A special NDPS court here has sentenced six persons to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment and four others to 10 years in jail in the case of smuggling of 1,445 kg of drugs on a merchant ship nabbed by the Indian Coast Guard off the Gujarat coast in July 2017.
Had the accused succeeded in selling such a large quantity of drugs, it could have ruined the lives of hundreds of youth of this country, the court of special judge PH Sharma at Porbandar in Gujarat said in the order passed on Monday.
After taking these drugs, the youth do not even think twice while committing serious crimes and also get involved in anti-social and anti-national activities, the court observed.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on the six persons sentenced to 20-year imprisonment, out of the eight crew members who were on board the merchant vessel ‘Henry’.
They will have to undergo another five-year rigorous imprisonment in case they fail to deposit the fine, the court said in its order.
Four others arrested by the investigation agencies in the case were sentenced to 10-year rigorous imprisonment and also fined Rs 1 lakh each.
They will have to undergo another two years and six months imprisonment if they failed to deposit the fine, the court said.
Three out of a total 13 accused in the case died during the pendency of the trial and the case against them was abated.
The vessel was intercepted and its crew detained on July 29, 2017 off the Gulf of Khambhat along the Gujarat coast by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ship ‘Samudra Pavak.’
Out of the 13 accused arrested, eight were crew members of the merchant ship while five others were accused of searching for customers and safe hideouts for the drugs along the Gujarat coast after its landing, the prosecution stated.
The accused persons were booked under various provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
Out of the 1,445 kg of drugs packed in 1,526 packets seized from the vessel, 1,018 kg was found to be heroin and 427 kg morphine, the court said.
The ICG had then claimed it to be one of its biggest drug hauls in the state.
The suspicious intruder vessel, which was found to be registered in Panama, had eight crew members onboard and no cargo.
When questioned by the ICG, the captain of the ship said it was headed to Bhavnagar for breaking at the Alang yard, which was denied by the Gujarat Maritime Board.
The vessel was then taken to Porbandar and its crew detained for interrogation in the presence of personnel from intelligence agencies, police, customs, enforcement, narcotics, and the Navy.
As per the prosecution, the eight crew members of the seized vessel including the ship captain had conspired with smugglers based out of Iran and Pakistan to bring drugs into India via the Gujarat coast by hiding them in pipes and hidden cavities of the vessel.
The vessel belonged to an Iranian smuggler named by the investigating agency as Saiyad Ali Morani, the prosecution said.
The ship captain had contacted one of the five accused, who were arrested later, to search for customers and hideouts for the smuggled drugs, it said.
The court also took into account 23 witness statements and 218 documentary evidence produced by the prosecution.
Had the accused succeeded in selling such a large quantity of drugs, it could have ruined the lives of hundreds of youth of this country, the court said.
After taking these drugs, the youth do not even think twice while committing serious crimes and also get involved in anti-social and anti-national activities, the court observed in its order.
It is therefore the responsibility of the court to keep the social and national interest in mind while passing a judgment against the accused persons, it said.
Out of the 13 accused persons, six belonged to Uttar Pradesh, three hailed from Mumbai, two from West Bengal and one each from Bihar and Himachal Pradesh.
The six accused who have been sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment are Suprit Tiwari (27), Sanjay Yadav (27), Devesh (23), Munish Kumar (27), Vinay Yadav (27) and Munish Patel (19).
Those given 10-year jail term are Sujit Tiwari (19), Vishal Yadav (24), Suleman Bhadela (47) and Saud Patel (26).