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This article is written by Yash Singhal.

Introduction

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 is a central legislation to regulate production, consumption and transportation of such harmful substances as specified under the Act. It was enacted with the view to direct the population away from the illicit substances that are capable of hampering the physical well-being of an individual. 

It extends to the whole of India, along with areas outside India to all citizens beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the country or individuals on ships or aircrafts registered in India. The legislation has provided exhaustive definitions of all the important terms under the scope of the Act.  It has laid emphasis on the Central Government’s authority over the provisions of the Act and how much powers they possess to enforce the legislation.

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Components of the Act

The Act has been divided into 6 chapters with each covering different domains under the Act. The following are all the chapters for the purpose of this Act:

Chapter I: Preliminary 

This provides an insight into the jurisdiction of the Act along with important definitions for the purpose of the Act and powers relating to addition or omission of items from psychotropic substances.

Chapter II: Authorities and officers

This chapter delves into the powers of the central government to control the illicit trafficking of the drugs. It further talks about the powers of officers of the central government and state governments that are capable of investigating any offence and also gives guidelines on the composition of the Consultative Committee on the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Chapter II A: National fund for control of drug abuse

This part provides for the constitution of a national fund by the central government to control the abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. This also advocates for an annual report of finances towards the activities under the Fund.

Chapter III: Prohibition, control and regulation

This chapter is a detailed account of all the activities prohibited under the Act, along with provisions of controlling and/or regulating the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances possession. It also accounts for the Central Government and respective State Governments  role in the prohibition, control and regulation under the Act. It restricts the external dealings in drugs by any individual or an organisation or any authority.

Chapter IV: Offences and penalties 

This chapter deals in various offences and their subsequent punishments for the purpose of this Act. The offences have been defined along with all the activities that constitute the particular offence. The offences under the Act are categorised as criminal offences and hence the punishments are stringent and in the form of imprisonments. This part also enumerates the trial process in cases falling under this Chapter of the Act.

Chapter V: Procedure

This chapter lays out the exact procedure that needs to be followed for an investigation. Any activity beyond the provisions of this chapter, by any authority during the investigation process, shall lead to a legal violation on the part of that authority. It describes:

  • Process of issuing of warrants; 
  • Process of seizure of property of any convict;
  • Duty to inform about illegal cultivation; 
  • Powers to undertake controlled delivery among many other significant procedures;
  • Relevancy of the statements under certain circumstances; and
  • Power of the police to take charge of the seized articles.

Chapter V A: Forfeiture of an illegally acquired property

This part deals with the procedure of forfeiture of an illegally acquired property by an individual by the police authorities. The procedure includes identification of such property, followed by its seizure and management and finally, a notice issued to the offender and other such processes. It signifies the burden of proof lies with which party, the fine payable at the seizure and particular transfers that are null and void. It further states the power of the tribunal to adjudicate the offences while providing their jurisdiction in matters of appeal. The police have the power to take possession of illegal properties and findings in a matter and can release property in certain cases.

Chapter VI: Miscellaneous

This chapter deals with all the less specific provisions under the Act.  This provides for a provision wherein the central government and the state governments shall regard the international conventions while formulating rules and policies for their subject matter jurisdiction. It also empowers the government to identify and operate centres for recovery of the addicts. The central government has the power to make rules or delegate this power to other authorities. The rules and notifications in respect to any provision under the Act shall be laid before the parliament for the consideration of all the members. The state governments have been entrusted with similar powers, duties and responsibilities as the central government for the purpose of this Act.

Offences and punishments under the Act

Chapter IV, that is from Section 15 to 40, provides for various offences and punishments under the Act. It has identified certain activities that are against the acceptable social norms which have been included in the category of offences in the Act. These activities are forbidden by law due to the effect it causes to the physical health of an individual. These substances have the potential to damage the mental abilities of an individual as well. Even if it relieves the person of any suffering for a short while, its side effects are on the display in the long run.

Poppy straw

Section 15 of the Act provides for the act of production, possession, transportation, selling, purchasing or any other involvement that shall lead to an offence under the provisions of this Section. The punishments have been decided on the basis of the quantity of poppy straw involved in the whole transaction.  

Small quantity of poppy straw may lead up to one year of rigorous imprisonment, or with fine, extending up to ten thousand rupees, or both.  A quantity which is greater than the small quantity but fewer than the commercial quantity shall invite rigorous imprisonment up to ten years and a fine up to one lakh rupees. In case of a transaction involving a commercial quantity of poppy straw, the punishment includes rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than ten years and extendable up to twenty years along with a fine, not less than one lakh rupees but can be  up to two lakh rupees.

Coca plant and leaves

Section 16 of the Act provides for the provisions in contravention of the rules made under the Act regarding the cultivation, production, possession, selling, purchasing, transportation and any other activity with respect to the violation of the provisions this Act. The punishment for the offence under the Section includes rigorous imprisonment up to a term of ten years along with a fine extending up to one lakh rupees.

