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Bill to correct drafting error in NDPS Act introduced

Context:

A Bill to replace an ordinance amending the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 was introduced in the Lok Sabha, with some MPs opposing it on technical grounds.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives, Issues Arising Out of the Design and Implementation of Policies), GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Organized Crime and Terrorism)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985
  2. Key provisions and other Highlights of the NDPS act
  3. Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)
  4. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985

  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 prohibits a person the production/manufacturing/cultivation, possession, sale, purchasing, transport, storage, and/or consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. (India had no legislation regarding narcotics until 1985.)
  • 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 Act is designed to fulfill India’s treaty obligations – India is a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the Convention on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.
  • The Narcotics Control Bureau was set up under the act with effect from 1986.
  • The Act is in line with the DPSP is Article 47 of the Constitution: Article 47 of The Constitution of India is one of the Directive Principles which directs the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health

Key provisions and other Highlights of the NDPS act

  • The Act provides stringent provisions for the control and regulation of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
  • It also provides for forfeiture of property derived from, or used in, illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
  • It also provides for death penalty in some cases where a person is a repeat offender.
  • Penalties depend on the quantity of drugs involved. The Centre has notified the small and commercial quantities for each drug.
  • Addicts volunteering for treatment enjoy immunity from prosecution.
  • According to the act: Narcotic drugs include coca leaf, cannabis, opium and poppy straw while the psychotropic substances refer to any natural or synthetic material or any salt or preparation that is protected by the Psychotropic Substances Convention of 1971.
  • All the offences under the Act are non-bailable and the property acquired from a person from drug-related offences can be seized, frozen and forfeited by the government, provided that the offender has been convicted under the Act.

Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)

  • The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is a statutory body, under the Ministry of Home Affairs, established under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
  • NCB is tasked with combating drug trafficking and the use of illegal substances under the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
  • The NCB is responsible for coordination with the Indian state governments and other central departments, implementation of India’s international obligations with regard to drug trafficking, and assisting international and foreign drug law enforcement agencies.

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021

About the need for the NDPS Amendment Bill 2021

  • The NDPS (Amendment) Bill, 2021 would replace an ordinance promulgated earlier in September 2021 to correct a drafting error in a 2014 amendment to the Act.
  • The primary aim of the 2021 bill is to rectify an error that made provisions in Section 27 of the Act — providing for punishment of those financing illicit trafficking — inoperable.
  • When the Act was amended in 2014 to ease access of narcotic drugs for medical necessities – the penal provision was not amended accordingly.
  • The drafting error was highlighted when an accused moved a special court in Tripura contending that he could not be charged for the offence as Section 27 A is referred to a blank list. The Tripura High Court subsequently asked the Centre to amend the law.
  • 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”.
  • Prior to the 2014 amendment, clause (viiia) of Section 2 of the Act, contained sub-clauses (i) to (v), wherein the term ‘illicit traffic’ had been defined.
  • This clause was re-lettered as clause (viiib) by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2014, as a new clause (viiia) in section 2 defining ‘essential narcotic drugs’ was inserted. However, inadvertently consequential change was not carried out in section 27A of the NDPS Act.

Criticisms surrounding the Bill

  • Few experts have observed that the Bill violated the fundamental rights of a citizen as it provides retrospective effect to offences starting 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 commission of the offence.

-Source: The Hindu

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