Avoid jail for drug customers, seizure of small quantities: Social justice ministry

In its suggestion to evaluation the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has really useful a extra humane approach, avoiding jail, for drug customers and addicts.

In a advice despatched just a few days in the past, the ministry has sought decriminalising possession of small portions of medication for private consumption. It has prompt amendments to the NDPS Act to deal with those that use medicine or are depending on them as victims, to be referred for de-addiction and rehabilitation, and never sentenced to jail.

Last month, the Department of Revenue — the NDPS Act’s nodal administrative authority — had requested a number of ministries and departments, together with the Home Ministry, Health Ministry, Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, the Narcotics Control Bureau and CBI, to counsel modifications to the regulation, if any, together with their rationale.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment despatched its ideas to the Department of Revenue on this regard.


In line with norms

The Ministry’s stand is in keeping with suggestions of the International Narcotics Control Board, which state that criminalisation of drug use solely perpetuates stigma and may compound the issue. The Board is an impartial, quasi-judicial physique for implementation of the UN’s drug management conventions.

In India, drug consumption or possession is a prison offence. Currently, the NDPS Act solely adopts a reformative approach in direction of addicts. It offers addicts (or dependents) immunity from prosecution and imprisonment (if discovered responsible) in the event that they volunteer for therapy and rehabilitation. However, there’s no provision for reduction or exemption for, say, first-time customers or leisure customers.

For occasion, Section 27 of the NDPS Act prescribes imprisonment of as much as a 12 months or a nice of as much as Rs 20,000, or each, for consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. It makes no distinction between addicts, first-time customers and leisure customers. This is likely one of the provisions for which the ministry has proposed that the jail time period and nice get replaced with obligatory therapy in government-run rehabilitation and counselling centres, for not less than 30 days.

Section 27 has been utilized in a number of high-profile circumstances, the newest being the arrest of actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan in an alleged drug bust on a cruise ship.

In the case of sections coping with punishment for possession of various medicine and psychotropic substances, the ministry has prompt that the regulation exclude these caught with “small quantities” (meant just for private consumption) from a jail time period. Compulsory therapy in authorities centres has additionally been really useful for them.

Small portions underneath the NDPS Act imply quantities lower than these specified by the Union authorities by a notification within the Official Gazette. For occasion, the federal government has set 100 grams because the restrict for a small amount of hashish, and a couple of grams in case of cocaine.

The NDPS was framed in 1985, considering India’s obligations to the UN conventions. The Act prohibits commerce, manufacturing, use and possession of medication and psychotropic substances, regardless of goal, aside from medical and scientific causes. However, circumstances of possession for private consumption or circumstances of drug use make up a majority of the NDPS circumstances. According to a examine launched by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy final 12 months, 97.7% of NDPS circumstances in Maharashtra in 2017 and 97.3% circumstances in 2018 concerned have been that of “possession for personal consumption”.