Drug Trafficking
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This article is written by Komal Kumari, a 4th year student of BA.LLB in Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida. The article focuses on the aspects of Drug Possession, types of drugs, and the drug control strategy and policies laid down by the Central government.

“Smoke away your worries.” In our country, individuals love to get high on weeds. Isn’t this an irony that the possession of drugs has so many aspects, the first one that we have on our hands is that we give such a huge importance to our culture, our mythology, we are known as the land of shiva, whom we worship and to whom we offer bhaang (a kind of drug) as in holistic manner an offering to the lord, distribute as the offering (prasad) on occasions like holi, akha teej, etc, unlike other countries we have a cultural connection of using certain natural forms of narcotic substances for celebrating some religious festivals and on the other hand we have banned the possession of the same substance and termed it as illegal in the country because it has repercussions or rather a huge impact on the health of any individual consuming it and does lead to serious crimes of trafficking, drug abuse and serious impact on the economy as well. The use of drugs leads to a number of criminal activities and family disintegration. The war on drugs has resulted in crimes ranging from blue-collar to white-collar crimes. In this era when terrorism is a global threat, drugs are used in the form of funding for terrorist activities. All of these require proper and effective laws to fight the evils of drug possession. 

Types of Drugs 

OPIUM – Papaver Somniferum, commonly known as the opium poppy, is a species of flowering plant in the family Papaveraceae. It is a plant that grows in many countries around the world with a moderate climate. Raw Opium is a non-homogeneous material, sticky, tar-like and dark brown when it is fresh, and becomes brittle and hard as it ages. Opium contains a class of naturally occurring alkaloids known as opiates which includes Morphine, Thebaine, Codeine, Papaverine, Noscapine and Oripavine. Heroin is synthesized from Opium.

Medical Opium: The Opium that undergoes the necessary process to adapt for medical use as per the requirements of the central government.

Morphine: This is also known as Mud, Morf, Morpho or Goma etc. This is a refined version of opium formed by mixing opium gum with Lime water and a few organic solvents.

Heroine: This is also known as Brown Sugar, Mexican Mud, Smack, Crap, Horse, Junk and Big H etc. It is made when morphine is further refined by treating it with acetylene anhydride (AC20).

Codeine: Another derivative of opium which is usually found in cough syrups.

Poppy straw – The husk left after the extraction of opium from the pods. It consists of small quantities of morphine, which is used as a drug.

Trafficking trend – Tra­fficking of Opium mainly takes place in Punjab, Rajasthan, M.P., Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur and Gujarat.

HEROIN – Heroin is also known as di-acetyl morphine, is an opioid made from morphine, after processing it with Acetic Anhydride. It comes out in a variety of colours ranging from white, o white and brown to grey. Colours also depend on the impurities added as it passes through a number of hands due to successive levels of adulteration. The South West Asian origin Heroin (white and brownish mostly) that enters India through the Indo-Pak border has a higher level of purity.

Trafficking trends – Major tra­fficking of Heroin in India takes place through Indo-Pakistan border mainly in the states of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. From these states Heroin is tra­fficked into other states.

CANNABIS – Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. The Cannabis, produced from the Cannabis sativa plant, is used in three forms: herbal Cannabis, the dried leaves and flowering tops. Cannabis is also known as ‘Ganja,’ or ‘Weed’. Cannabis resin, the pressed secretions of the plant, known as ‘Hashish’ or ‘Charas;’ and Cannabis oil, a mixture resulting from distillation or extraction of active ingredients of the plant.

Trafficking trends – Traffi­cking from the North-East India to eastern states is mainly by surface transport. Tra­fficking in substantial quantities takes place across India – Nepal border and in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tripura. The main transit routes for Ganja are through Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland and Chhattisgarh.

HASHISH – Hashish, or Charas, is a drug made from cannabis. Hashish is cannabis resin. Generally, Hashish is extracted from the plants by rubbing the flowering tops of the plant between the palms of the hand or on rubber sheets.

Trafficking trends – Charas/Hashish is derived from the illicit cannabis cultivation by the drug tra­ffickers especially in the districts of South Kashmir and Kullu in Himachal Pradesh. There is a trend of traffi­cking of Charas from Kashmir to Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Goa & Gujarat. Charas is also tra­fficked from Nepal to India.

