vimala has answered in the affirmative.
It will be certainly impossible for the accused, who were incarcerated for a decade and their family members, who would be suffering from poverty in the absence of the bread-winner, to arrange the money, Justice Vimala observed and reduced the six months’ additional incarceration in default to remit the fine amount to just 15 days.
By orders dated November 21, 2013, the Principal Sessions Judge for Special Court under the Essential Commodities and NDPS Act in Chennai sentenced S Edmand and M Sithi to 10 years RI and imposed a fine of `1 lakh each on them. In default to pay the fine amount, they would have to serve another RI for six months, the judge said.
As the duo could not pay the fine amount, they moved the High Court with the present appeals.
Partly allowing them, Justice Vimala observed that each of the appellants hae suffered the substantive term of imprisonment of 10 years. During this period, they were not able to pay the fine of `1 lakh each. Such a requirement could not be met by the accused since they had been suffering incarceration for almost a decade during which their near and dear were not only grief-stricken, but also their immediate family would have suffered near indigence in the absence of its breadwinner. Had it been possible for them to comply with the directions imposing fine of such a huge amount, they would have paid it even before the start of their sentence. But, it would have been better to safely assume tha it is their poor economic status that had made them fail to comply with the direction for payment of fine amount and to suffer the prospects of being behind the bar for another six months of imprisonment, following the decadal incarceration.
The life of personal liberty is common to every man, irrespective of his nationality and cultural climate. The instinct of liberty pervades every faculty of the soul.