Courts are told that rats eat away drugs seized by the police when narcotics cases come up for hearing, said the Supreme Court on Thursday as it delved into issues relating to decongesting of police stations in Delhi.
It also asked why impounded or seized vehicles, which continue to lie at the police stations, are not sold in cases where nobody comes forward to claim their ownership even after several years.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta made these observations as the Delhi Police said a policy would be framed in four weeks on steps to decongest the city police stations by removing or disposing of seized or impounded materials and vehicles.
"In NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) cases, 3-4 years later when the cases come up in court, nothing (seized drugs) is left in the malkhana and the police say that 'choohe khaa gaye (rats ate it)," the bench said. 'Malkhanas' are rooms in police stations where materials seized by the police during investigation are stored.
The bench also observed that in narcotics cases, "more drugs are smuggled from inside the malkhana, than outside".
Regarding seized vehicles lying at the police stations, the bench said most of them were those which were either stolen or used in a crime. Hence, nobody comes forward to claim ownership, it said, asking the police to frame a policy where such materials could be sold or disposed of.
"Is it necessary to keep seized two-wheelers and cars in the police stations," it asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, appearing for the Delhi Police.
The ASG said police has to take permission from the concerned courts before disposing of such vehicles.
She referred to the affidavit filed by police which said that due to high workload in district courts, miscellaneous matters for disposal of applications do not get the requisite attention.
"It is stated (by the police) that a central registry is required to be set up in each of the district complexes in Delhi and for this, assistance of the Delhi High Court is required," the bench noted in its order.
The police also informed the bench that there was only one district 'nazir' (record keeper of a malkhana) in Delhi, and considering the volume of work, several more district nazirs needed to be appointed.
"In this regard, the matter was taken up with the Delhi High Court, but its view was that the matter is to be considered by the Government of Delhi. It is not clear whether any further steps have been taken by the Government of Delhi," the bench observed.
The counsel for Delhi government told the bench that he would take instructions and report back to the court on this issue.
The top court issued notice to the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court to assist in the matter, observing that such assistance was necessary to sort out these administrative issues.
During the hearing, advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, said the police has suggested time line to decongest 28 "highly congested (traffic) corridors" in the national capital which fell under category 'A'.
Ms Singh said that there were total 77 congested corridors in Delhi, of which 30 fell in category 'B' and 19 were "less congested" corridors placed under category 'C'.
The amicus said the police should also indicate a time line for decongesting the corridors placed under category 'B' and 'C'.
The ASG said that timelines for category 'B' and 'C' would also be finalised soon.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing on October 10.
Regarding the time lines given by police for completing the works to remove traffic bottlenecks and encroachments in the national capital, the bench said all concerned authorities should ensure that the time frames were adhered to without fail.
"....We also expect the Commissioner of Police to ensure that the time lines are adhered to by concerned authorities," the bench said, adding "in case Commissioner of Police finds any difficulty in any of the authorities not adhering to the time lines, he is at liberty to move an application in this court."
On July 30, the top court had directed Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik, who had appeared in the court, to come out with a time line for removing traffic bottlenecks at 77 congested corridors in the city. It had also asked him to frame a policy to deal with impounded vehicles lying at police stations in New Delhi.