COCAINE – Cocaine is a powerful addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. It is known as a street drug, it looks like a fine, white, crystal powder. The primary markets are North America and Europe. In India, cultivation of coca plant is not done. However, Cocaine is mainly smuggled in by West African drug tra­ckers.

Trafficking trends – Smuggling of cocaine is mostly being done by African nationals based in India. Instances of Cocaine being smuggled from Argentina, Brazil and South America have also come to notice. Seizures of Cocaine in India have been made mostly at the airports. The trafficking of small quantities of Cocaine is usually done through parcels hidden in common household articles like food items, utensils, cosmetics, books, and clothing.

ACETIC ANHYDRIDE – One of the largest producers of Acetic Anhydride for legitimate usage is India. It is widely used by the pharmaceutical and textile industries in India as well as being used for the illicit manufacture of Heroin.

Trafficking trends

  1. The medicines having narcotic/psychotropic components are under the dual control of Drugs and Cosmetic Act as well as the NDPS Act, the latter being more stringent.
  2. There also exists a loose regime of over the counter sale of drugs under the category of dispensation against valid prescriptions.
  3. Abuse of pharmaceutical drugs is prevalent in virtually all states of northern India. 
  4. Abuse of Codeine Based Cough Syrups. 
  5. Tra­fficking of CBCS is mainly along the border, especially at Indo-Bangladesh. Codeine based cough syrups are mainly tra­cked from Northern states like U.P, Delhi, Bihar to Northeastern states by road in trucks and railway parcels and there to Bangladesh. CBCS brands like Corex, Phensedyl, Recodex are abused and traf­ficked. 
  6. Abuse of Depressants: Alprazolam, Diazapam, Clonazepam, Lorazapam, Benzodiazepine etc. 
  7. Tramadol is used like codeine. It is not covered under NDPS Act, 1985. It is a Schedule ‘H’ drug under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and can only be dispensed under the prescription of a registered Medical Practitioner. Tramadol is also not included in any of the Schedules of 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. It is banned in many of the countries resulting in the smuggling through India.Tramadol is traffi­cked via courier and manual means to countries like US, Canada etc. The notification of tramadol under NDPS Act is under consideration. 
  8. Ayurvedic tablets containing Opium like Kamini Vidrawan Ras, Barshasa. 
  9. Diversion of tablets containing Ephedrine/ Pseudo-ephedrine. 
  10. Use of Internet for smuggling these pharmaceutical drugs is on the rise.
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Psychotropic Substance 

Seven (7) NPS were notified under NDPS Act as per recommendation of 59th Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Out of 7 NPS, 5 were notified as Psychotropic Substances. The name of a few chemicals scheduled as Psychotropic Substances are as follows:

  1. Para-methoxymethylamphetamine (PMMA), is notified as ‘Psychotropic Substance’.
  2. pyrrolidinovalerophenone (PVP), is notified as ‘Psychotropic Substance’.
  3. methoxetamine (MXE), is notified as ‘Psychotropic Substance’.
  4. Phenazepam, is notified as ‘Psychotropic Substance’.

Is it illegal to be high?

It is illegal to be high in India as provided under Section 27 of the NDPS Act, which provides for the punishment for the consumption of any Narcotic drugs or psychotropic substance stating that any individual who consumes any kind of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances would be punishable, if the substance which has been consumed is morphine, cocaine, diacetyl-morphine or any other narcotic drug or any psychotropic substance as may be specified by the Central Government in this behalf with a stringent punishment of imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or to pay a fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees,or with both. If the narcotic drug or psychotropic substance consumed is other than those mentioned above than the punishment would be imprisonment for a term which mav extend to six months, or to pay the fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.

With the exception of scientific and medical purposes the following actions pertaining to drugs are termed as illegal:

  • Cultivation or growing opium, poppy or any cannabis plant.
  • Possessing any kind of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.
  • Sale or purchase of narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
  • Using raw materials from the source for making of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
  • Carrying or transporting narcotic drug or psychotropic substance from one state to another, into union territory, importing or exporting from the country.
  • Consumption of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substance.
  • Ware-housing or storing large quantities of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.

