The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act came into force on
November 14, 1985, and has become the enactment under which all cases relating
to possession, consumption, and trade of Narcotic drugs are dealt with.
The main focus of the act is to have control over the manufacture, possession,
trade, and transport of similar narcotic and psychotropic substances. The act
bans around 200 psychotropic substances resultant upon these drugs are not
available over the counter for any walk-in individual. These drugs are on trade
only when a tradition for the same is available. Violation of this law may
affect discipline including rigorous imprisonment or fine or both. The degree of
discipline is dependent upon the harshness of the case of the respective case.
Amendment to the Act
The NDPS Act has been amended three times since its inception. The first
amendment was made in 1988, followed by another in 2001, and again in 2014. New
provisions and regulations for the use of narcotics and psychotropic substances
were established in the 2014 amendment. The NDPS Act of 2014 gave the Centre the
authority to regulate the possession, sale, transportation, import, export, and
use of narcotic medicines and poppy straw. Codeinone, fentanyl, morphine,
methadone, and codeine are all necessary narcotic medications.
Critical Evaluation of the Act:
Indicative Statistics to highlight the poor Effectiveness
- Delays in the trial:
"Justice delayed is justice denied." Special courts have been created under this
Act to deal with the cases. However, in many states, such courts are given the
additional responsibility of dealing with other cases as well causing undue
delays in the disposal of drug-related cases. Further, it is quite difficult
to find witnesses, often due to threats from the accused including possible
bribes to turn hostile. A number of times long time gaps between the occurrence
of the crime and the trial cast doubts on the accuracy of the evidence leading
to acquittal on grounds of insufficient evidence. It is indeed a well-known fact
that experienced advocates bring out inconsistencies in the statements of the
witness on cross-examination so as to weaken the case of the prosecution.
- Presumption of Guilt:
One of the major drawbacks of the act is that it presumes the guilt of the
accused which brings complete responsibility of proving an individual's
innocence on him. Bail isn't usually granted to the accused of offenses that
fall under Sections 19, 24, or 27A of the NDPS Act and those relating to
commercial quantities of drugs. Indian judicial system considers each person
innocent till proven otherwise. "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied" in spite of
the availability of special courts assigned for specific cases under this act
delayed judgments are too common. Certain times accused arrested for having a
small quanitity of drugs are freed after a long time in custody during the
- Harsh Punishments:
"No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the
commission of crimes. On the contrary, whatever the punishment, once a specific
crime has appeared for the first time, its reappearance is more likely than its
initial emergence could ever have been." - Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in
As per the Act, a convicted person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment
for a term of not less than 10 years which may extend to 20 years and a
minimum fine of Rs 1 lakh which may extend to Rs 2 lakh or more (sections 15-25
and sections 27A-29). Offenses relating to cannabis are punishable with a
minimum sentence of five years and a fine that may extend to Rs 50,000 (section
Under Section 27, a person can be imprisoned for a period of 10 years
for possessing even a very small quantity of an illegal drug. Such provisions
again make the Act very unpractical. As mentioned before, most of the substance
abusers are from rural or poor backgrounds. These people will not able to pay
the fines and due to the unavailability of legal aid, they are denied justice.
- Stringent Bail Provisions:
Section 37(1) declares that an accused person should not be released on bail
unless the court has reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is not
guilty and is not likely to commit an offense while on bail. This provision is
identical to provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention)
Act and Prevention of Terrorism Act which resulted in long periods of
imprisonment without trial, evoking strong criticism from the human rights
Powers of the High Court under Sec. 439 of CrPC are looked down upon in any way
except that they are to be exercised with restrictions and considerations as
laid down under Section 37 of the Act. Ordinarily, on a bare reading of these
provisions, it would look as if the Court were to adopt a negative approach and
to decline bail as Grant of Bail might be a rule and its rejection an exception.
- Immunity for treatment seekers:
Under Section 64A of the current Act, drug addicts who choose medical
treatment are exempt from prosecution if the charge is one of consumption or
includes a small number of narcotics. This clause's applicability has been
plagued with ambiguity. Most drug addicts have been denied immunity due to a
variety of technical reasons. These include requiring proof of addiction,
entering a guilty plea, and waiting for the case to be framed. As a result, the
section's legislative objective to discourage the criminalization of drug
addicts and encourage treatment-seeking has been undermined.
- Deterrence as a theory of Punishment:
They not only show the limitations of deterrence as a punishment theory, but
they also expose a gap in our theoretical understanding of deterrence.
Further, it may be suggested that we overhaul the fundamental approach of a
linear narrative � those harsh laws and stringent punishments lead to
alterations in social behavior, hence deterring future criminal acts. It is
imperative that the law designed must be mindful of the social realities of the
milieu in which it intends to effect a change. Often, deterrence as a theory has
been criticized for only bearing the 'long distance danger' that is overshadowed
by the 'near pleasure' of committing a crime. In other words, acts of
individuals have considerations that may not necessarily be deliberated upon by
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has revealed crime data for the year
2015. The data show a rise in all areas, including the number of arrests
made, the total number of instances recorded, and the total amount of seizures
made by various authorities. Although we don't have state-by-state statistics
for Punjab, the total number of NDPS cases recorded across India is on the rise.
The number of instances recorded under the Act in 2015 was 50,796, up from
46,923 in 2014.
The NDPS Act also ranks among the few legislations that have high conviction
rates (77.2%) as well as high pendency rates (80.6%).
