IS THERE A NEED TO AMEND the NDPS Act ? ( GS Paper II )

Context:  Few weeks ago, the recent arrest of Aryan Khan (Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son) following a raid on a cruise ship by the Narcotics Control Bureau, including others, have led to a debate regarding the need to amend the NDPS Act or not? 

DEVELOPMENTS:  The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has proposed certain changes to some provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985.

 The recommendations have gained in importance in the background of some high-profile drug cases including the recent one of Aryan khan.

Recommendations of the Ministry

  1. To decriminalise the ownership of narcotic drugs for personal purposes in very small quantities.

  1. The persons using drugs in very small quantities should be treated as victims. 

  1.  Referring the persons, having smaller quantities drugs to government-run rehabilitation centres instead of sending them to jail and imposing fines.

This Act was brought in 1985. This is a stringent law where the repeated offenders may be given death penalty.

  •  The Act prescribes jail for everyone — the end user as well as drug supplier.

Regarding the consequences of the changes suggested to handle the problem of drug abuse and the abuse of the law:-

  • First arresting them and then investigating, seems to be the investigating principle under the NDPS Act, which is not justified or correct.

  • The procedure of grabbing narcotic drugs is important first. Section 50 of the Act (conditions under which search of persons shall be conducted) needs to be followed diligently and the drugs must be seized in front of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate.

  • In cases of sudden development, the suspect is taken to the nearby Magistrate or the same is brought to the spot and then only drugs are seized. 

  • If this is not followed, the court acquits the accused persons. Only then the next stage of investigation advances.

The challenges that police face to enforce the NDPS Act, taking drugs cases to their logical end? :-

  1. While tracking drugs cases, investigators generally run from consumers to drug suppliers. 

  1.  To follow seizure procedure, there should be one Magistrate at the time of seizing drugs, another during further investigation and a different one during the trial.

  1.  Being an organised crime, drug peddling is,  it is challenging for the police to catch the persons involved from the point of source to the final destination.

  1. Most cases of drug busting are made possible with specific information leads. 

  1. Specially trained sniffer dogs should be used to check narcotic drugs transportation. 

  1. Going beyond the jurisdiction of the State, to find the source of narcotic substances and destroy them is another big challenge. 

  1. Catching the accused cultivating ganja in areas bordering the States too is turning out to be a herculean task (becomes even tougher in areas that are Maoist dominated areas).

  1.  Getting the accused convicted in drugs cases is another difficult task. 

  1. There are frequent delays in court procedures

→ The main challenge is to catch those producing these substances.

  • The person using it in smaller quantities for personal use cannot be compared to a person producing narcotic drugs. 

  • We need to make a clear distinction between a drug supplier and an end user.

  •  A user of the drugs is needed to be seen as a patient. 

  • Another solution is to decriminalise the usage of drugs. 

  • Only repeating offenders should be sent to prison.

We don’t have adequate counsellors and de-addiction centre. We also face a shortage of psychiatrists and counsellors.

As Policing is a State subject. So, instead of suggesting proposals to change sections of the law for the entire country, it will be advisable to introduce this on a pilot basis in one State that faces an acute drugs-related problem.

INDIA CAN LEARN FROM THE EXAMPLES FROM THE WORLD AROUND:-

for example:

  1. In Iceland

  1. i) a community-led approach has worked very well w.r.t. its acute drug abuse problems among its children and the youth. The government decided to tackle the issue right from the school level.

  1. ii)  From introducing aptitude tests which showed the students’inclinations to persuade the parents in keeping liquor and cigarettes out of the reach of the youth.

Need to thoroughly examine why and how people are getting addicted to narcotic drugs ?

  1. Growing hopelessness in society

For example- the COVID-19 pandemic

→ A National fund for rehabilitation is the need of the hour.

  1. In the U.S.

 Some States have started permitting the usage of narcotic drugs like marijuana in smaller quantities.

In India,

the legalisation of drugs usage will only compound the problem. It could lead to proliferation of drugs which is dangerous.

 There are various street children who use whiteners, glue, painting chemicals, etc. No one is focusing on such children, becoming victims and addicts of substance use.

There are 3 types of drugs —

  •  party drugs

  •  prescription drugs 

  •  others, namely inhalants (also known as synthetic drugs)

Some people even apply Zandu Balm on bread slices and eat them.

 We found people using cough syrups to get a high. 

While the police have to focus on this, persons selling chemicals or whiteners are equally responsible.

India need responsible traders and merchants.

It is for the police and others concerned to keep a tab on persons selling such chemicals.

Process :

cigarettes→ drugs→ replacing tobacco in cigarette with weed

Responsibility of Parents, Teachers, Police, Civil society 

If everyone joins hands, wiping out drugs usage is not an issue at all.Civil society and governments will have to work together to create an enabling environment to address the issue. Although, Certain provisions could be changed to ensure a reformative approach towards addicts.

plutus ias daily current affairs 29 Oct 2021