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An HIV positive South African woman has been awarded seven months in jail for carrying 12 kgs of a narcotic drug, by a Delhi court which took a lenient view considering her economic and social background.

It said that imposing a harsh sentence on her would not subserve the interests of justice.

“The sole purpose of punishing an offender is not retribution alone and that the courts while sentencing an offender must make an attempt, within the parameters of the law, to afford an opportunity to the offender to reform himself and lead the life of a normal, useful member of society,” Special Judge Anu Grover Baliga said, while also imposing a fine of Rs 20,000 on her.

The court noted that her health was deteriorating due to the disease, saying, “The convict has been diagnosed to be HIV+ and suffering from hypertension and gynaecological ailments and that her blood CD4 count has been deteriorating and that her three minor children have nobody to look after in South Africa.”

However, on the submission by the woman that she was forced to indulge in drug trafficking due to her economic condition, the court observed that “poverty cannot be taken as a justification for commission of crimes”.

According to the prosecution, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) team acting on secret information apprehended the woman in the wee hours of March 16, 2014 at Indira Gandhi International Airport here while she was about to fly to Nairobi by Kenya Airlines.

During search conducted on her, 12 kgs of ephedrine hydrochloride (a contraband substance under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) was recovered from her suitcase.

The woman, who was charged under various sections of NDPS Act, confessed to the crime and pleaded guilty.

She was convicted by the court for offences entailing a maximum punishment of 10 years rigorous imprisonment and Rs 1 lakh fine.

Pleading for leniency, the woman had told the court that she had two minor daughters and one minor son residing in South Africa and they have no one to look after as her husband had left them.

The woman said with nowhere to go, she had started residing at her husband’s friend’s house on rent in South Africa but had to leave the house after he raped her 15-year- old daughter.

She told the court that it is to sustain her family that she was forced to indulge in drug trafficking.

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