This article is written by Utkarsh Singh, a law student of Amity Law School, Noida. This is an exhaustive article that deals with the Mandatory Death Penalty under the NDPS Act and whether it should be present or not. 


No one has the privilege to end the life of another except if done as per the fair treatment of law and for the best interest of the citizens of a country. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) has been scrutinized intensely for its severe disciplines, that includes giving capital punishment to recurrent wrongdoers under Section 31A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. It is made with the intention to fight against drug trafficking, it makes it illegal to produce, cultivate, sell, buy, keep in someplace, use, consume, import and export the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. All over the world, over 32 countries force capital punishment for wrongdoing including the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. In any case, the decision of capital punishment by these nations has been detected by different national and global organizations like Amnesty International which holds a firm sentiment contradicting the demonstration of removing somebody’s life. Be that as it may, India being a nation situated between the world’s greatest medication dealing nations alongside an extensive area of the populace living in neediness has confronted various difficulties in combating the issue.

About NDPS Act

The word ‘narcotic’ in the court language is very different from the one used in the medical stream, which means a sleep-inducing agent. Legitimately, an opiate medication, which could be a sedative, is a valid opiate, cannabis is a non-opiate, and cocaine is the absolute opposite of an opiate since it is an energizer. The term ‘psychotropic substance’ means mind-changing medications, for example, Lysergic Corrosive Diethylamide (LSD), Phencyclidine, Amphetamines, Barbiturates, Methaqualone, and architect drugs (MDMA, DMT, and so forth.). Most of the utilization of cannabis recorded goes back to the Vedic time frame. Atharvaveda reports the usage of cannabis two or three hundred years back.

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In India until 1985, Cannabis and its subordinates (bhang, charas, and ganja) were legitimately sold and were ordinarily utilized for recreational purposes. India contradicted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), which was proposed by the United States under the law against all medications. In this manner, the show went to a great choice giving India a ‘Beauty period’ of 25 years to make cannabis accessible for logical and clinical reasons and not for some other explanations. Since it was a politically delicate issue, India got committed to world-wide designations. This constrained the Indian government to dispose of ethnically profound situated utilization of cannabis. Thus, on 14 November 1985, the NDPS Act was authorized, restricting every opiate or sedative in India. The main arrangement for non-clinical social use inside the 1985 Act was that beverages produced using cannabis leaves were to be authorized under Britto 1989.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 1985 forbids the creation, deal, buying, transporting and utilization of opiate drugs and psychotropic substances in India and furthermore in aeroplane and boats enrolled in India. It was passed to satisfy India’s commitment under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Convention on Psychotropic Substances and US Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Strictness of the act

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) is seen as one of the cruel or harshest laws in the country. As given by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act), the minimum imprisonment for selling or dealing with drugs is ten years and it can be added with a fine of up to 1 lakh rupees. As on the other hand, the jail time for the wicked crimes or offences like human trafficking or rape is only seven years of jail. No bail is conceded for those people charged under this act. Moreover, no alleviation can be arranged by the medication convicts through suspension, reduction, and substitution of sentences passed. Surprisingly more dreadful, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 endorses the death penalty for recurrent wrongdoers in dealing with medications despite the fact that the offence can’t be termed as an egregious wrongdoing. It is felt that capital punishment is unreasonably cruel for the violations of this nature. In any case, the legislature protects the provision of capital punishment by saying that even the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has never protested capital punishment offered to the medication convicts.

Death penalty in India

India is one among the nations where capital punishment exists, however now just for the “rarest of uncommon cases.” India holds the death penalty for various genuine offences. In any case, the inconvenience of the death penalty isn’t constantly trailed by execution in any event, when it is maintained on the claim, in light of the chance of replacement to life detainment. The number of people hanged in India since independence in 1947 is a matter of conflict. Official governmental statistics say that only around 60 citizens or individuals have been hanged since independence. In December 2007, India cast a ballot against the United Nations General Assembly goals requiring a ban on capital punishment. In November 2012, India again maintained its position on the matter of death penalty by casting a ballot against the UN General Assembly draft goals looking to boycott capital punishment. 

Death penalty covered its way into the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) for the first time in 1898 wherein a required passing honour was presented for an individual sentenced for association in opiate wrongdoing for more than one time. It is likewise critical to shoulder as a main priority that nothing in the Indian Constitution holds capital punishment as illegal. Under Article 47 of the Indian Constitution, the state will try to achieve denial of the utilization aside from restorative motivations behind inebriating drinks and of medications that are harmful to wellbeing. Hence, the nation saw the consideration of a required capital punishment for recurrent medication guilty parties. The courts have additionally seen that a request for capital punishment must be granted for the rarest of cases, which could be resolved subsequent to paying thought to the conditions of the case and the character of the person as specified in Bachan Singh V. Province of Punjab by the Supreme Court. In any case, the Court likewise expressed that capital punishment for killers who don’t fall into the restricted class is intrinsically impermissible. ‘Most genuine wrongdoings’ does exclude opiates offences for the honour of capital punishment according to worldwide acknowledgement. Through the Amendment of 2014, capital punishment under Section 31A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, Act, 1985, was fused with an option of detainment for a long time under Section 31 of the NDPS Act.