Felony drug possession 

The term Felony originated from English Common law, it is defined as a crime of a serious nature, it can be violent as well as non-violent. Felonies are punishable by imprisonment for a minimum term of one year, to which additional punishment including capital punishment can be included. Crimes are usually divided into two heads, felonies and misdemeanours based on nature and the punishment (maximum punishment) which can be imposed. Felony involves serious misconduct that is punishable by death. The NDPS Act, 1985 had the provision of death penalty for subsequent convictions for trafficking large quantities of drugs under Section 31A of the act but through the amendment of 2014 the provision of the death penalty has been made discretionary for the judge by providing a sentence for 30 years. But on the other hand, this same amendment increased the punishment for “small quantity” offences to 1 year from a maximum period of 6 months. Therefore, the offences related to large quantities of drugs can be termed as felony.

Drug Trafficking 

Drug trafficking is the term used for referring the cultivation, production, consumption, import, export or smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances at national as well as international level. There is a huge menace of drug trafficking, that is required to be controlled and for the same Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances Act was enacted. International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is celebrated on June 26, this is an act initiated by the world community to make the people aware of the menace of drug abuse and especially the youth. 

There are various internal and external factors contributing to the drug trafficking scenario in India. The geographical location of India is as such, it makes it vulnerable to transit, trafficking and consumption of Opium derivatives in various forms along the known trafficking routes. One of the major external factors is related to be India’s close proximity to the major Opium producing regions of SouthEast and SouthWest Asia known as the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the ‘Golden Triangle’. A few of the internal factors which are responsible for drug trafficking are illicit cultivation of Poppy and the diversion of Opium sources from the licit sources into illicit production in interior areas.

The major reason of illicit drug trafficking is the geographical location of India, making our country as the transit country since a long time resulting in the smuggling of drugs into the country as well as out of the country, leading to the problem of drug control in India. In order to fight the problem of smuggling and trafficking, India has developed various policies and strategies i.e., Enforcing and surveying the import, export points and land borders, trying to improve the coordination between the various drug law enforcement agencies, intercepting and preventing the movement along the known drug routes, international co-operation to facilitate coordination and universal action, strengthening the intelligence apparatus for improving the analysis, collection, collation and dissemination of operational intelligence.

The concern of Supreme Court regarding drug trafficking can be described through the case of Durand Didier vs Chief Secretary, Union Territory, 1989 AIR 1966, 1989 SCR (3)1025, where the court stated that With deep concern, we may point out that the organised activities of the underworld and the clandestine smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into this country and illegal trafficking in such drugs and substances have led to drug addiction among a sizable section of the public, particularly adolescents and students of both sexes and the menace has assumed serious and alarming proportions in the recent years. Therefore, in order to effectively control and eradicate this proliferating and booming devastating menace, causing deleterious effects and deadly impact on the society as a whole, the Parliament in its wisdom, has made effective provisions by introducing this Act 81 of 1985 specifying mandatory minimum imprisonment and fine.”

Possession of drugs on school grounds 

Youngsters and teenagers always try to be adventurous and want to try out new things through which they can prove that they can do things. This is the age when the addicts usually get initiated into drugs abuse. Through a survey conducted by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) on the orders of the Delhi High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee. It was found that 12,627, or roughly around 16.8% of 75,037 students across 368 schools are using substances. Out of this, 8,182 students were using betel nuts (supari) mixed with dried opium shells; 2,613 students chewed tobacco; 1,410 students smoked beedis and cigarettes; 231 consumed alcohol; and 191 used inhalants such as fluid, petrol, sulochan (an industrial glue) and injectable drugs.

Section 32B of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act mentions that if the offence is committed in any educational institution or social service facility or even in the immediate vicinity of such institution or facility or in other places to which school children and students resort for educational, sports and social activities’ as one of the aggravating factors which may be considered by the Court for imposing higher than the minimum penalty prescribed for the offence. And in to tackle the problem of sale of drugs to school and college children: 

  1. The Local police shall pay special attention to areas surrounding schools and colleges in their efforts to tackle drug peddlers. 
  2. Schools and colleges will be encouraged to look out for peddlers in their vicinity and report them to police. 
  3. Schools and colleges will be encouraged to conduct surveys (possibly anonymous) to assess the levels of drug addiction among their students, and if addicted students can be identified, counselling sessions with their parents or wards to find medical help them from fighting this addiction. 
  4. Inclusion of a comprehensive chapter on drug abuse, illicit trafficking and its socio-economic cost to self, society and the country by the Central and State Education Authorities.
  5. Constitution of Anti-Drug Club in schools and colleges to promote a drug free life among its members and also in the institution.

