A parallel may be drawn between the provisions of Section 67 of the NDPS Act and Sections 107 and 108 of the Customs Act and to a large extent Section 32 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 and Section 15 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987.
These are all special Acts meant to deal with special situations and circumstances. While the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002, and TADA Act, 1987, are much more stringent and excludes from its purview the provisions of Sections 24 to 27 of the Evidence Act with regard to confession made before a police officer, the provisions relating to statements made during inquiry under the Customs Act and under the NDPS Act are less stringent and continues to attract the provisions of the Evidence Act. In the case of both the latter enactments, initially an inquiry is contemplated during which a person may be called upon to provide any information relevant to the inquiry as to whether there has been any contravention of the provisions of the Act or any Rule or Order made thereunder. At that stage the person concerned is not an accused although he may be said to be in custody. But on the basis of the statements made by him he could be made an accused subsequently.
What is important is whether the statement made by the person concerned is made during inquiry prior to his arrest or after he had been formally charged with the offence and made an accused in respect thereof. As long as such statement was made by the accused at a time when he was not under arrest, the bar under Sections 24 to 27 of the Evidence Act would not operate nor would the provisions of Article 20(3) of the Constitution be attracted.
It is only after a person is placed in the position of an accused that the bar imposed under the aforesaid provision will come into play. Of course, this Court has also held in Pon Adithan’s case (supra) that even if a person is placed under arrest and thereafter makes a statement which seeks to incriminate him, the bar under Article 20(3) of the Constitution would not operate against him if such statement was given voluntarily and without any threat or compulsion and if supported by corroborating evidence.