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NDPS Act 1985 (Narcotic Drugs Act)

  • 29 October, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

Context: This topic is important for UPSC Prelims and GS PAPER 2

The NDPS Act 1985 forbids the production, possession, selling, purchase, etc. of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, except for medical and scientific purposes.

The Narcotics Control Bureau works to implement and safeguard the laws made under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

 THE NARCOTICS CONTROL BUREAU under NDPS Act 1985

  • NCB is India's nodal narcotics law enforcement and intelligence agency responsible for countering drug trafficking and illicit drug violence.
  • It operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • It is located in New Delhi.
  • It was formed in March 1986 to allow the full enforcement of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1985.
  • Its mandate is to tackle drug trafficking in India.

 WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE NARCOTICS CONTROL BUREAU under the NDPS Act 1985?

  • The NCB is a nodal agency responsible for coordinating with different ministries, other departments, etc. & State / Central law enforcement agencies concerning drug law enforcement and also concerning Issues Concerning Drug Abuse.
  • The NCB is also responsible for enforcing international obligations against illegal activities.
  • Trafficking in drugs and psychotropic substances under various United Nations Conventions 1961, 1971, 1971,1988, to which India is a member.
  • It also assists concerned authorities in different countries in facilitating universal prevention action.
  • Suppression of the smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
  • It operates in close collaboration with Customs and Central Excise, the Department of State Police, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB), and other national and state-level Indian intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
  • It also offers support and training for law enforcement agency staff in India to tackle drug trafficking. It also tracks the borders of India to track points where international smugglers engage in smuggling activities.

PROVISIONS UNDER THE NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES ACT, 1985

The Narcotics Act is an Act of the Parliament of India that prohibits any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance from being produced/cultivated, owned, sold, purchased, transported, processed, and/or consumed by a person.

  • Narcotic drugs include coca leaf, cannabis (hemp), opium, and poppy straw, as per the NDPS Act.
  • A psychotropic drug includes any natural or synthetic material or any salt or preparation protected by the Psychotropic Substances Convention of 1971.
  • Strict arrangements have been made for the monitoring and regulation of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances under the NDPS Act.
  • The minimum sentence for dealing with drugs, as per the NDPS Act, is 10 years of rigorous imprisonment coupled with an Rs . 1 lakh fine.
  • For all individuals booked under this act, no bail is issued.
  • Also, no relief can be sought by the drug convicts by termination, remission, and commutation of sentences passed.
  • The NDPS Act prescribes capital punishment for repeated drug trafficking offenders.

Conventions related to Drug Abuse 

Various mechanisms of regulation to restrict the use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are given in the following conventions.

  • The UN Single Drugs Drug Convention 1961
  • The Psychotropic Drugs Convention, 1971
  • The Illegal Trade of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Convention, 1988

For all these three conventions, India is a signatory.

The Narcotics act has since been revised three times (1988, 2001, and 2014). 

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF DRUGS ON SOCIETY?

  • Drug abuse is one of the most serious health problems faced by the world today which not only destroys the person involved, but his entire family, the society and the nation at large & spawns antisocial behaviour such as stealing, crime, and violence.
  • Drug abuse adversely affects a country's economic growth by generating large quantities of unaccounted money that is also often used to fund terror and anti-national activities and thus poses a serious threat to national security as well.
  • Drug abuse is associated with higher rates of child abuse, college sexual assaults, prison sentences, and lost productivity coupled with increased work-related injuries.
  • The majority of domestic disputes involve the use of alcohol or drugs. Families with at least one drug-addicted parent are more likely to end up homeless or in poverty and are less likely to have adequate health care.
  • Drugs increase strain on the health care system and increase the rate of mental disorders.
  • In 1987 the United Nations decided to observe June 26th as ‘International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit trafficking, 'to sensitize the people in general and the youth in particular, to the menace of drugs.
  • Throughout the world, about 230 million people use illegal drugs at least once a year, and about 27 million people use drugs in ways that expose them to very serious health problems.
  • The U.N. estimates that illicit drug use causes over 2 lakh deaths globally, most of them being in their mid 30's.
  • Thus, illicit drug use is largely a youth phenomenon in today's world which increases during adolescence and reaches its peak among persons aged 18-25.

 HOW DOES INDIA'S DRUG ABUSE LANDSCAPE LOOK?

  • According to a survey by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, India has more than 70 million drug addicts.
  • Different drugs are prevalent in different states of the country accounting for 1.62 percent of the world's seizures of illegal drugs.
  • Our country records about 10 suicides daily due to drug or alcohol addiction and there were 3,647 such suicide cases in the country in 2014 with Maharashtra reported the highest such cases, followed by Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • Proximity to the largest producers of heroin-the Golden Triangle (Southeast Asia) and Golden Crescent (Afghanistan-Pakistan & Iran) is one of the main reasons for drug trafficking in India. Additionally, Nepal is also a traditional source of cannabis.
  • India is both a destination and a transit route for drug traffickers in these regions.
  • India has been impacted by narco-terrorism as a result of cross-border smuggling.

