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Need to amend NDPS act

  Mar 16, 2023

Need to amend NDPS act

Q Why is it in News ?

  • The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has even in past and now 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) 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.

(b) Transportation

  • 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.

(c) Production

  • 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) 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.