First time possession charge 

The degree of punishment under the NDPS Act is devised not on the type of activity but to the proportional amount which is being carried. As per the Indian government, narcotic offence is more heinous than murder because the latter affects only an individual while the former leaves its deleterious impact on society. Nevertheless, drug dependant people, who are charged with the consumption of drugs or with an offence involving small quantity can choose to undergo medical treatment and get exempted from prosecution as provided under Section 64A of the said act. As per this section any individual who is charged with an offence punishable under Section 27 of the act which mentions the punishment for consumption of these substances or with offences involving small quantity of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, can voluntarily opt to undergo medical treatment for de-addiction from a hospital, an institution maintained/recognised by the Government or a local authority, shall not be liable to prosecution under section 27 or under any other section for offences involving small quantity of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances. This immunity can be withdrawn if the individual does not undergo the complete treatment for de-addiction.

Punishment for Drug Possession 

The punishment under the NDPS Act depends on the quantity of drugs involved, here is a list of a few drugs and the quantity as specified under the Act: 

Drug

Small Quantity

Commercial Quantity

Amphetamine

2 grams

50 grams

Buprenorphine 

1 gram

20 grams

Charas/Hashish

100 grams

1 kg

Cocaine

2 grams

100 grams

Codeine

10 grams

1 kg

Diazepam

20 grams

500 grams

Ganja

1 kg

20 kg

Heroin

5 grams

250 grams

MDMA

0.5 grams

10 grams

Methamphetamine

2 grams

50 grams

Methaqualone

20 grams

500 grams

Morphine

5 grams

250 grams

Poppy Straw

1 kg

50 kg

  1. Punishment in relation to the violation of provisions related to poppy straw, prepared opium, opium poppy and opium, cannabis plant and cannabis, as mentioned in Section 15, 17, 18 & 20 of NDPS Act as- 
  2. Anyone who violates the provision of this act, or any other rule or condition of license mentioned under this Act, by producing, manufacturing, possessing, purchasing, selling, transporting, importing or exporting inter-state will be punishable with- 
    1. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to one year, or a fine which may be extended to ten thousand rupees or with both if the contravention involves small quantity.
    2. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to ten years, and a fine which may be extended to one lakh rupees if the contravention involves quantity less than commercial quantity but more than small quantity.
    3. Rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of ten years and can be extended to twenty years, and also a fine for a minimum amount of one lakh rupees and may be extended to two lakh rupees if the contravention involves commercial quantity.
    4. And if the reasons that have been recorded by the court, the fine imposed can exceed two lakh rupees.
  1. Punishment in relation to violation of provision by cultivating any Cannabis plant as provided in Section 20 of NDPS Act as- 
    1. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to ten years and also a fine which may be extended to one lakh rupees if the contravention is the cultivation of cannabis.
  2. Punishment in relation to violation of provision related to coca plant and coca leaves as provided in Section 16 of NDPS Act as- 
    1. Anyone who violates the provision of this act, or any other rule or condition of license mentioned under this Act, by cultivating any coca plant or gathering any portion of the same or by producing, manufacturing, possessing, purchasing, selling, transporting, importing or exporting inter-state or uses coca leaves will be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to ten years with a fine which can be extended to one lakh rupees.
  3. Punishment in relation to embezzlement of opium by cultivator as provided in Section 19 of NDPS Act as-
    1. Any cultivator, who is licensed to cultivate opium poppy, embezzles or illegally disposes off the opium produced or any other part of it will be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of ten years and which may be extended to twenty years with a minimum fine of one lakh rupees which can be extended to two lakh rupees.
    2. And if the reasons that have been recorded by the court, the fine imposed can exceed two lakh rupees.
  4. Punishment in relation to the violation of provisions related to psychotropic substances, manufactured drugs and preparations, as mentioned in Section 21 & 22 of NDPS Act as- 
    1. Anyone who violates the provision of this act, or any other rule or condition of license mentioned under this Act, by manufacturing, possessing, purchasing, selling, transporting, importing or exporting inter-state or uses any psychotropic substances, manufactured drugs and preparations, will be punishable with- 
      1. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to one year, or a fine which may be extended to ten thousand rupees or with both if the contravention involves small quantity.
      2. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to ten years, and a fine which may be extended to one lakh rupees if the contravention involves quantity less than commercial quantity but more than small quantity.
