Convict No. 16525 of Tiruchi Central Prison was an elated man on Tuesday and not the least for being acquitted 8 years after being arrested. The forty-two-year-old decided his lawyers weren’t good enough and did the job himself. He appeared before the Madras High Court Bench here with armed escort, argued his case in person and got himself acquitted of all charges.
J. John alias Rajendran of Sundararajapuram in Rajapalayam Taluk of Virudhunagar district was arrested by the ‘Q’ Branch police near Ramanathapuram new bus stand on July 21, 2001 for allegedly possessing 100 grams of brown sugar containing 20 per cent heroin.
He was booked under various provisions of the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. A Special Court for Essential Commodities Act and NDPS Act cases at Pudukottai convicted him on December 12, 2007 and sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment besides being fined Rs.5,000.
Rajendran filed an appeal against the conviction in 2008 through his counsel who also filed a sub-application to suspend his sentence pending adjudication of the criminal appeal. However, the High Court dismissed the sub-application seeking suspension of sentence and refused to let the convict out on bail.
Aggrieved over the dismissal, the convict wrote a letter to the Registrar (Judicial) of the High Court on September 2, 2009 stating that he had lost confidence in his lawyers. He sought for permission to argue the appeal on his own and urged the court to issue summons to facilitate his appearance before the court.
Accordingly, he was produced before Justice P. Murgesen who initially tried to persuade the convict to engage a counsel through the Legal Aid. Mr. John politely declined to accept the offer and told the judge that he was thorough with the provisions of the NDPS Act as well as the facts of the case in order to secure an acquittal.
Claiming that he was falsely implicated in the case, he argued that the prosecution case could not be believed as the seizure report states that the narcotic substance was a dry powder whereas a receipt issued by the forensic officials described it to be a powder with high moisture content.
The convict also cited discrepancies in the evidence adduced by the witnesses in the case and said that the mandatory procedures to be followed while seizure of narcotic substances were not complied with in the present case.