Decriminalising personal drug use? Should the NDPS Act be amended?
New Delhi, Dec 06: At a time when the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is tightening its grip on drug users and peddlers, the Centre is planning to amend the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in such a way that personal consumption of small quantities of drugs including cannabis, narcotics and psychotropic substances will be decriminalised.
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will introduce the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the Lok Sabha on Monday to decriminalise possession of a limited quantity of drugs for personal use while regulating certain operations such as manufacturing, transport and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
According to the Social Justice Ministry, people caught consuming drugs can be brought back to life by sending them to rehabilitation centres instead of jail. It also feels that those selling and trafficking drugs should be given severe punishment.
The social justice ministry had suggested amending the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act by treating drug addicts as victims rather than criminals.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 was promulgated on September 30, 2021.
The Ordinance amends the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 to correct a drafting error. The Act regulates certain operations (such as manufacture, transport and consumption) related to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, according to PRS Legislative Research.
Punishment for financing illicit activities or harbouring persons engaged in them: Under the Act, financing certain illicit activities (such as cultivating cannabis, or manufacturing narcotic drugs) or harbouring persons engaged in them is an offence. Persons found guilty of this offence will be punished with rigorous imprisonment of at least ten years (extendable up to 20 years) and a fine of at least one lakh rupees.
Drafting error: In 2014, the Act was amended and the clause number of the definition for such illicit activities was changed. However, the section on penalty for financing these illicit activities was not amended and continued to refer to the earlier clause number of the definition. The Ordinance amends the section on penalty to change the reference to the new clause number. This amendment will be deemed to have been in effect from May 1, 2014 (i.e., when the 2014 amendments came into effect).