This Article is written by Adv.HimanjaliGautam, an Advocate at the Supreme Court of India, Founding-Partner at Chambers of HimanjaliGautam, Ex-President- Law Centre 2, Faculty of Law DU, Columnist, Public Speaker and TV Personality.
Drugs have become a scourge in India and are one of the prime causes of concerns. The sudden demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput has opened up a pandora’s box and several questions pertaining to the issue of drug usage have cropped up. Rhea Chakraborty has been arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on stringent charges of the NDPS Act,1985 which entail a minimum punishment of 10 years if found guilty. Top actress Deepika Padukone along with Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh has been summoned by the Narcotics Central Bureau. The BJP MP, Ravi Kishan has raised drugs-related allegations that have emerged against the film industry in the Sushant Singh Rajput probe. On the other hand, Jaya Bachchan, veteran actor and Samajwadi Party MP, slammed Ravi Kishan for his remarks in the Lok Sabha and charged that the film industry was being defamed, saying “Jis thaali me khaate hain usi me chhed karte hain.” While some people stand in support and solidarity with Rhea Chakraborty, the other half has been miffed with the silence of various celebrities of the Bollywood, which has caused a knee-deep divide in the nation. This particular case has garnered a juggernaut of reactions and has become the talk of the town. On the other hand, the Central Crime Bureau of the Bengaluru City Police (CCB) stepped up its probe in the sandalwood industry drug scandal of the Kannada movie industry.
WHAT IS THE NDPS ACT, 1985?
Narcotics is an addictive drug that in moderate doses dulls the senses, relieves pain, and induces profound sleep mood or behaviour but in excessive doses causes stupor, coma, or convulsions. The psychotropic substance is any drug or other substance that affects how the brain works and causes changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behaviour including prescription drugs and commonly misused drugs. Some of the examples include alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, and certain pain medicines. Many illegal drugs, such as heroin, LSD, cocaine, and amphetamines are also psychotropic substances. The NDPS Act is an Act of the Parliament of India that prohibits a person to produce/manufacture/cultivate, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store, and/or consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. India had no legislation regarding narcotics until 1985.
Rhea has been slapped with the charge of procuring, consumption, arrangement and administering of drugs. Shehas been booked under Section 8(c), Section 20(b), Section 27, Section 28 and Section 29 of the NDPS Act, 1985.
Section 8(c) of the Act reads,” produces, manufactures, possesses, sells, purchases, transports, imports inter-state, exports inter-state or uses cannabis shall be punishable.” This is punishable with imprisonment upto 10 years and fine which may extend upto one lakh rupees. Section 20(b) talks about punishment for contravention in relation to cannabis plant and cannabis. Section 27(a) deals with the punishment for financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders, whereas Section 28 is in relation to punishment for attempts to commit offences. Section 29 states the punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy.
Its main objective is to consolidate and amend the existing laws and make these provision stringent to control and regulate the operations relating to narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances. It also focuses on enhancing penalties and making provisions for the implementation of international conventions.
PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS ACT
- No person shall cultivate any coca plant or gathering any portion of the coca plant.
- No person shall cultivate the opium poppy or any cannabis plant.
- No person shall produce, manufacture, possess, sell, purchase, transport, warehouse, use, consume, import inter-State, export inter-State import into India, export from India or tranship any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, except for medical or scientific purposes and in the manner and to the extent provided by the provisions of this act.
- No person shall deal in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.
- No person shall handle or let any premises for use for any of the purpose related to any of the aforesaid acts.
- No person shall finance any activity by himself or through any other person in the furtherance or in support of doing any of the aforesaid acts
- No person shall harbour any person engaged in any of the above-said activities.
- No person shall abet or conspire in the furtherance or in support of doing any of the aforesaid acts except to the extent permitted by issuing order or rule and made a condition of any licence, permit or authorization under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
Anyone who contravenes the provisions mentioned in the NDPS Act, 1985 will face the punishment based on the quantity of the banned substance.
- where the contravention involves small quantity (<1 kg):
Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months or with fine which may extend to Rs.10, 000 or both.
- where the contravention involves quantity lesser than a commercial quantity but greater than small quantity:
Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and with fine which may extend to Rs.1 lakh.
- where the contravention involves commercial quantity:
Rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 10 years but which may extend to 20 years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than 1 lakh but which may extend to Rs.2 lakhs.
DRUG ABUSE IN INDIA: CURRENT AND FUTURE CHALLENGES
Following the inception of the NDPS Act, 1985 in the last three decades, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has conducted two nation-wide drug surveys, published in 2004 and 2019. The results of these surveys suggest that drug use in India continues to grow rampantly. Opioid use has increased from 0.7 per cent in the previous report to a little less than 2 per cent in the present one – in terms of magnitude from two million to more than 22 million. More disturbingly, heroin has replaced the natural opioids (opium and poppy husk) as the most commonly abused opioids. Alarge-scale epidemiological study from Punjab also concurred with this finding. The uses of other synthetic drugs and cocaine have also increased significantly. The survey results suggest a need to strengthen our existing system, to have a more concerted effort and a need to fix the loopholes.
Drugs can take a serious toll on our health. The consequences could be long-lasting and permanent. They can even continue after a person has stopped taking the substance. At present, India has a huge “at-risk” population vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction. Greater the involvement in substance abuse more is the violence and criminality. Consumption of drugs has become a “fashionable” trend and a status symbol lately and is no longer considered to be a taboo.
Today, more than 7 million people suffer from an illicit drug disorder, and one in four deaths results from illicit drug use. In fact, more deaths, illnesses and disabilities are associated with drug abuse than any other preventable health condition. People suffering from drug and alcohol addiction also have a higher risk of unintentional injuries, accidents and domestic violence incidents. The drug cartel which has been exposed in the present case is a welcome move and would act as a deterrent. India has to take early, proactive and decisive steps to address drug problems. Though the government has an over-encompassing blueprint, committed workforce and several dedicated programmes and policies at its disposal, there is a need to improve the current programmes (to address the needs that have not met), to have a coordinated effort between Ministries, incurring uniformity at the policy level, to make scientifically informed choices and to strengthen the supply reduction chains.