Imphal, October 20 2020: N Biren-led BJP’s coalition government’s decision to promulgate an ordinance pertaining to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances to boost its ‘war on drug’ has received strong criticisms.
A cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister N Biren Singh on October 15 last decided to promulgate an ordinance to strengthen the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (ND&PS) Rules to become more effective to the government’s ‘war against drugs’.
Under the ordinance, the punishment to be given to those involved in the drug business will be two-four years of jail term with a fine of Rs one lakh.
18 organizations including several student bodies have strongly condemned the recently passed Ordinance on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as “unconstitutional” and “regressive”. The Ordinance only targets the drug users, not drug lords, they said.
The Ordinance, which the State Cabinet passed on October 15 regarding the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is not only “unconstitutional” but also violates the “basic human rights of drug users” by treating them as “traffickers”, said a joint statement of the organizations.
Altogether 18 organizations namely All Manipur Bar Association (AMBA), All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU), Apunba Manipur Kanba Ima Lup (AMKIL), Apunba Ireipakki Maheiroi Sinpanglup (AIMS), Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA), Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE), Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur (DESAM), Eramdam Kanba Apunba Lup (EKAL), Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families Association, Manipur (EEVFAM), Human Rights Alert (HRA), League of Indigenous People’s Up-Liftment (LIPUL), Loumi Sinmi Apun Lup (LOUSAL) Manipur, Students’ Union of Kangleipak (SUK), Users’ Society for Effective Response (USER), Manipur, Women Association for Socio-Economic Development (WASEDEV), All Manipur Social Reformation and Development Samaj (AMSRDS), United Voluntary Youth Council (UVYC) and Bridging Sustainable Development (BSD) issued the joint statement.
“The hurried way in which this Ordinance is brought out when a Manipur State Drug Policy is being discussed in the public domain seems to be a diversionary tactics from the real issue of convicting drug lords and to make cheap political propaganda in view of the upcoming by-elections,” they said.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, commonly referred to as the NDPS Act, is an Act of the Parliament that prohibits a person from production/manufacturing/cultivating, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, storing, and/or consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
According to this Act, any person found with the possession of prohibited drugs beyond 3 milligrams can be punished and put in prison for 2 years along with a fine of Rs 1 lakh.
Those possessing 3 milligrams of drugs are considered as “possession for personal consumption” and exempted from the purview of the Act.
Punishment under the Manipur Ordinance on Drugs
With the new Ordinance any person found possessing drugs, whether 1 milligram or 100 kilograms, will face 2 to 4 years imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
Thus, this act of imposing penalty for offences not covered under the parent NDPS Act seems to be in clear violation of the Article 35 of the Constitution of India, said the bodies.
No clear demarcation between drug user and drug peddler
Under the new rule, there is “no clear demarcation between a drug user and a drug peddler”. Both are considered as “one entity” and provided stern punishment.
The new rule is giving more power to the police personnel to “harass and victimise” the drug users. On the other hand, it provides a free hand to the drug peddlers and mafias.
While the popular demand of the public is to arrest the big drug lords, the Government, on the contrary, is presenting the Ordinance which is hell bent on targeting the drug users, which is very unfortunate, they said.
Again, if any person who is found possessing drugs for personal consumption is arrested and put behind bars, then it comes to the conclusion that “nobody is allowed to take drugs for any purpose whatsoever” .
Under such circumstances, it would now be considered “illegal” to provide drugs inside drug-rehabilitation centres which are set up for rehabilitation purposes.
Moreover, Oral Substitution Therapy (OST), Needle Syringe Exchange Program (NSEP) and other harm reduction programmes taken up under the supervision of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and implemented by Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) will have to be closed down, the bodies said.
Further, another serious consequence of the new ordinance would be that the police personnel may now see drug users as their “primary source of income generation” .
A person with a small amount of drugs for personal consumption will run away at the sight of police personnel which would then compel the latter to use physical force to capture the person and unfortunately bring back the “fake encounter” era once again, they said alleging that the State Government is “diverting from the real issue and trying to take political mileage” by bringing out the Ordinance.