 Should the NDPS Act be amended?

Certain provisions could be changed to ensure a reformative approach towards addicts.

The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has proposed certain changes to some provisions of the Narcotic Drugs Act  1985. The recommendations have assumed importance in the backdrop of some high-profile drug cases including the recent arrest of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan following a raid on a cruise ship by the Narcotics Control Bureau a few weeks ago.

 Some of the recommendations are:

  • To decriminalise the possession of narcotic drugs in smaller quantities for personal purposes. Another suggestion is that persons using drugs in smaller quantities be treated as victims.
  • TO create a National fund for rehabilitation. The fund can help transform drug addicts and make the job of policing easier.

The Ministry also proposes to refer persons possessing drugs in smaller quantities to government-run rehabilitation centres instead of awarding them jail terms and imposing fines, which seems challenging due to:

  • The proposal to send persons to rehabilitation centres is good on paper but do we have the infrastructure to ensure that it is properly implemented
  • Inadequate de-addiction centre counsellors. India faces an acute shortage of psychiatrists and counsellors.
  • There is a huge paucity of funds for rehab centres.

Procedure to be followed under the NDPS Act 1985

  • The procedure of seizing narcotic drugs is important first.
  •  Section 50 of the Act (conditions under which search of persons shall be conducted) needs to be followed scrupulously.
  • The drugs must be seized in front of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate.
  • 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.
  • 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.

What are the challenges that the police face in enforcing the NDPS Act to take drugs cases to their logical end?

  • The Narcotics Act was brought in 1985. This is a stringent law where the death penalty can be prescribed for repeat offenders.
  •  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.
  • At times requires going beyond the State's jurisdiction, finding the source of narcotic substances and destroying them is another big challenge.
  • Catching the accused cultivating ganja in areas bordering the States too is a herculean task. It gets tougher when ganja is cultivated in areas that are Maoist hideouts.
  • 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.

Some of the best practices in the world

In Iceland, for example, a community-led approach has worked wonders. Iceland witnessed acute drug abuse among its children and youth. The government decided to tackle the issue right from the school level. From introducing aptitude tests which revealed the inclinations of students to persuading parents to keep liquor and cigarettes out of reach of the youth, the country took various measures to tackle the problem and weaned away 70-80% of its young population from drugs. It also helped drastically reduce the usage of drugs.

In the U.S., some States have started permitting the usage of narcotic drugs like marijuana in smaller quantities.

 Can the U.S.A model be replicated in India?

  • Legalisation of drugs usage will only compound the problem. It could lead to the proliferation of drugs. More people will start using it and issues like absenteeism in schools, loss of jobs, income, depression, suicide, and the crime rate could go up, throwing up another new challenge for the police.

 Various Drug abuse forms in India:

There are three types of drugsparty drugs, prescription drugs, and others, namely inhalants (also known as synthetic drugs).

  • By applying Zandu Balm on bread slices and eating them.
  • Use cough syrups to get high.
  • Street children and laborers cannot afford to buy costly narcotic drugs like cocaine and so, they go after cheaper options like glue.
  •  Many street children are addicted to whiteners.

COVA filed a PIL petition in a High Court more than a decade ago. The High Court passed a direction instructing the government to ensure that whiteners are not sold to children below 18 years of age.

Steps that can be taken to check the drug menace in the country:

  • The solution is to decriminalise the usage of drugs. If a person is caught for the first time in a drugs case, be it for possession or usage, they should be sent to a rehabilitation centre. There should be scope for reformation of such persons. Not anybody and everybody connected to drugs cases should be sent to prison. Only repeat offenders should be sent to prison
  • Another three crucial factors we need to adopt to end the drug menace.
  1. 1. Parents have to act as confidants first. Mutual trust should be so strong that children come to them at the first sign of trouble. Sometimes, it could be a friend inducing them to take drugs and once caught, they get trapped in a vicious cycle. Children also learn from parents , watching a parent smoke, the child thinks it’s a cool act to emulate. From here, children go to the next level of taking out tobacco from a cigarette and filling it with weed to get a high.
  2. 2. Second, teachers should keep an eye on school surroundings to ascertain whether anyone is selling hookah pipes or ganja papers. Checking drugs usage is not the job of only the police. The police cannot enter every house and physically check if youngsters are using drugs. Everyone should have a proactive role.
  3. 3. Civil society support is equally important. If everyone joins hands, wiping out drugs usage is not an issue at all.

Way Forward

  • 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.
  • 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 Narcotics Act as of now prescribes jail for everyone
  • Policing is a State subject. It is not in the Concurrent List. So, 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.

Source: The Hindu

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