Supreme Court defines ‘poast’ in clear terms

The Supreme Court has defined the term “poast” or opium while hearing an appeal of a man convicted by lower courts for possessing a sack full of opium poppy.

“Poast is the name given to that part of a poppy plant which has the shape of a basket, sack or pouch and it contains the seeds of such a plant. In some parts of this country this natural pouch of the poppy plant is also known as doda,” said Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi in a 6-page verdict on the appeal.

Justice Naqvi noted that Section 2(t) of the Control of Narcotics Substances Act (CNSA), 1997 defines “opium” as the poppy straw, that is to say, all parts of the poppy plant (Papaver Somniferum or any other species of Papaver) after mowing, other than the seeds.

According to the CNSA, the spontaneously coagulated juice of capsules of poppy – which has not been submitted to any manipulations other than those necessary for packing and transport – is also opium.

“[Under Section 2(t) of the CNSA, opium is also] any mixture, with or without natural materials, of any of the above forms of opium, but does not include any preparation containing not more than 0.2 per cent of morphine,” stated the verdict.

The judge noted that as per the definition clause of the CNSA, 1997 after mowing, all parts of the poppy plant except seeds are considered to be poppy straw.

He referred to two of the SC orders which declared that it is only the basket, sack or pouch (doda) excluding seeds, which contains narcotic substance and that poppy straw may not necessarily be “poast” because poppy straw can be any other part of the mowed poppy plant as well, excluding the seeds.

The court said it has been seen that often stems and leaves of the poppy plants are used as animal food.

“The plant can reach the height of about 1-5 meters (3-16 feet). Poppy straw is derived from the plant Papaver Somniferum, which has been cultivated in many countries of Europe and Asia for centuries. This has medicinal impact as well, which is largely used as a tonic for wellness of the nervous system”.

The court said the purpose of poppy cultivation is actually the production of poppy seeds. The latter is used as food stuff and as a raw material for manufacturing poppy-seed oil, which is used for making various varnishes, paints and soaps etc.

The case

Police registered a case against petitioner Zulfiqar on October 20, 2007 under Section 9 (c) of the CNSA, 1997 in Faisalabad after they apprehended him from his house with a sack full of bhukki/poast.

There was 15kg of poast in the bag. Out of the 15kg, 500 grams was separated for chemical analysis. The report of the chemical examiner was positive. The trial court on August 28, 2009 sentenced Zulfiqar to life imprisonment. The Lahore High Court (LHC) also upheld his life imprisonment.

The SC asked as to what actually was recovered from the petitioner. “Was it only the doda/basket/pouch or it was the whole plant with stems and flowers?” It noted that the petitioner is behind the bars for more than 13 years and his remaining sentence is less than two years.

“For what has been discussed above, we while maintaining the conviction of the petitioner, reduce the sentence of imprisonment for life awarded to him into what he has already undergone.

“The petitioner shall be released from jail forthwith, unless detained in any other case. This jail petition is accordingly converted into appeal and partly allowed,” the order concluded.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)