The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was enacted to control and regulate narcotic drugs. Read here to know the details of the act.
A Bill to replace an ordinance amending the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 was introduced in the Lok Sabha and passed on December 13. Rajya Sabha passed Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The Bill was introduced by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to amend the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 aiming to correct a drafting error created by a 2014 amendment to the original legislation.
Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985
“The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (the NDPS Act) was enacted to consolidate and amend the law relating to narcotic drugs, to make stringent provisions for the control and regulation of operation relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, to provide for the forfeiture of property derived from, or used in, illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and to implement the provisions of the International Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and for matters connected therewith.”
The Act regulated operations like manufacture, transport, and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
Under the Act, financing certain illicit activities like cultivating cannabis, manufacturing narcotic drugs, or harbouring persons engaged in them is an offence.
Persons found guilty of this offence will be punished with rigorous imprisonment of at least 10 years, extendable up to 20 years, and a fine of at least Rs.1 lakh. It also provides for forfeiture of property derived from or used in, illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. It also provides for the death penalty in some cases where a person is a repeat offender.
The NDPS Act has since been amended thrice – in 1988, 2001, and 2014. The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies also to all Indian citizens outside India and to all persons on ships and aircraft registered in India.
The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) was constituted in 1986 under the Act.
Amendments to NDPS Act
1989: NDPS Act amended with strict provisions with sections added including under section 27A for financing illicit traffic.
Illicit traffic means production, possession, sale, purchase, transportation, warehousing, user booked under Section 27A.
2001: Act amended to rationalize sentencing. The act was now easy on addicts and the bail was also liberalized.
2014: A substantial amendment was made to the NDPS Act to allow for better medical access to narcotic drugs. It defined “essential drugs”; under Section 9 and allowed the manufacture, possession, transport, import inter-State, export inter-State, sale, purchase, consumption, and use of essential narcotic drugs.
Also read: Drug Regulation in India
The NDPS (Amendment) Bill, 2021
The NDPS (Amendment) Bill, 2021 would replace an ordinance promulgated in September to correct a drafting error in a 2014 amendment to the Act.
The anomaly crept in when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was amended in 2014 to allow better medical access to narcotic drugs, removing state barriers in transporting and licensing of “essential narcotic drugs”.
Before the 2014 amendment, clause (viii-a) of Section 2 contained sub-clauses (i) to (v), which defined the term “illicit traffic”. This clause was re-lettered as clause (viii-b) by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2014, as a new clause (viii-a) in section 2 defining ‘essential narcotic drugs’ was inserted. However, inadvertently consequential change was not carried out in section 27A of the NDPS Act.
Section 27A of the NDPS Act:
The provision reads that whoever indulges in the financing, directly or indirectly, any of the activities specified in sub-clauses (i) to (v) of clause (viii-a) of section 2 or harbors any person engaged in any of the aforementioned activities. He shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to twenty years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees but which may extend to two lakh rupees:
- Provided that the court may, for reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a fine exceeding two lakh rupees.
Section 27A became inoperable because:
- The text of the provision says that offences mentioned under Section 2(viii-a) sub-clauses i-v are punishable through Section 27A.
- However, Section 2 (viii-a) sub-clauses i-v, which is supposed to be the catalogue of offences, does not exist after the 2014 amendment.
- So, if Section 27A penalizes a blank list or a non-existent provision, it can be argued that it is virtually inoperable.
Criticisms of the amendment to NDPS act
Few experts have observed that the Bill violated the fundamental rights of a citizen as it provides retrospective effect to offences starting in 2014.
It also violates the fundamental rights in Article 21 because you can be punished for an offence for which there is a law in existence at the time of the commission of the offence.
Government initiatives against drug addiction
- The Narco Coordination Centre (NARCOD) was constituted in 2016 and the scheme of “Financial Assistance to States for Narcotics Control” was revived.
- Seizure Information Management System: The Narcotics Control Bureau has been provided funds for developing a new software i.e. Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) which will create a complete online database of drug offenses and offenders.
- National Drug Abuse Survey: The government is also conducting a National Drug Abuse Survey to measure trends of drug abuse in India through the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment with the help of the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre of AIIMS.
- Project Sunrise: It was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2016, to tackle the rising HIV cases in north-eastern states in India, especially among people injecting drugs.
- NDPS Act: It prohibits a person from producing, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, storing, and/or consuming any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
- Nasha Mukt Bharat: The government has also announced the launch of the Nasha Mukt Bharat or Drug-Free India Campaign which focuses on community outreach programs.