ISLAMABAD    -   Supreme Court of Pakistan has observed that it matters less if one or many convictions are overturned because of the correct interpretation and application of law but the sole purpose of this court is to dispense justice in accordance with law.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah observed this in a 10-page judgment on an appeal challenging a Lahore High Court judgment, wherein it had dismissed a plea of one Khairul Bashar accused of smuggling heroin.

In order to grant fair opportunity, the judgment emphasised that the examination of drugs recovered by accused persons must be conducted by the qualified government analysts for sound and credible convictions.

“Employing prudence, practice and caution as interpretive tools to help actualize and operationalize the purpose of the statute, we realise its objective purpose and ensure safe administration of justice so that the convictions under the Act are based on reports of the government analyst that are technically sound and credible.”

The top court further observed that the purposive interpretation of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act, 1997 and the Control of Narcotic Substances (Government Analysts) Rules, 2001 promotes the protection of constitutional and fundamental rights under articles 4, 9 and 10-A of the Constitution.

It emphasised on strictly adherence of Rule 6 of Control of Narcotic Substances (Government Analysts) Rules, 2001.

The top court observed that the non-compliance of Rule 6 of the said Rules and absence of any of these mandatory requirements contained in it frustrates the purpose and object of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act, 1997.

The top court observed that analysts who meet the qualifications provided under the Act and the Rules must prepare these reports.

“The emphasis that the report of the government analyst must carry the information required in Rule 6 is to ensure that convictions under the Act are based on reliable and credible reports. Courts can apply purposive interpretation of the statute to bridge the gap between the law and the safe administration of criminal justice system based on prudence, caution, circumspection and judiciousness,” the top court observed in its 10-page judgment.

Noticing the deficiencies in the analysis report, the top court also extended benefit of doubt and allowed appeal by setting aside the conviction of Bashar and ordered for his release if not required in any other case.

Bashar was booked by Police Station Westridge Rawalpindi in January 2016 under section 9(c) of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act, 1997 on the grounds that 1500 grams of heroin was allegedly recovered from him. He was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for six years with a fine of Rs30,000.

Justice Shah observed: “The Report of the Government Analyst, prepared in consequence of Rule 6, must provide for (i) tests and analysis of the alleged drug (ii) the results of the test(s) carried out and (iii) the test protocols applied to carry out these tests.”

He observed that the above three elements form the fundamental and the core elements of a valid Report prepared by a Government Analyst.

“Non-compliance of Rule 6 and absence of any of these mandatory elements/requirements frustrates the purpose and object of the Act thereby diminishing the reliability and evidentiary value of the Report.”

Regarding Form II under the said Rules, the top court has observed that the general head of the said form provides only for Physical Examination and Conclusion and does not mention of tests or their results. “This would hardly be of any significance unless the Report provides the information required under Rule 6 in order to establish the culpability of the accused.”

It is important to underline that protocols are an intrinsic part of the tests and analysis. A test conducted without following the protocols does not pass for a test or meet the requirement of Rule 6.

“It is also important to underline that the Government Analysts while giving the details of tests/analysis, the results for each test and the test protocols applied in the Report, must remember that under section 36 of the Act, the report of the Government Analyst, whilst being admissible in evidence without formal proof, is rebuttable and can be questioned by the accused, inter alia, on the ground of non-compliance of the above information required under Rule 6.”

The court is free to examine the Report and to assess whether it meets the requirements of the Report under the Act and the Rules, even if the Report is not rebutted by the accused.