No respite for victims of drug addiction
IFP Editorial: The general allegation is that the new rule is giving more power to the police personnel to harass and victimise the drug users while on the other hand, it provides a free hand to the drug peddlers and mafias.
Updated on 29 Oct 2021, 7:01 pm
Representational Image (PHOTO: IFP)
The recent case of cruise ship drug bust case involving actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan has thrown up certain questions on Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) with regard to the distinction between big time drug smugglers and petty dealers or drug addicts who were arrested with small amounts of drugs meant for consumption. The law somehow has failed to explain what constitutes consumption leaving it to the enforcement agency to interpret it on a case to case basis if an offence has taken place. Perhaps that is the reason why the law is being misused to keep consumers caught with even small quantities, in police custody without bail or behind bars for a long time. In the current scenario, the lines between procurement, consumption, and financing seem to have been blurred. While drug traffickers are booked under stringent sections of the Act, consumers can also be punished with imprisonment for up to a year in certain circumstances or sent to de-addiction centres. Which is exactly why as many as 18 organisations including several student bodies had strongly condemned the state Ordinance on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as unconstitutional and regressive. They say the Ordinance only targets the drug users, not drug lords. The Ordinance, which the state cabinet passed on October 15 was basically aimed at enhancing the quantum of punishment of persons arrested with ‘small quantity’ and intermediate quantity of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. We do not have anything to say regarding the unconstitutionality of the Ordinance as it cannot bypass the procedure of having it approved by the state Governor and the President of India, and that the approval of the state Cabinet does not give a finality to the issue at hand. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 popularly known as NDPS Act in short is a Central act and any modification requires the approval of the Central government.
According to this Act, any person found with the possession of prohibited drugs is differentiated by the quantity as defined under small quantity and commercial quantity. Another category which is beyond the ‘small quantity’ but not up to the commercial quantity prescribed has been referred to as intermediate. The definition of small quantity or commercial quantity differs according to the drugs or psychotropic substances so mentioned. For example, 2 grams and 50 grams are listed as small quantities and commercial quantities in terms of amphetamine, while it is 5 grams and 250 grams in terms of heroin. The differentiation is there for others like Charas, Cocaine, Ganja, LSD, Methadone, Morphine and Opium etc. The state government’s explanation regarding the proposed Ordinance is that Manipur’s situation is different from other states in the country because of the high percentage of drug abuse due to its proximity to the infamous Golden Triangle and thus it has become imperative to enhance the penal provisions for seizure of drugs in small quantities to make a deterrent for repeated and small drug peddlers from getting easy bail. The public complaint is that under the new rule, there is no clear demarcation between a drug user and a drug peddler. Both are considered as one entity and recommended for stern punishment. The general allegation is that the new rule is giving more power to the police personnel to harass and victimise the drug users while on the other hand, it provides a free hand to the drug peddlers and mafias. Again, if any person who is found possessing drugs for personal consumption is arrested and put behind bars, then it comes to the conclusion that nobody is allowed to take drugs for any purpose whatsoever. This calls into question, the Oral Substitution Therapy (OST), Needle Syringe Exchange Program (NSEP) and other harm reduction programmes taken up under the supervision of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and implemented by Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MACS).We understand the state government’s intention to usher in a deterrent to small time drug users in view of the rising drug abuse in the state by enhancing the penalties. What we fail to understand is why it chose to leave out the penalty provisions of persons dealing in commercial quantities of drugs and psychotropic substances for that matter drug smugglers and drug lords in the Ordinance.