A study by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy said that most arrests in drugs
cases in India are for personal consumption. The study showed 81,778 people in
India were charged under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS)
Act in 2018. Of these, 59 per cent were arrested for possession for personal
The same study also looked at the magistrates' courts in Mumbai, where it found
10,669 cases. Of these cases, 99.9 per cent were for personal consumption, and
87 per cent of the total involved cannabis and not hard drugs like cocaine,
heroin, or smack.
Gupta highlighted that there's an ongoing global debate on legalizing cannabis.
While some states in the US, and even several European countries, have legalized
cannabis, there's still a debate on the fact that criminalizing cannabis has
driven more people into jails. Studies in the US have found that the cost of
rehabilitating people on cannabis is six times less than keeping them in jails.
According to a 2019 study, National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance
Abuse in India, by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, around three
crore people are cannabis users in India.
"Jailing these three-crore people will completely break the legal system,
The debate surrounding decriminalizing cannabis needs to start strongly in India
due to its large number of users as well as its easy availability.
Suggestions And Recommendations:
- There is a requirement to urge the Indian authorities to Strengthen
efforts to know patterns and trends of drug use within the country,
especially in rural areas falling along the drug trading routes and people
near cultivating areas. Develop methods for supporting socio-cultural
controls on drug use. Urgently assess the demand for drug treatment,
particularly amongst the urban poor engaging within the most dangerous kinds
of drug use, and increase the coverage of a variety of treatment
interventions. As a matter of priority, it's recommended that renewed
attention should be inclined to the knowledge and research base which
facilitates understanding of the evolving picture of drug use and therefore
the cost-effectiveness of welfare and control responses. Routine statistics
should be improved to scale back gaps within the understanding of the
dimensions, nature, and extent of drug use. Enforcement and treatment
policies should be evaluated thoroughly, making full use of the available
range of scientific discipline research methods.
- Decriminalize cannabis possession and/or consumption:
Until its prohibition in 1985, cannabis was an integral part of Indian
traditional medicine, social customs, and spiritual functions. Even the NDPS Act was forced
to depart a loophole when it involves marijuana use by removing the stigma of
contraband from the leaves and the seeds. It's a well-documented proven fact
that marijuana consumption is way less dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes and
doesn't cause addiction as previously believed. additionally, the widespread
belief that marijuana may be a 'gateway drug' is solely erroneous and has been
debunked numerous times since the enactment of the prohibition regime. Potential
medical applications of marijuana are many and its prohibition is kind of simply
wrong and serves only to stop access to better and more cost-effective drugs
for treating ailments.
- Proposed deletion of Section 27 from the NDPS
If incarceration reduced addiction, the criminalization of addicts will
be justified. However, over the years, drug use and addiction have only
increased alongside drug traffic. Stringent penalties provided for by the NDPS
Act have done little or no to discourage drug use. India houses the biggest
number of repeat offenders guilty of violating the NDPS Act. Around 63 percent
of prisoners in India have a history of drug use and around 23 percent of the
whole number are apprehended for drug-related offenses. rather than addressing
the matter of consumption or addiction, incarceration aids drug users' exposure
to/and contact with other criminal offenders, likely forcing them into a
lifetime of a more and high crime.
India faces an alarming spike in consumption and injection of illicit drugs
among young adults and teenagers � especially, synthetic drugs like heroin,
ephedrine, and methaqualone. the matter of abuse in states like Punjab has
become so severe that quite � of all rural households are home to a minimum of
one junky. Incarceration of drug users and subsequent criminal charges, destroy
any chance of their rehabilitation or reintegration into society. Out of fear of
being incarcerated, drug users are reluctant to return out seeking treatment and
instead intercommunicate a lifetime of crime to fuel drug dependency.
Factors and Recommendations mentioned above if not adhered to, can lead to
serious repercussions in the Civil Society creating a perception of seeing every
person accused of the offense under the same lens whether it be a consumer or a
trafficker. Hence a serious review of this act needs to be looked through the
prism of neutrality and criminal jurisprudence and to strictly contrast to the
Human Rights Standards as laid down in our Constitution.
- Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, Acts of
Parliament, 1985 (India)
- Sharma, Shweta. (2017). An Overview on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances Act, 1985. Journal of Forensic Sciences & Criminal Investigation.
- Noor Aga v. State of Punjab and Ors. (2008) 16 SCC 417 (India)
- George, Joshua and Krishnan, Ashwin, Loopholes in the Narcotic Drugs and
Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (March 14, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2021750 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2021750
- Section 27 of NDPS Act, 1985.
- Section 37(1) of NDPS Act, 1985.
- Narcotics Control Bureau v Kishan Lal, 1991 (1) SCC 705 (India)
- Section 64 of NDPS Act, 1985.
- Ronald L. Akers, Rational Choice, Deterrence, and Social Learning Theory
in Criminology: The Path Not Taken, Fall 1990, Article 6, Northwestern
- Neha Singhal-Naved Ahmed, Criminalisation Leads to Exploitation: The
Mumbai Story No One Knows About, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, https://vidhilegalpolicy.in/research/criminalisation-leads-to-exploitation-the-mumbai-story-no-one-knows-about/
- Mathew John, The NDPS Act: Room for greater reform, POLICY BRIEF, Centre
for Public Policy Research, https://www.cppr.in/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/The-NDPS-Act-Room-for-greater-reform.pdf
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Aditya Mehrotra
Authentication No: FB205814499304-22-0222