Nearly 21 years after she was convicted of possessing and selling drugs, Ayuma Chinu Devendra, 58, was recently acquitted by the Bombay high court. The court said the Antop Hill police had not followed the rules as mandated under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act while arresting Ayuma.
While acquitting Ayuma, justice Revati Mohite Dhere said: "Considering the FIR, the panchanama as well as the depositions of the prosecution witnesses, it is clearly evident that the personal search of the appellant was carried out by Aarti, a woman constable, in the presence of two male panchas. In view of the violation of the provisions of Section 50(4) of the NDPS Act, the order of conviction and sentence cannot be sustained."
"It is a major relief for me and my family," Ayuma said. "Though I was out on bail, we were under pressure... Now, the conviction's been overturned, I am happy."
Baburao Puna Patil and Baban Ganpat Gaikwad of the Antop Hill police station were on patrolling duty on May 22, 1986, when they noticed a person, Kamlakar Krishnarao Gavand, moving suspiciously in the area. When they stopped him, they realised he was into drugs and regularly had brown sugar.
He apparently showed them Ayuma's house and claimed he used to buy brown sugar from her regularly. A woman constable searched Ayuma in the presence of other policemen and two male witnesses. They seized four vials of brown sugar and Rs70 in cash from her.
During the trial, the prosecution examined five witnesses and based on their evidence the special court in 1993 convicted Ayuma and sentenced her to 10 years' imprisonment, along with a fine of Rs1 lakh.
The order was challenged before the high court.
Ayuma's advocate Shekhar Bhandary said she was wrongly convicted as "the search was a complete violation of the Act".
Without going into other aspects of the case, the high court held that the mandatory provisions, while seizing and searching a woman accused, were not followed, he said. "Thus her conviction was quashed and set aside."