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Drugs are an evil which not only corrupt the bodily functions of the individual consuming them, but also the functioning of the society as a whole. They have spread their claws deep into various societies across the world, with nearly thirty-five million people suffering from drug abuse disorders and many more indulging in its consumption.
Drug peddling has become a menace in India affecting people of all ages, but specifically children and youngsters, ruining the life of the drug addict as well as the society subsisting around them. Young people can be seen to be indulging in this self-destructive habit due to peer pressure or due to the misconception of it being fashionable and trendy.
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In light of this, the Madras High Court empowered by Article 226 took suo motu cognizance of drug peddling and abuse in the State of Tamil Nadu, in a case dealing with a drug peddler’s detention under the Tamil Nadu Goondas Act, 1982.
What are the facts of the issue?
The matter of the increase in drug peddling in India and particularly in the State of Tamil Nadu, came in front of the Madras High Court, as an indirect consequence of a plea of habeas corpus made by the spouse of a drug peddler, against his detention under the Goondas Act.
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The Court concluded that on account of the delay in considering the representation filed by the detainee, being violative of fundamental rights, the detention stood vitiated. The Court also reprimanded the authorities to be cautious in dealing with drug peddlers due to the seriousness of the situation.
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The High Court noted that the issue is entrenched in the society, and active measures have to be taken to demolish it from its roots. Concern was shown towards the youth falling into the trap of drugs because of the ready availability of the same in areas accessible to them.
The probability of the country being used by the drug mafia to smuggle drugs from one country to another was also brought to light. In furtherance of the same, the High Court ordered the Central as well as State Government to furnish information regarding the factual scenario of drug peddling in the country and the steps that have been taken to deal with the related issues.
What are the legal provisions involved?
The Constitution, by virtue of Article 47 creates a duty upon the Government to take steps to curb the usage of drugs which are not used for medicinal purposes, and are injurious to health.
Obligations under the Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988 have also been undertaken by the State, making it internationally liable to take action against the problem.
The fulfilment of this obligation led to the enactment of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 by the Central Government, in order to make the existing regime stringent.
The Act, deals with offences and penalties in Chapter IV, and lays down punishments for the preparation, manufacturing, import, export as well as consumption of several drugs and substances like cocaine, opium, cannabis, heroin.
Section 4 of the Act provides for setting up of the Narcotics Control Bureau, which has been tasked with the coordination of the various agencies and State Governments; rehabilitation and care of drug addicts; and overall responsibility of ensuring that drug abuse and trafficking is dealt with as per the Act.
Also read: Anti-drug law in India
Apart from the NDPS Act, various other measures, such as the implementation of the Scheme for Prohibition and Drug Abuse Prevention, Drug Demand Reduction activities, have been taken by the Central as well State Governments, in order to ensure that the health and life of the citizens do not get engulfed by drugs.
The youth being easily influenced, become susceptible to the usage of drugs and get addicted to the dopamine high that drugs make them experience. They fail to understand that the high so achieved is temporary.
They start craving that feeling and without realising, the truth of the fact become heavily addicted to the same. These addicts start by committing petty crimes to gain money to procure the drug, but due to their addiction, end up resorting to committing graver and more heinous crimes. They also become easy targets of terrorist groups, which take undue advantage of their pitiful state to further their evil motives.
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This problem gains significant important especially in these trying times, with the Covid-19 pandemic having taken a physical, mental and economic toll on the lives of numerous people, drug peddling and consumption might be considered a viable option to relieve a person of the stress and burdens. This calls for strict action on part of the authorities and a need for educating the youth about the harmful and long-lasting effects of these drugs.
The war against drugs is something that has to be fought by all stakeholders and the responsibility of ensuring that it is won has to be shouldered by the authorities. Though laws dealing with drugs exist, their strict compliance on part of the authorities has to be ensured.
The administration has a crucial role in ensuring that people involved in this racket do not escape the legal system due to a small technical issue that could have been avoided easily. At present, the number of rehabilitation centres in the country are quite low, making the system incapable of catering to the actual needs of the persons affected by this problem.
There is a need to change the manner in which the situation is being dealt with, and it is pertinent to shift the current focus to one which emphasizes the understanding of the cause of the problem.
Drug abuse is a vicious circle, which has a spiralling impact on the addiction of the individual. The youth who are the future of the country have been most gravely impacted and influenced by the same, with a significant portion undertaking its consumption.
This calls for the Centre and the various States to work in compliance with each other, in order to curb the mushrooming of the same across the country. The provisions of the NDPS Act have to be complied with to ensure that the duty cast on the Government, by the Constitution as well as the International Conventions is duly fulfilled.
The suo motu cognizance taken by the Madras High Court is a positive step towards ensuring that the battle against drugs is won by the individual and the society and not the powdery demon of corruption; but there is still a long way to go before we are completely free from its deep-rooted claws.
Author: Rashmi John from National Law University, Jodhpur, India.
Editor: Astha Garg, Junior Editor, LexLife India.