Prepared opium

Section 17 of the Act provides for the provisions dealing with activities in violation of the Act with respect to prepared opium. This Section bars the process of manufacturing, possession, selling, purchasing, transportation or usage of prepared opium. It has been identified as a substance with the capacity to harm an individual, physically or mentally with its ingredients.  The punishments for either of the restricted activities carried out by an individual are similar to that of poppy straw, listed under Section 15.

Opium poppy and opium

Section 18 of the Act provides for the process of manufacturing, purchasing, production, possession, transportation or selling of opium poppy and opium as an act being in contravention of the provisions under this Act. The punishments for the violation under this Section is similar as to the punishments provided under Section 15 or 17.

Embezzlement of opium

Section 19 of the Act provides for an act identified as embezzlement of opium, which is in violation of the provisions under the Act and hence, an offence characterized under Chapter IV. Any person who embezzles, himself or involved in the activity, or otherwise illegally disposes off the opium shall be held liable under this Section. The punishment for this offence includes rigorous imprisonment of a term not less than ten years with an extension of up to twenty years along with a fine, not being less than one lakh rupees but can be increased up to two lakh rupees.

Cannabis plant and cannabis

Section 20 of the Act provides for the offence relating to the process of cultivation, production, manufacturing, possession, selling, purchasing or transportation of cannabis plant and cannabis. In case a person is caught cultivating cannabis, he/she stands punishable with rigorous imprisonment of a term extending up to ten years along with a fine which can be up to one lakh rupees. For any other act other than cultivation, the punishments are divided on the intensity/quantity of the object. The three punishments included in all the other Sections are followed in this Section as well. 

Manufactured drugs and preparations

Section 21 of the Act provides for an offence of manufacturing, possession, selling, purchasing, transportation, or usage of any manufactured drug or its preparation as an act in contravention of the provisions under the Act. The punishments under this Section is similar to the three-tier punishment system listed under other Sections of this Act.

Psychotropic substances

Section 22 of the Act provides for any act or rule in relation to the process of manufacturing, transportation, selling, purchasing, possession or usage of psychotropic drugs may lead to an offence according to this Section. The punishments under this Section is again similar to the three punishments system followed for other offences under the Act.

Transhipment of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances

Section 23 of the Act provides for import to India or export from India of any illegal drug specified under the Act. The transhipment of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are restricted under the legal parlance under the scope of this Act. The punishments for the offence includes the similar three-tier punishment system followed everywhere under the Act.

External dealings

Section 24 of the Act provides for the act of external dealings in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances outside India to other individuals residing in a territory which is beyond the boundaries of India. It is an offence under this Section.  The punishment for this offence includes rigorous imprisonment of a term not less than ten years, extending up to twenty years along with a fine, not less than one lakh rupees and can be increased to two lakh rupees.

Allowing premises for the commission of an offence

Section 25 of the Act provides for a situation wherein an individual allows his premises to be used for the commission of any offence stated under the Act.  The person must knowingly allow the offender for this Section to apply.

Acts by a licensee or his servants

Section 26 of the Act provides for acts by a licensee or his servants in furtherance to them being in contravention with the provisions of the Act. If a person, with licence or an agent/servant employed by him:

  1. omits, without any reasonable cause, to maintain accounts; or
  2. fails to produce without any reasonable cause such licence, permit or authorisation on demand; or 
  3. keeps accounts or makes statements which are false or he knows it to be false; and 
  4. wilfully or knowingly does any act in violation of the conditions of the licence. The punishment for the offence includes imprisonment for a term up to three years or with fine, or both.

Consumption of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances

Section 27 of the Act provides for the act of consuming any narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances which is an offence for the purpose of the Act. Any person consuming substances such as morphine, cocaine, diacetyl-morphine and any other drug later specified as one by the central government under a notification shall lead to rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to one year or fine up to twenty thousand rupees, or both.

Any narcotic drug or a psychotropic substance, other than those included in the list,  shall lead to imprisonment up to six months or fine up to ten thousand rupees, or both. 

Financing illicit trafficking and harbouring offenders

Section 27A of the Act provides for the offence of financing illicit trafficking and harbouring offenders in contravention of the provisions of the Act. Any person, financing or harbouring, directly or indirectly, any illicit acts of trafficking, may arise criminal liability against himself. The punishment for the offence shall be imprisonment of not less than ten years but extending up to twenty years and a fine of not less than one lakh rupees which can be increased up to two lakh rupees.

Conclusion

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 was enacted with the objective of controlling and regulating the transportation, usage and/or consumption of these illicit substances. The purpose for which the Act was enacted has been achieved in its implementation process. The central government along with the respective state governments have been successful in introducing rules in relation to the Act to increase its positive effect on the society. The offenders identified under the Act have also been provided with a chance of fair trial while following the principles of natural justice. The right to appeal has also been provided against the decision of the Tribunals.


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