      3. Rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of ten years and can be extended to twenty years, and also a fine for a minimum amount of one lakh rupees and may be extended to two lakh rupees if the contravention involves commercial quantity.
      4. And if the reasons that have been recorded by the court, the fine imposed can exceed two lakh rupees.
  5. Punishment in relation to illegal import into India, export from India or transhipping narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, as mentioned in Section 23 of NDPS Act as- 
    1. Anyone who violates the provision of this act, or any other rule or condition of license mentioned under this Act, imports into India export from India or transhipping narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, will be punishable with-
      1. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to one year, or a fine which may be extended to ten thousand rupees or with both if the contravention involves small quantity.
      2. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to ten years, and a fine which may be extended to one lakh rupees if the contravention involves quantity less than commercial quantity but more than a small quantity.
      3. Rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of ten years and can be extended to twenty years, and also a fine for a minimum amount of one lakh rupees and may be extended to two lakh rupees if the contravention involves commercial quantity.
      4. And if the reasons that have been recorded by the court, the fine imposed can exceed two lakh rupees.
  6. Punishment in relation to violation of Section 12 which provides the restrictions over external dealings in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, is mentioned in Section 24 of NDPS Act as- 
    1. Anyone who gets involved or controls any trade through which any kind of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substance is supplied to any person outside India or obtained outside India without prior authorisation of the Central government or as per the guidance provided will be punishable with-
      1. Rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of ten years and which may be extended to twenty years with a minimum fine of one lakh rupees which can be extended to two lakh rupees.
      2. And if the reasons that have been recorded by the court, the fine imposed can exceed two lakh rupees.
  7. Section 25 provides the punishment for knowingly allowing one’s premises to be used for commission of an offence as- 
    1. The same punishment that has been awarded for that particular offence.
  8. Punishment in relation to violations pertaining to controlled substances, as mentioned in Section 25A of NDPS Act as- 
    1. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to ten years, and a fine which may be extended to one lakh rupees.
    2. And if the reasons that have been recorded by the court, fine can exceed one lakh rupees.
  9. Punishment for the consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, as mentioned in Section 27 of NDPS Act as- 
    1. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to one year, or a fine which may be extended to twenty thousand rupees or with both if the contravention involves small quantity if the substance consumed is cocaine, morphine, diacetylmorphine, or any other drug as has been specified by the central government.
    2. If the substance consumed is other than those mentioned above then with imprisonment which may be extended to six months, or with fine which may be extended to ten thousand rupees, or with both.
  10. Punishment for financing illicit trafficking and harbouring offenders, as mentioned in Section 27A of NDPS Act as- 
    1. Rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of ten years and which may be extended to twenty years with a minimum fine of one lakh rupees which can be extended to two lakh rupees.
    2. And if the reasons that have been recorded by the court, fine can exceed two lakh rupees.
  11. Punishment in relation to attempts to commit offence, abetment and criminal conspiracy, as mentioned in Section 28 & 29 of NDPS Act as- 
    1. The same punishment that has been awarded for that particular offence.
  12. Punishment in relation to preparations to do or omit to do anything which would constitute an offence punishable under any of the provisions of this Act, the person shall be punishable with half of the punishment with which he would have been punishable in the event of his having committed such offence and the same applies with the fine which would have been imposed, if the reasons that have been recorded by the court a higher fine can be imposed, as provided under Section 30 of the NDPS Act.
  13. Punishment in relation to repeated offence the person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which would extend to one and one-half times the maximum term which has to be served and the same applies to the fine imposed that it will be extended to one and one-half times the maximum amount. If the reasons that have been recorded by the court a higher fine can be imposed, as provided under Section 31 of the NDPS Act.
  14. As per Section 32, imprisonment up to six months, or fine, or with both is the punishment prescribed for violations that haven’t been mentioned elsewhere.

