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The Supreme Court has held that an accused cannot be awarded punishment more than what was prescribed in law on the day of occurrence of the offence.

A bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and Mukundakam Sharma, while dismissing the appeal of West Bengal government in a judgement, noted ‘As per Article 20(1) of the Constitution, it is a Fundamental Right of every person that he should not be subjected to greater penalty than what the law prescribes and no ex-post facto legislation is permissible for escalating the severity of the punishment.

But, if any subsequent legislation downgrades the harshness of the sentence for the same offence, it would be salutary principle for administration of criminal justice to suggest that the said legislative benevolence can be extended to the accused, who awaits judicial verdict regarding sentence.’ The Calcutta High Court had held that, after the amendment, in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, a new offence has been made out against the accused Parash Singh and charges should be framed against him under the amended act, under which punishment for drug trafficking has been enhanced from a maximum of five years to a maximum of ten years, with fine amount raised from maximum of Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

The apex court, while dismissing the appeal of the state, however, clarified that ‘the appeal is therefore dismissed with clarifications that no new offence was created by the amendment act.

But at the same time no punishment higher than what was originally provided for, can be imposed on the accused.’

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