Should the NDPS Act be amended?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDPS Act

Mains level : Substance abuse in India

  • 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.

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.

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.

Issues with the NDPS Act

Ans. 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.

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.

Is there any scope of mi-use?

  • It is not possible at all. Once cannot manage all the people all the time.
  • Since the seizure procedure is to be followed, there could be one Magistrate at the time of seizing drugs, another during further investigation and a different Magistrate at the time of trial.
  • Moreover, governments can change.

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.

Other Challenges

(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.

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.

Conclusion

  • 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.

 

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