Centre holds back cabinet note to amend drugs act amid debate – The Economic Times

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/centre-holds-back-cabinet-note-to-amend-drugs-act-amid-debate/articleshow/87497720.cmsSynopsis

The draft bill is learnt to have proposed imposing a fine for first offences, mandatory community/social work for second offences and imprisonment for subsequent violations, besides introducing financial penalties for breaches of a procedural or a technical nature.

The Centre has held back a draft cabinet note to amend the Narcotics, Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, in the upcoming Parliament session and is set to initiate fresh consultations on the subject. This comes amid debate over the provisions of the law and its implementation in the wake of the Aryan Khan case and, before that, that of Sushant Singh Rajput.

ET has learnt that the Department of Revenue, the nodal administrative authority for the NDPS Act, withdrew the draft bill late last week, citing the need for “further examination” of the issue.

The draft bill is learnt to have proposed imposing a fine for first offences, mandatory community/social work for second offences and imprisonment for subsequent violations, besides introducing financial penalties for breaches of a procedural or a technical nature.

Top government officials have sought a review of the proposals based on suggestions made by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and others on the need to differentiate between users and traffickers, decriminalising personal consumption and introducing rehabilitation and community work modules for addicts, rather than imprisonment and penal action.

  • Top govt officials have sought review of proposals based on suggestions made by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and others
  • Suggestions include need to differentiate between users and traffickers
  • Decriminalising personal consumption
  • Introducing rehabilitation and community work modules for addicts, rather than imprisonment & penal action

Draft Proposals
ET was the first to report on October 20 that the Centre was looking to amend the NDPS Act and had started inter-ministerial consultations on the matter with the home ministry seeking administrative control and the social sector ministries calling for decriminalisation and rehab for addicts.

The attempt at amending the NDPS Act began with a recent order of the Tripura High Court, which observed an anomaly in Section 27A. An ordinance was issued on September 30 to rectify this.

The government subsequently adopted the view that certain other amendments were needed to “strengthen the present framework for regulation of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and controlled substances in India” by removing “deficiencies in the existing law,” according to reasons cited by the Department of Revenue.

The department had moved a cabinet note last month to pilot the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to replace the ordinance, with additional amendments.

The amendments, according to the department, were to “enhance the punishment for some offences related to trafficking of larger quantity of drugs, to include controlled substances under the category of severe offence in terms of granting bail, further empowering enforcement agencies by treating its enquiry as a judicial proceeding under Section 193 and Section 228 of the Indian Penal code and to include the provision of forfeiture of property in case the cases (were) of lesser quantity, to increase its scope.”

“Reframing of punishment in graded manner” for consumption of drugs is key given the current debate. The draft, now withdrawn, is learnt to have recommended that Section 27 of the bill be amended to read that subject to Section 39 and under Section 64A, whoever consumes or possesses to consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substances will be punishable with a fine of up to ₹10,000.

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