Understanding the NDPS Act


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In News:

  • An actress and few others have been booked under various sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
  • The NCB has alleged that she used to procure drugs, as well as manage finances for drug procurement.
  • The accused in the case are booked under Sections 8 (c) along with section 20 (b) (ii), 22, 27A, 28, 29 and 30 of the NDPS Act.

About: Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS)

  • A narcotic drug is an addictive drug that reduces pain, induces sleep and may alter mood or behaviour.
  • A psychotropic drug is a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in changes in perception, mood, consciousness or behaviour.
  • Some categories of narcotic and psychoactive drugs, which have therapeutic value, are prescribed by physicians and other healthcare practitioners.
  • These substances are also used illegally (without medical prescription) to improve performance or change one’s consciousness.

About: Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act

  • The NDPS Act, enacted in 1985, is the primary law for dealing with drugs and drug trafficking in the country. The Act has since been amended thrice — in 1988, 2001 and 2014.
  • Under the Act, a wide range of drugs and psychotropic substances, including cannabis, heroin and opium, are considered illegal. The law, however, does not apply to ‘bhang’.
  • The NDPS Act was passed to meet India’s global treaty obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Convention on Psychotropic Substances and United Nations’ Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
Provisions under the NDPS Act:
  • Section 8(c) of the Act prohibits production, manufacture, sale, purchase, transportation and consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substances.
  • Section 20(b)(ii) of the law allows punishment for production, sale, purchase of cannabis.
  • Section 21 provides for punishment of a person who possesses, sells, purchases, transports or imports manufactured drugs.
  • Section 22 of the Act, punishes possession, sale, purchase, transport or import of psychotropic substances.
  • Section 27A provides punishment for financing illicit (illegal) trafficking of drugs and psychotropic substances.
  • Sections 28 and 29 of the Act deal with attempts to commit offences, abetment (assist) and criminal conspiracy.
  • The law makes a distinction between individual drug consumers and drug traffickers. Section 39 of the Act allows courts to release an addict for treatment if found guilty of consumption of drugs.
Punishment under the NDPS Act:
  • Anyone who violates the NDPS Act, will face punishment based on the quantity of the banned substance. The classification of the quantity varies from substance to substance.
  • In case the violation involves a small quantity, the punishment involves rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 year, or a fine or both (imprisonment and fine).
  • In case the violation involves a quantity lesser than commercial quantity but greater than a small quantity, the punishment involves rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and a fine.
  • In case the violation involves a commercial quantity, the punishment involves rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 10 years and may extend to 20 years along with a fine.
  • The maximum punishment that can be given under this Act is the death penalty under Section 31A. However, death penalty can only be given to repeat offenders, on the discretion of a judge.

Criticisms of the NDPS Act:

  • As per a report in 2018 by Vidhi Center for Legal Policy, despite the changing nature and type of drugs consumed over the years, overall addiction and use of such substances has continued in the country.
  • The report claims that the Act does not offer long-term solutions to deal with the problem of drug addiction.
  • The law provides the same punishment for all forms of drugs, which allowed dealers to shift their focus to harder drugs (like heroin), where profits are far higher. This has led to increase in usage of harder drugs.
  • Several human rights bodies, have criticised India for being among the 33 countries in the world that have death penalty in drug-related crimes.
  • Moreover, the Act has been criticised for putting the responsibility on the accused to prove his/her innocence.
  • Unless the accused is proved innocent, it will be believed that the accused intentionally held the illicit drugs that were found in his/her possession, which is against the international human rights principles.

About: Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)

  • As per NDPS Act, the central government can form an authority to exercise its powers for preventing and dealing with abuse of and illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs.
  • The government subsequently constituted the Narcotics Control Bureau in 1986, under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The agency is tasked with coordinating with the state governments and other authorities, under NDPS Act, Customs Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act and any other law, for the enforcement of the provisions of the NDPS Act.
  • The NCB also coordinates actions taken by other concerned ministries, departments and organisations in respect of matters relating to drug abuse.

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