Section 31A

Article 31A, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, Act, 1985, as of now has an arrangement of capital punishment for a resulting conviction under the law. First fused in the rule in 1989, the Section 31A was altered in 2001 presenting capital punishment for a resulting conviction. In any case, after 13 years, another alteration in 2014 made it discretionary for the appointed authority to grant capital punishment. Since 1985, when the Act originally came up till date, a few revisions were consolidated presenting the toughest reformatory structure for exercises identifying opiate drugs and psychotropic substances, fines and characterizing the quality and amount of the medications seized.

  • 1989 – The death sentence made its first arrival in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1989. A change introduces a compulsory death sentence for any person guilty of drug trafficking more than once. Generally, this implied that the adjudicator had no real option except to suggest state execution once she saw the denounced as liable. Further, the new corrections banned any reduction, suspension or recompense of the sentence, once passed.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act experienced an initial set of corrections. A Cabinet Sub-Committee for fighting narcotics drugs dealing and misuse of it suggested that the law be made increasingly severe. That was the time that among different arrangements, Section 31A was consolidated to the rule.

  • 2001 – Parliament of India permitted the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 2001 tried to justify a sentencing pattern that was seen to be harsh and out of proportion. It was this amendment that gave punishment in accordance with the drug being used, how much the drug is seized and the specified volume of drugs taken that can be either ‘small’ or ‘commercial’.

Section 31A, NDPS Act read after amendment in 2001

31-A: Death penalty for certain offences after a previous conviction:

Despite anything contained in Section 31, if any individual who has been sentenced for the commission of, or endeavour to carry out, or abetment of, or criminal trick to perpetrate, any of the offences culpable under Section 27 of the NDPS Act and for offences including the business amount of any opiate tranquiliser or psychotropic substance, is in this manner indicted for the commission of, or endeavour to perpetrate, or abetment of, or criminal scheme to carry out, an offence identifying with:  

  1. participating in the creation, make, ownership, transportation, import into India, send out from India or transhipment, of the opiate drugs or psychotropic substances
  2. financing, legitimately or by implication, any of the exercises determined in clause (a) will be culpable with death.

On 16 June 2011 at Mumbai, marketing a phenomenal choice, the Bombay High Court struck down the compulsory capital punishment for drug offences, turning into the principal Court on the planet to to have done so. Reporting the request by means of video conferencing, a division seat of Justices A.M Khanwilkar and A.P Bhangale announced Section 31A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 the NDPS Act that forces a compulsory capital punishment for a resulting conviction for drug dealing ‘illegal’.The court, in any case, shunned striking down the law, liking to peruse it down. Thus, the condemning court will have the choice and not a commitment, to force the death penalty on an individual sentenced a second an ideal opportunity for drugs in amounts determined under Section 31A. The choice carries some respite to Ghulam Mohammed Malik, a Kashmiri man condemned to death by the Special NDPS Court in Mumbai in February 2008 for a recurrent offence of sneaking charas [cannabis resin]. On account of the required idea of the discipline under Section 31A, as it stood at that point, Malik was condemned to death, without thought of individual conditions or relieving factors. The High Court’s decision came in light of a request recorded by the Indian Harm Reduction Network (IHRN), a consortium of NGOs working for sympathetic medication arrangements, who assaulted obligatory the death penalty as self-assertive, unreasonable and unbalanced to the wrongdoing of managing in drugs.

  • 2014 – Section 31 and 31A were likewise revised with specific adjustments, including making “capital punishment” discretionary. granting the death penalty for recurrent guilty parties was made optional.



