India is known as the land of Shiva, has inherited cultural routes with most mysterious and eccentric ways of worshiping lords. One of these is using bhang a form of cannabis for celebrating religious festival named as Shivaratri. “Soma” is a Sanskrit word which also means intoxicating, a property induced by narcotic drugs, which have been used as “soma ras” since centuries described in many literatures too. Apart from cannabis, opium is also offered at Akha Teej, a ceremony, which is celebrated to strengthen family bonding. Unlike western countries India has a cultural connection of adapting certain natural forms of narcotic substances for celebrating some religious festivals. Thus, this cultural difference is an important aspect to be considered while framing and forcing any drugs laws in India.
On the other hand it cannot overlook the menace of substance of abuse, which is on a rise in the country. Substance abuse brings a lot of problems related to, health like mortality, and psychiatric disorders as well as economic issues like finances spent on developing services, drain on national resources, loss of productivity. It also leads to a number of social problems which can be defined under family disintegration that can also lead to criminal activities. The war on drugs has resulted in more sensitive issues than in any other phenomenon in the history. It may be the cause of crimes ranging from white collar crimes to blue collar crimes. In the era of terrorism where drugs are a way of producing funds for terrorist activities it is a very important area which should be taken into consideration while framing and amending laws related to drugs.
Enactment of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 initially main cause of narcotic addiction was use of opium and morphine for medical preparation during civil war. During these wars veterans became addicted to these drugs and thus, it was also termed as soldier’s disease. Although production of hemp (marijuana) had been effectively banned in 1937, while during World War II, some governments all of a sudden discovered they needed it for basics such as rope and other cordage purposes. As far as Indian scenario is concerned use of cannabis documented dates back to vedic period. Atharvaveda documents the cannabis used for which was a few hundred years ago. In India until 1985 Cannabis and its derivatives (bhang, charas and ganja) were legally sold and were commonly used for recreational purposes.
India opposed the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) which was proposed by United States under law against all drugs. Thus the convention came to a favorable decision giving India a ‘Grace period” of 25 years to make cannabis available for scientific and medical purpose and not for any other reason. Since it was a politically sensitive issue and India became obligated to the international delegations. This compelled Indian government to eliminate ethnically deep-seated use of cannabis. Consequently on 14 November 1985, NDPS Act was enacted, banning all narcotic drugs in India without much resistance. The only provision for non-medical cultural use within the 1985 Act was that drinks made from cannabis leaves were to be sanctioned Britto 1989. NDPS Act mainly prohibits cultivation, manufacture, possession, sale, transport etc, of these drugs and substances except for medical and scientific purposes as provided in the act. Drugs covered under this act include cannabis, coca, opium or any other narcotic substance. Main aims for enforcing this law were to control the manufacturing and distribution of drugs, to keep a check on quality of drugs, to mandate display of ingredients of drugs and to prevent substance abuse in society.
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. Bails cannot be given to accused of offences which fall under Sections 19, 24 or 27A of the NDPS Act and those relating to commercial quantities of drugs. Common drugs in NDPS Act. Although Indian judicial system considers each person innocent till proven otherwise. “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” in spite of availability of special courts assigned for specific cases under this act delayed judgments are too common. Certain times accused arrested for having small quantity of drugs are freed after long time in custody during the investigation period. One of the most important reasons for slackness of such drug laws is investigators are much concentrated on big players who are selling drugs on large scale than regular drug peddlers.
NDPS Amendments, 2014
Amendment 2014 came in force on 1 May 2014. Under section 71 of NDPS act which explains the management of drug dependents cases and the rules for treatment facilities was incorporated. At the same time, the amendments increased penalties for low-level offences and continued to criminalize the consumption of drugs. Producers of morphine just need a single license from respective State Drugs Controller unlike the earlier procedure which had prolonged steps and multiple licenses of different validation period. The amendment will ensure a uniform regulation for the whole country, eliminating state wise conflicts. Essential Narcotic Drugs which are used in medicinal preparations also including; Morphine, Fentanyl and Methadone, have been relaxed for easy accessibility among treatments provided. The death sentence for repeated conviction for trafficking large quantities of drugs has been diluted with giving courts to discretely sentence for 30 years. On the other hand, punishment has been increased for “small quantity” offences from a maximum of 6 months to 1 year imprisonment after this amendment.