Q Why is it in News ?
- 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 assumed importance in the backdrop of some high-profile drug cases including the recent arrest of Bollywood actor’s son.
Key amendments suggested
- To decriminalise the possession of narcotic drugs in smaller quantities for personal purposes.
- Persons using drugs in smaller quantities be treated as victims.
Q What is NDPS Act?
- The NDPS Act, 1985 is the principal legislation through which the state regulates the operations of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
- It provides a stringent framework for punishing offenses related to illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances through imprisonments and forfeiture of property.
- This is a stringent law where the death penalty can be prescribed for repeat offenders.
Q What are issues with the NDPS Act ?
A First arrest and then investigate
- First arrest and then investigate seems to be the principle for investigations under the NDPS Act.
- Section 50 of the Act (conditions under which search of persons shall be conducted) needs to be followed scrupulously.
- When officials stumble upon a person carrying drugs during raids or a routine check, the drugs must be seized in front of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate.
Q Why such provision?
- In cases of sudden development, the suspect is taken to the nearby Magistrate or the latter is brought to the spot and then only drugs are seized.
- If this is not adhered to, the court acquits the accused persons. Only then the next stage of investigation commences.
- While tracking drugs cases, investigators go from consumers to drug suppliers.
Q What are Challenges in enforcing the NDPS Act ?
A (a) Peddling
- Since drug peddling is an organised crime, it is challenging for the police to catch the persons involved from the point of source to the point of destination.
- Identifying drugs that are being transported is a challenge since we cannot stop each and every vehicle that plies on Indian roads.
- Most drug bust cases are made possible with specific information leads.
- Unless we check every vehicle with specially trained sniffer dogs, it is difficult to check narcotic drugs transportation.
- The main challenge is to catch those producing these substances. Secret cultivation are mostly carried on in LWE affected areas.
- Going beyond State jurisdiction, finding the source of narcotic substances and destroying them is another big challenge.
(d) Delay in trials
- Securing conviction for the accused in drugs cases is yet another arduous task. There are frequent delays in court procedures.
- Sometimes, cases do not come up for trial even after two years of having registered them.
- By then, the accused are out on bail and do not turn up for trial.
- Bringing them back from their States to trial is quite difficult let alone getting them convicted.
Q What are other Challenges associated ?
A (a) Growing hopelessness in society
- The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, has aggravated anxieties among the youth.
- Joblessness and livelihood losses are the major push factors.
(b) Issues in rehabilitation
- The proposal to send persons to rehabilitation centres is good on paper but we do not have the infrastructure to ensure that it is properly implemented.
- We don’t have adequate de-addiction centre counsellors. We face an acute shortage of psychiatrists and counsellors.
Issues in legalization of drugs
- Legalisation of drugs usage will only compound the problem.
- It could lead to the proliferation of drugs.
- It is dangerous. More and more people may start using them.
Q What can be Way forward ?
- We need to thoroughly examine why and how people are getting addicted to narcotic drugs.
- No doubt the NDPS Act is stringent, but we need to make a distinction between the drug peddler and the end user.
- The person using it in smaller quantities for personal use cannot be bracketed with the person producing narcotic drugs.
- We need to make a clear distinction between a drug supplier and an end user.
- A drug user needs to be seen as a patient. The Act as of now prescribes jail for everyone — the end user and the drug supplier.
- Instead of suggesting proposals to change sections of the law for the entire country, it would be advisable to introduce this on a pilot basis in one State that faces an acute drugs-related problem.
- We should examine the root cause of the problem.
- Relying only on law-enforcing agencies, however hard they are at work to address the problem, is not going to solve it.
- Civil society and governments will have to work together to create an enabling environment to address the issue.