Coming down heavily on the Excise Department, the Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the state to warn the Excise officers about the unhealthy trend of deliberately helping the accused by providing a chance for acquittal in excise cases.
Justice S Siri Jagan made the observation while acquitting P Lakshmi of Hosdurgh who was convicted in an illegal spirit smuggling case in 1997. “If the trend continues, the court will be forced to direct the state to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the officers concerned for their lapse in conducting the seizure and prosecution in accordance with the law established,” the bench said.
“In many cases it is found that there is considerable delay by the Excise officers in producing the samples of contraband articles before the concerned magistrate. Many accused who are liable to be convicted are escaping without any punishment solely due to the inaction of the officials,” the court said.
The court pointed out that the continued defect in the prosecution of abkari offences is solely due to negligence or deliberate inaction on the part of Excise officials.
Considering the petition the court observed that there was a delay of 14 days in producing the contraband article by the officer who seized it. The officer did not even provide an explanation for the delay. Lakshmi was arrested by the Excise Enforcement and Anti Narcotic Special Squad while transporting arrack in a five litre can at Cherivath.
The magistrate later sentenced him for one month rigorous imprisonment and a fine of `25,000.