Punishment for possession of marijuana 

Marijuana is a mixture of the dried flowers, leaves, stems and seeds of Cannabis Sativa, a greenish-gray mixture. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is found in marijuana along with hundreds of other compounds. There are a number of slang terms used for referring marijuana i.e., ganja, herb, pot, bud, Mary Jane, weed, grass. It is considered as a soft drug( a drug of abuse which is considered relatively mild and likely not to cause addiction). People get high on this substance by smoking through pipes, water pipes which is often termed as bong; through hand-rolled cigarettes known as joints; by rolling these in cigar wraps termed as blunt. Smoking is not the only way for the consumption of this substance it is used for preparing tea (mostly when it is used for medicinal purpose), is mixed in edibles like candies, cookies and brownies. Marijuana is not only used for getting high but also has various medicinal benefits which help in the treatment of various kinds of disease i.e., is given to cancer patients during the chemotherapy treatment to relieve the patient from nausea and vomiting as well as for the treatment of the loss of appetite in AIDS patient. This medical marijuana is known as Marinol (Dronabinol), it is a synthetic form of tetrahydrocannabinol. 

Section 20 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act specifies the punishment in relation to cannabis or cannabis plant, as- 

  1. Anyone who violates the provision of this act, or any other rule or condition of the license mentioned here, by cultivating, producing, manufacturing, possessing, purchasing, selling, transporting, importing or exporting inter-state or using cannabis will be punishable with- 
    1. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to ten years and also a fine which may be extended to one lakh rupees if the contravention is the cultivation of cannabis.
    2. And if the contravention is related to all the other matters mentioned above apart from cultivation then- 
      1. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to one year, or a fine which may be extended to ten thousand rupees or with both if the contravention involves small quantity.
      2. Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended to ten years, and a fine which may be extended to one lakh rupees if the contravention involves quantity less than commercial quantity but more than a small quantity.
      3. Rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of ten years and can be extended to twenty years, and also a fine for a minimum amount of one lakh rupees and may be extended to two lakh rupees if the contravention involves commercial quantity.
      4. And if the reasons which have been recorded by the court, the fine imposed can exceed two lakh rupees.

Is Bhaang beyond the purview of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 

As per the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Cannabis along with its various different forms i.e., charas, ganja, bhaang, marijuana, hashish are termed as illegal and possession of the same has been termed as unlawful. 

Cannabis is defined under Section 2 (iii) & (iv) of NDPS Act, as “cannabis(hemp)” means- 

  • Charas is the separated resin, in any form be it purified or crude which has been obtained from the cannabis plant and includes the concentrated preparation and resin which is known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;
  • Ganja is the flowering or fruiting top of the cannabis plant excluding the leaves and seeds when not accompanied by the tops;
  • Any kind of mixture, with or without any kind of neutral material of any form of cannabis which has been mentioned above or any drink prepared from it.
  • “Cannabis plant” is for referring any plant of the genus cannabis. 

And the punishment for the same has been provided under Section 20 of the Act.

However, a captivating factor here is that the preparation of bhaang has not been covered by this Act. Bhang is the term used for a preparation made from cannabis leaves consumed in India on various festivals. As there is no use of cannabis resin or the tops in the preparation, the Act does not cover it. Various state governments permit the production and sale of Bhang. The person licensed to produce bhaang is allowed to produce only from the leaves of the wildly grown cannabis plants, if in anyway it is found that there has been a use of the flowering tops or the resin produced from the cannabis plants the person committing this act will be punishable as per the provisions of the NDPS Act, 1985. 

The question of whether bhaang is under the purview of the NDPS Act, 1985 has been a topic of discussion for the legal and medical experts. Judgement for the same has been provided through various cases where the court has decided that the leaves, dry leaves or seed does not fall within the purview of the Act because the seeds and leaves have been specifically excluded from the definition provided in Section 2(iii) of the said Act. A few cases have been mentioned below: 

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act is also termed as the NDPS Act, made with the purpose to control drug abuse and prohibit its use, distribution, manufacture, dissipation, and trade of substance of abuse. Narcotic drugs are those which induce sleep whereas psychotropic substances have the ability to alter the mind of an individual. The act came into existence on 14 November, 1985. As there are various kinds of drugs that have huge importance in the field of medicine. The proper utilization is required because the same drugs can give you life as well as snatch it away, if not used properly. Therefore, the act does provide the provisions required for the production, cultivation of cannabis, poppy, or coca plants and manufacture of psychotropic substances for medicinal requirements. The main focus for the enactment of this act is to possess control on manufacture, possession, sale and transport of such narcotic and psychotropic substances. This act bans around 200 psychotropic substances resulting in the process that no individual can get these drugs without prescription. These substances would only be available when proper prescription would be provided. If this law is violated it may result in rigorous imprisonment or fine or both in the form of punishment. The degree of punishment is devised not on the type of activity but to the proportional amount which is being carried. The degree of punishment is dependant on case to case basis if the drugs are being used for personal consumption the punishment may be less, varying from that when it is used for other purposes. The act has been amended in 1989, 2001 and recently, in 2014. Various changes have been brought in the Act through The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2014:

