ONE FINAL STEP FORWARD: ARGUMENTS FOR FURTHER AMENDMENTS TO THE NDPS ACT.
￼Ministry of Finance (MoF) backed by the Prime minister’s office(PMO) has decided to consider the option of further amending the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) 1985 in the winter parliament session of 2015. The Ministry of Finance is expected to propose groundbreaking amendments which allow the state to introduce legal regulation of certain illicit drugs, including the decriminalization of marijuana possession. It is in this context that the Harm Reduction International – India Chapter (HRI-IC) has decided to commission this policy brief to provide recommendations that we believe should not be left out of the policy reform.
Punitive measures under the NDPS Act has done very little to deter drug use or drug trafficking in India. Consumption of opium and Heroin is been steadily increasing since the introduction of NDPS bill in 1985 (Das, 2012). Empirical evidence indicates that the present policy of criminalization and incarceration has done very little to deter drug use. UNODC baseline survey indicates that 23% of prisoners in India have been apprehended for drug related offence – most have been apprehended for possession and/or consumption of ‘illicit’ drugs listed under the NDPS Act. Inside the prisons, there is evidence of sexual abuse faced by drug users and increasing drug consumption (IHRN, 2009). The NDPS Act, instead of deterring drug use has only served to abuse and de-humanize drug users.
Drug policy reform in India is a principled and necessary step to enable us to address the underlying issues of marginalization and freedom. HRI-IC strongly believes that the nation needs to rework its drug policy to adopt a more evidence based approach in dealing with drug use. This policy brief seeks to point out the pitfalls in the current policy and recommends decriminalization of drug consumers, decriminalization of cannabis and finally – the creation of regulated market for certain narcotic substances as policy options.
THE NDPS ACT: AN OVERVIEW
￼In 1961 India was forced into signing the ‘Single convention on Narcotic Drugs’ after having unsuccessfully led the opposition to its intolerance to sociocultural use of organic drugs in the UN. In 1985, the NDPS Act was enacted by the Rajiv Gandhi government in compliance with the UN treaty. The NDPS Act serves as the principle legislation to deter drug use and trafficking in India. (Mitta, 2012) Possession, manufacture and transport of narcotics are prohibited except for medicinal purposes. The NDPS Act makes no distinction between hard and soft drugs and prescribes a
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￼￼￼￼￼maximum sentence of six-months to any individual found in possession of those substances it lists as ‘illegal’. The penalties provided for by the act can range from six month imprisonment to 30 years of life imprisonment – depending on the quantity of the drugs seized. (Central...