Decriminalisation has the potential to reduce the burden on police and the criminal justice system. It also removes the negative consequences (including stigma) associated with criminal convictions for drug use
Narendra Modi-led central government is likely to list a Bill to decriminalise addiction to drugs.
The proposed amendment is expected to amend the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which aims to decriminalise possession of a limited quantity of drugs for personal use.
The move is said to help victims of drug abuse to come out of addiction. The recommendations in this regard were made to Prime Minister’s office on November 10 by various ministries including from Department of Revenue, Ministry of Home Affairs, Narcotics Control Bureau, Social Justice Ministry and health ministry.
The proposed amendment is expected to fine-tune decriminalisation of personal consumption by amending Section 39 along with other amendments in sections 15,17,18,20,21 and 22 of the Narcotic, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 that deals with procurement, consumption and financing of drugs.
Section 39 in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
39. Power of court to release certain offenders on probation.
When any addict is found guilty of an offence punishable under section 27 1[or for offences relating to small quantity of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance] and if the court by which he is found guilty is of the opinion, regard being had to the age, character, antecedents or physical or mental condition of the offender, that it is expedient so to do, then, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, the court may, instead of sentencing him at once to any imprisonment, with his consent, direct that he be released for undergoing medical treatment for de-detoxification or de-addiction from a hospital or an institution maintained or recognized by Government and on his entering into a bond in the form prescribed by the Central Government, with or without sureties, to appear and furnish before the court within a period not exceeding one year, a report regarding the result of his medical treatment and, in the meantime, to abstain from the commission of any offence.
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.
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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