  • Prior to the High Court, the candidates commenced their contentions on Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. Article 14 arranges with the centre-right to balance under the steady gaze of the law and equivalent insurance of laws, while Article 21 gives each individual the major right to life and freedom. 
  • Drug trafficking isn’t the most genuine offence (doesn’t cause passing), which alone is viewed as while giving capital punishment, the candidates fought. Along these lines, its administration’s arrangement as justifying capital punishment disregards Article 14, they expressed. Furthermore, the utilization of drugs additionally doesn’t cause passing. Regardless of whether one is a drugged subordinate, enslavement itself doesn’t cause passing. A drug subordinate individual can recoup from compulsion through treatment, training, recovery and social reintegration and NDPS accommodates such measures. 
  • With respect to Article 21, the petitioners stated there was a refusal of procedural protections, among others, right of pre-sentence hearing. Further, the burden of normalized compulsory capital punishment double-crosses the entrenched rule that condemning must be individualized and should rely upon the conditions of the offence just as the guilty party. 
  • Likewise, the provisions completely get rid of the prerequisite of recording unique reasons by the court for forcing capital punishment. The activity of legal circumspection on all around perceived and built up to standards, which is the most elevated defence for a defendant, is seriously shortened. 
  • The high court discovered influential power in the contentions progressed against the obligatory capital punishment and based its judgment by citing a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on account of Mithu, Etc. v State of Punjab (1983). In this case, the protected legitimacy of Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code was tested. The said a provision commanded that if a convict carrying out a punishment of life detainment does murder, he should compulsorily be given capital punishment. 
  • The court saw this as an infringement of Article 14, since Section 302 gives a discipline of either demise or life detainment for homicide, while Section 303 just awards capital punishment. This grouping between two classes of individuals who do murder was seen as invalid by the court. 
  • Fundamentally, in its judgment, the bench deplored the lawmaking body’s act of getting enactment which removed the legal prudence to choose. In situations where the death penalty is looked for, courts choose the premise of the gravity of the offence, in the wake of retribution disturbing and alleviating conditions in which the offence was submitted and of the guilty party. 
  • Any measure to diminish legal prudence would essentially be brutal, shameful, and uncalled for, the bench said. Tripti Tandon of Lawyers’ Collective said that even though the issue was let go after the 2014 correction was achieved, it has a new lease of life in view of the Punjab government’s proposal. It is not yet clear what move the Center makes and how it conquers the obstacle of the Bombay high court judgment.

The constitutional validity of the death penalty under the NDPS Act

Around 32 countries in the world at present impose the death sentence for the drug wrongdoers. Currently, around 112 countries, including India, gives compulsory capital punishment for the narcotic drugs offences. In China and Iran, the drug felons add up to a large number of those who are executed. The drug dealing is worse than killing someone because drug misuse leads to long term harmful but psychological effects, the pro-death advocates hold. While capital punishment hasn’t been completely dismissed as per the global law, worldwide human rights specialists have explained certain conditions related to its application. For instance, it ought not to be forced on adolescents or pregnant ladies. These principles likewise specify that solitary certain offences or ‘most genuine violations’ ought to be qualified for the death penalty, an articulation that has been comprehended to mean wrongdoings that include the purposeful taking of life. 

In any case, the activists bring up that medication misuse doesn’t warrant that capital punishment ought to be maintained in the rarest of uncommon cases. In 1997, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (presently Board) solicited India to restrain the number from offences conveying capital punishment to the most genuine wrongdoings, with a view to its extreme abrogation. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, administers medical control measures comprehensively, and has reviled the death penalty as a way to contain unlawful dealing. From the plain perusing of Section 31-A of the Act, it is pulled in situations where an individual has been sentenced for the commission of a crime to carry out any of the offences including theft of Opium by an authorized cultivator, unapproved exchange and outside managing in opiate drugs and psychotropic substances financing illegal dealing and holding guilty parties and for the offences including the business amount of any NDPS. Subsequently, an appointed authority needs to adjust the character of the wrongdoer. With the conditions, circumstances and the response of the general population and to pick the proper sentence the rule, the sentence must remember every one of these circumstances.


Regardless of the NDPS Act, 1985 being the toughest financial law and giving an obligatory condemning plan, there has not been any critical decrease in the drug offences and related financial violations, for example, dealing in drugs. In this way, a perusing of the Act is of great importance, so that the condemning system can be reframed, accordingly, we can control the recurrence of drug offences. From the outset, case, how about we look at the accompanying lawful arrangements:

  • Because of the least compulsory discipline of 10 years detainment, the course has commonly demonstrated a reluctance to apply such cruel laws and an enormous number of drug dealers are gained by courts on specialized grounds. At the end of the day, it was anything but difficult to get a conviction in cases under the Opium Act and Dangerous Drugs Act where the discipline was significantly less.
  • Cannabis and Opium have been utilized in this nation since prior occasions during strict and social sections of the general public that cannabis and opium shouldn’t be treated at standard with drugs like Heroin and Cocaine.
  • The procedural arrangements contained in the NDPS Act are unreasonably awkward for the law implementing authorities, for the most part at lower levels to completely welcome the details of such arrangements. Subsequently, many drug guilty parties escape on the ground that procedural arrangements were not fastidiously followed.
  • The lawful structure with respect to addicts additionally needs re-evaluation. Genuinely this Act doesn’t segregate between a dealer and someone who is addicted. ‘Controlled Delivery’ is an extremely successful drug law implementation method. The United Nations Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 has likewise focused on the utilization of controlled conveyance, however, such arrangements haven’t been so far given in the NDPS Act.
  • The condemning system of NDPS offences just as other financial offences should be evaluated in consonance with International measures, so legal executives become well prepared to bring wrongdoing even in frivolous financial offences, to the scaffold and thus this threat of drug reliance in Indian culture can be uncovered.
  • The most rigid arrangements of the NDPS Act result in making the use of opiate drugs like Opium, Heroin, Hashish and so on difficult along with the cost factor. The drug abusers are going to new places to do their ‘kick’ and simultaneously sparing themselves from drug requirement Offices.

