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Personal use of drugs unlikely to be completely decriminalised as govt fine-tunes NDPS tweaks

Offenders who opt for de-addiction voluntarily could potentially be spared a criminal case, according to proposed amendments to Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, 

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New Delhi: The proposed amendments to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, are unlikely to decriminalise personal consumption of drugs completely, ThePrint has learnt.

Senior officials, however, told ThePrint that in case offenders opt for de-addiction voluntarily, there would be no criminal case against them. 

The amendment bill is likely to come up in the winter session of Parliament. 

The government has been debating and working on several proposals to bring exhaustive changes to the NDPS Act, including possible decriminalisation of personal consumption of drugs. 

According to sources, it is being debated whether such decriminalisation will negatively affect the fight to discourage people from consuming drugs. Hence, the draft is likely to contain much watered-down provisions for decriminalisation of personal consumption of drugs. 

A senior government official said that at a meeting this week of all relevant ministries, the provision of allowing addicts to undergo de-addiction voluntarily, and not lodge criminal cases against them, was discussed.   

“Either government or government-aided institutions will provide free treatment for 30 days to addicts so that they can get back to their normal life,” the official said. “Their identity will also be protected and they will also be protected from prosecution if they come forward willingly and opt for rehabilitation. The government wants to encourage voluntary reform.” 

According to sources, at the same meeting, the issue of decriminalisation was debated at length and it was felt that the issue is too complex and should be dealt with carefully.

“It was earlier proposed and debated that if someone is caught with a small amount for personal consumption they should not be prosecuted but should be sent for rehabilitation. However, this is unlikely to be approved. At the recent meeting, most pointed out this should not be approved,” said the senior official. 

Also read: As Modi govt plans NDPS Act changes, 27,072 drug case undertrials in India rot in jails

Amendments in the works

Earlier, in an attempt to help victims of drug abuse, the government was looking into the possibility of decriminalising personal consumption of small quantities of drugs including cannabis, narcotics and psychotropic substances. 

The recommendations in this regard had come at a high-level meeting on 10 November at the Prime Minister’s Office involving top officials from the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Home Affairs, Narcotics Control Bureau, Social Justice Ministry, and Health & Family Welfare Ministry.

The matter was taken up in the wake of the recent cases involving actor Rhea Chakraborty and Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan — both of whom were accused of drug consumption. 

It was being proposed that in relation to poppy straw, opium, cannabis, psychotropic substances and other drugs and narcotics, where the contravention involves small quantity and possession is solely for personal consumption, a mandatory admission at a government-run or supported rehabilitation or de-addiction centre be encouraged.

The government is also set to introduce the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotic Substances (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 (NDPS Amendment Ordinance) — aimed at rectifying a drafting error — in the ongoing Parliament session too.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Aryan Khan isn’t a show to enjoy. NDPS is a weapon vengeful state could use on you or your kids


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