Not Your Average Scientific Investigation


“I have had no occasion to analyse ganja for the purpose of giving evidence in court”

On 26 October 1936, HR Uzielli, Secretary to the Government of Madras, Revenue Department, wrote IISc’s Director a letter about a drug investigation in which an Institute faculty member had been involved.

A man named Dandapani Pillai had been prosecuted by the Government of Madras under the Dangerous Drugs Act over ganja, and B Sanjiva Rao, head of the Department of Organic Chemistry, had given testimony on Pillai’s behalf, saying that he had tested samples of the substance and found no trace of ganja. In his letter to the Director (who happened to be CV Raman), Uzielli wrote: “I am to enquire whether the witness, as a Fellow of the Institute, was in order in entering into private correspondence with the accused and giving evidence on his behalf as in the deposition.”

Rao’s rather amusing deposition on 10 June 1936 is as follows:


Before M.R.Ry.N. Koil Pillai Avl., B.A., B.L.
Second Presidency Magistrate


D.W.3 Mr. B. Sanjiva Rao age 41 years sworn. I am employed in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore for the last 15 years. I am a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Science. I am a graduate of the Madras University and M.Sc. The fellowship of the Indian Institute of Science is equivalent to D.Sc. of any Indian University. I am now in charge of the department of organic chemistry. The Institute is under the portfolio of the education member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Sir C.V. Raman is the Director of the Institute. I have been doing a lot of Research work. I have published more than 35 original Memoirs in the course of my research work. I am acquainted with the work of detecting ganja and other drugs. Exhibit 1 was received in the Indian Institute of Science with a sealed packet complainant’s lagiyam* (M.O.5) from Dandapani Pillai. I tested a sample of the lagiyam in M.O.5 and returned M.O.5 to Dandapani Pillai with a covering letter exhibit 11 and a report exhibit 111. I have opined in exhibit 111 that the presence of ganja in the sample examined is very doubtful even the minimum of 200:1 (Amirtham:Ganja) was not present in the sample. I have now examined the contents of a tin in M.O.1 in court. Ganja is not present in it even in the proportion of 200:1. As the quantity decreases the test is not reliable. I cannot say whether ganja is present or not present. I applied Beam’s test** in court. I took about an hour. I have applied the best test. Microscopic test alone is not very reliable as there are plants similar to ganja plants. Ganja loses its activity by efflux of time.

Cross examination: I am not paid by Government but by the Institute. The post is not pensionable – Our services are available to the public. 50% of the fees received goes to the Institute. There is no printed form of certificates and opinions issued by us. The correspondence between me and the accused was of a private nature. A fee of Rs. 28/ was charged for analysing M.O.5. I took 3 days for analysing and for sending the opinion. I was the senior Assistant to the acting Professor till  2nd   May 1936. The professor does no analysis work. He does not supervise the work. I obtained the Director’s permission to come here and give evidence. I have had no occasion to analyse ganja for the purpose of giving evidence in court. I have not given expert evidence in any case till now. I took the degree in 1929 and my treatise was on plant products. Usually other tests are also made, but I made only one test today for want of instruments. I brought only all the instruments for making Beam’s test. I brought instruments with reference to Advocate’s letter to me. For Beam’s test weights and minimum glass measures are not necessary. No weighment was made by me here. I brought ganja weighed and Amirtham weighed from Bangalore. I took a similar quantity of lagiyam from M.O.1. I applied the modified Beam’s test. I brought Mysore ganja. Madras ganja also will respond to the Beam’s test. I had no occasion to test Madras ganja. I was not aware of any difference between Mysore Ganja and Madras Ganja. The active principle of ganjas of different provinces is the same but their proportion may differ. I have tested only Mysore ganja. I do not know that the active principle of ganja varies according to the soil where it is grown.

I did not measure or weigh the contents to-day. I gave equal amount of time for the various processes. There is no quantitative test for ganja. I have not brought any microscope to day. I did not apply any such test. There are 4 or 5 tests in all but all are not of the same value.

Re-Examination: The modified Beam’s test is the best test. The microscopic test was found to be not satisfactory. Weighment is not necessary to apply Beam’s test.


* Editor’s note: Tamil word for a concoction of herbs and spices meant to serve as a digestive aid

** Editor’s note: The Beam test is a simple forensic test to detect the presence of marijuana, based on the fact that
when hemp tissue is treated with bases, it gives off a purple colour

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