NEW DELHI: With just two days left for them to finish their ten-year jail term, two foreigners were acquitted by Delhi high court that ordered their immediate release earlier this month.
In an order that once again highlights protracted delays in the system leading to miscarriage of justice, Justice Vibhu Bakhru acquitted Philippines national Laya Emilyn and Nigerian Okafor Chukwuka Ugochukwu who were booked under various provisions of the stringent Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
The high court found that the duo had been in jail ever since their arrest on May 15, 2010 and were due to be released after finishing ten-year sentence. They were convicted by a trial court in 2015.
Justice Bakhru allowed their appeals challenging a trial court order, which had convicted and sentenced the two under several sections of the NDPS Act, including criminal conspiracy, possession of commercial quantity drugs and illegally importing commercial quantity drugs.
Dissecting the trial court verdict that went in favour of Narcotics Control Bureau, the high court noted that “In order to sustain an allegation of conspiracy, it must be established that there was some meeting of minds of the co-conspirators. Clearly, examination of call record details would indicate whether Laya was in touch with Okafor. However, the fact that no such material or evidence has been brought on record raises considerable doubt whether they were ever in touch with each other.”
It said the prosecution failed to establish there was any conspiracy and set aside the trial court order. As per the prosecution, Laya was caught with a huge quantity of cocaine in her bag from the Delhi airport in May 2010 and upon questioning told the Narcotics Control Bureau that it was to be delivered to one Okafor. Further probe led the raiding team to the co-accused and both were arrested.
But the defence maintained that apart from the statement of Okafor and Laya, there was no material to establish any conspiracy between Laya and Okafor. “There was no follow-up investigation which would corroborate any of the facts as disclosed in the statements made by Laya and Okafor,” the court further noted while acquitting the two.
“In the circumstances, the prosecution failed to establish that there was any meeting of minds between Okafor and Laya to sustain an allegation of conspiracy,” it concluded.