From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NDPS Act
Mains level : Issues with NDPS Act
While granting bail to a man arrested on June 1 for possessing 29 kg of bhang and 400 g of ganja, Karnataka High Court recently observed that nowhere in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act is bhang referred to as a prohibited drink or prohibited drug.
What is Bhang?
- Bhang is the edible preparation made from the leaves of the cannabis plant, often incorporated into drinks such as thandai and lassi, along with various foods.
- Bhang has been consumed in the Indian subcontinent for centuries, and is frequently consumed during the festivals of Holi and Mahashivratri.
- Its widespread use caught the attention of Europeans, with Garcia da Orta, a Portuguese physician who arrived in Goa in the 16th century, noting that, “Bhang is so generally used and by such a number of people that there is no mystery about it”.
Bhang and the law
- Enacted in 1985, the NDPS Act is the main legislation that deals with drugs and their trafficking.
- Various provisions of the Act punish production, manufacture, sale, possession, consumption, purchase, transport, and use of banned drugs, except for medical and scientific purposes.
- The NDPS Act defines cannabis (hemp) as a narcotic drug based on the parts of the plant that come under its purview. The Act lists these parts as:
- Charas: “The separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish.”
- Ganja: “The flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they be known or designated.”
- “Any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom.”
- The Act, in its definition, excludes seeds and leaves “when not accompanied by the tops”.
- Bhang, which is made with the leaves of the plant, is not mentioned in the NDPS Act.
Cannabis and criminal liability
- Section 20 of the NDPS Act lays out the punishment for the production, manufacture, sale, purchase, import and inter-state export of cannabis, as defined in the Act.
- The prescribed punishment is based on the amount of drugs seized.
- Contravention that involves a small quantity (100 g of charas/hashish or 1 kg of ganja), will result in rigorous imprisonment for a term that may extend to one year and/or a fine which may extend to Rs 10,000.
- For a commercial quantity (1 kg charas/ hashish or 20 kg ganja), rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years, which may extend to 20 years, including a fine that is not less than Rs 1,00,000 but may extend to Rs 2,00,000.
- Where the contravention involves quantity less than commercial, but greater than small quantity, rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years is prescribed, along with a fine which may extend to Rs 1,00,000.