  • It created another class of “essential narcotic drugs”.
  • Widened the goal of the law from illicit traffic to scientific and medical use. 
  • Increased the degree of punishment from six months to one year of imprisonment for small quantity offences.
  • Providing a more detailed provision relating to the property derived from offence and the report of seizure of property of the person arrested by the notified officer.
  • Making capital punishment optional.
  • Upgrading the rank of officers by giving them approval for conducting search and arrest.
  • Increasing the scope and the power of govt. In establishing centres for the treatment of addicts and the supply of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act 

Illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is a serious threat to the health and welfare of the people and even for those who are engaged in activities of such illicit traffic. This has a dangerous and harmful effect on the national economy. This is the act formulated to provide for detention in certain cases for the purpose of preventing illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and for matters connected therewith. 

Controlled Substances 

The definition of Controlled Substance is provided under Section 2(vii)(viic) in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Which states that any kind of drug which is strictly controlled by the Central Government under the NDPS Act due to its possible use in the production or manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances or as per the provisions of any International Convention, by notification in the Official Gazette, has been declared as a controlled substance. 

Any form of production, manufacture, cultivation, possession, purchase, sale, storage, transport, distribution or consumption of these substances is termed as illegal except for scientific and medical purposes, according to the rules and orders or condition for the proper licenses which are issued.

Law Commission 155th Report 

Drug abuse has been one of the curses of the society, it is a menace which threatens public life and leads to destruction of not only the individual, families but also of the society. It would always be an important need to address this issue and control this.

It was felt that even after the amendment of 1988 in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act, there were no desired results. Therefore, the law commission considered it necessary to undertake a review of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act, 1985, resulting in the 155th report of law commission. This gave recommendations with a view to fill up the loopholes and to make the provision more effective.

With a view of the huge concern of growing drug abuse in different parts of the country the law commission aimed at studying the following aspects:

  1. Studying the menace of drug abuse and drug trafficking and its effect on the youth of India. 
  2. Scrutinizing the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution of India and the provisions of International Conventions on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances;
  3. Understanding the magnitude of the problem of illicit trafficking and use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance as well as the infirmities in the NDPS Act;
  4. Examining the relevant provisions of the NDPS Act and their interpretation by the Courts and
  5. Identifying the amendments required for more effective implementation of the NDPS Act. 
  6. And to collect public opinion on the subject matter.

Drug control strategy and policy 

India’s policy towards drug control is enshrined in the Directive Principles of State Policy through Article 47 of the Constitution of India, which states that it is the duty of the state to raise the level of nutrition, the standard of living and to improve public health, moreover the prohibition of the consumption of drugs which are injurious to health, except for medicinal purposes. It is among the primary duties of the state. The drug control strategy in India is a multi-agency function.

There were a number of Central and State enactments i.e., (i) the Opium Act, 1857, (ii) the Opium Act , 1878 and (iii) the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930. All of these acts were not sufficient for the proper regulation of drugs in India and therefore Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 was enacted for the proper enforcement and regulation. This act sets out the statutory framework or the strategy for the drug law enforcement in India, as well as the provisions for the implementation of the various obligations to the International Conventions. The various International conventions to which India is a signatory are:

The main Narcotics focus areas in India are:

  • To effectively prevent and combat abuse of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
  • Identifying and eradicating the illicit cultivation and wild growth of opium poppy and cannabis.
  • Enforcing and surveying at import points and land borders. Measures for control at the export points i.e., cargo-terminals, air-passenger terminals and foreign post offices.
  • To improve the coordination between the various drug law enforcement agencies.
  • Intercepting and preventing the movement along the known drug routes.
  • International co-operation to facilitate coordination and universal action.
  • To strengthen the intelligence apparatus for improving the analysis, collection, collation and dissemination of operational intelligence.

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