The need for death penalty for repeat offenders

India is a socially differing nation. Geologically, it is situated among Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are firmly associated with the world’s two biggest illegal drug managing nations, for example, Afghanistan and Burma making India a southern exchange course for the vehicle of drugs. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has directed across the country drug studies, distributing them in 2019, the aftereffects of which propose that drug use in India keeps on becoming unabated. Narcotic use has expanded from 0.7 per cent in the past report to a little more than 2 percent in the current one as far as size from 2,000,000 to in excess of 22 million.

The breakdown of customary social capital, upheld by the impact of modernisation, has brought about an enormous scope of development from provincial to urban offices. This has led to an expansion in the utilization of opiates for non-clinical purposes. The effect of the equivalent can be found in light of the connection between drug utilization and the commission of wrongdoing by adolescents.

A clinical survey led by Institute of Human Behavior and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), concluded that out of the all-out adolescents under-enquiry booked under wrongdoings, more than 87 per cent had a background marked by substance misuse. The utilization of cannabis and tobacco was higher than different drugs and were found among convicts for progressively genuine wrongdoings. Just when side effects of uncontrollable conduct, heaving and examples of self-hurt are accounted for doing the jail specialists direct opiates tests for such detainees. Significant reasons given by the adolescent for the utilization of drugs were expressed as test, interest and being in the organization of the individuals who devour drugs and simple access to such substances inside the jail.

Beside having clinical, financial and social ramifications, drug misuse additionally represents a danger to the administration of the State. The obstructive effect of disciplines granted for drug offences is fairly constrained on the grounds that a part of the convicts are dealers at the lower levels of exchange while the wealthy and politically influential people at the top stay safe from the law. Through defilement and maltreatment of political contacts, opiate drugs are additionally provided to the detainees by means of dealers under the nose and endorsement of the jail specialists. In spite of the Punjab state jail office’s cases disproving the nearness of drugs in prison, a wide range of drugs, including heroin, smack, opium, infusions and tablets are as a rule transparently snuck into correctional facilities. The greatness of the exchange can be checked from the way that one of the drug retailers inside the prison, Kamal Fantu, wounded another undertrial at the court lock-up two years back. The casualty was a looter and he was involved in an altercation with Fantu’s partners requesting his offer of drugs. Consequently, demonstrating that a substitute honour of life detainment in replacement of capital punishment doesn’t prompt discouragement however thus, makes more open doors for utilization and exchange of psychotropic substances.


Prevention of drugs

  1. Improvement of financial conditions and more noteworthy instructive points of interest including training of the guardians, teachers, cops and other social assistance gatherings may considerably decrease drug habit;
  2. The historical backdrop of Opium mirrors the clinical writing broadly advocating subsidiaries. At times an individual is acquainted with the drug’s euphoric properties through either numbness or imprudence. These addicts’ practices might be suspected to turn out to be less common as better clinical preparing and higher expert gauges are embraced and concrete explores are made with respect to physical and mystic impacts of opiate drugs; 
  3. Patent cures containing Opium and other opiate drugs and their subsidiaries have prompted the arrangement of numerous instances of compulsion with the goal that the remedial utilization of drugs be coordinated more at causes and less at indications; 
  4. A medicine for opiates might be given by a properly enlisted doctor only. Any remedy not given in the course of expert treatment ought to be treated as an infringement of law; 
  5. The worldwide association should turn out to be progressively cautious concerning the Illicit exchange of opiate; and 
  6. Opiate addicts ought to be treated in the beginning times of enslavement and obligatorily hospitalization of such addicts in a uniquely prepared emergency clinic for quite a while is alluring to fix addicts and to forestall the spread of habit. Notwithstanding every one of these measures of ethical quality is required in the specialists to execute laws identifying with drugs with due rigidity.


Made with an intention of liberating the nation from the interminable circle of drug misuse, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, is regularly alluded to as an Act which is a result of a rushed bit of requirement coming about because of political weight and which forces cruel discipline for offences. Inadequacy of restoration offices and expanding pace of substance maltreatment among youngsters has represented a challenge to the Act. Under such conditions, mercy towards guilty parties, particularly the individuals who have had a past contribution in illicit opiate misuse represents a danger to the residents of India as well as the administration of the State. Despite the fact that Amnesty International doesn’t perceive drug offences just like a ground for the death penalty, India needs to see the honour dependent on the interconnection that opiates gracefully have with the commission of different violations.



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