Urgent need for clear rules under NDPS Act: 18 civil bodies in Manipur

The civil bodies have submitted feedback and recommendations on the draft Manipur State Policy on Substance Use, 2019 to the principal secretary, department of Social Welfare government of Manipur.

The Manipur government should frame clear rules under the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substance Act (NDPS), 1985 in the form of Manipur Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substance Rules, a total of 18 civil bodies in the state has recommended.

The civil bodies on Monday submitted feedback and recommendations on the draft Manipur State Policy on Substance Use, 2019 to the principal secretary, department of Social Welfare government of Manipur.

They stated that Manipur is one of the worst affected states by drug trafficking in India but the state government has not even framed clear rules under the NDPS Act. There is an urgent need to come up with clear rules to be followed for the law enforcement agencies while operating under the NDPS Act, they added.

The representation mentioned that many other lesser affected state/union territory, such as Sikkim, Chandigarh etc. have framed their own Act and Rules. Instead of depending on ad hoc SOPs, it will go a long way in strengthening and streamlining the law enforcement agencies combating the menace of drugs in Manipur. The drafting of this rule should be done by due consultation with relevant stakeholders, including police officers, legal experts, NGOs, CBOs etc., it added.

The civil bodies further stated that the investigation of drug haul of large commercial quantity of drugs, worth more than one crore in the international market, especially those involving politically influential person/entity of the state must be handed over to an independent agency which is immune to political pressure such as NCB, CBI or NIA and that the trial of such cases should be closely monitored by the Manipur High Court.

They pointed out that most of the high profile drugs haul cases in Manipur involving politicians and high ranking military personnel remained unresolved till date. The latest controversy around the trial of Loukhosei Zou, involving armed groups from across the border, has considerably eroded the public faith in the criminal justice institutions, it stated.

It is, therefore, extremely important to restore public faith in the Rule of Law and to ensure that justice is not only done, but also seen to be done. Prompt, impartial and thorough investigation and free, fair and speedy trial should be conducted, it stated.

The representation suggested constituting a Commission/Committee of various stakeholders, including the Home department, NCB, NGOs, CBOs, CSOs and individual experts, under Article 2.8 of the present draft policy to monitor the overall ‘supply reduction programme’.

It mentioned that “considering the complexity and magnitude of the problem, the issue of supply reduction cannot be seen only as a law and order problem to be dealt by law enforcement agencies alone. At the time of arrest, the cooperation of civil bodies is sought by the law enforcement agencies; however, once the investigation has been commenced the civil society is kept in the dark on the progress.”

There is a need for a platform where various stakeholders should come together and monitor the process, thereby ensuring that the processes remain transparent and accountable to the general public. The synergy of such a coming together of stakeholders is already seen in the drafting process of this policy itself. Such good practice should be sustained and developed to achieve the objective of this policy, it mentioned.

It stated that there is a need for strict implementation of sections 46 (duty of land owner to inform the authority of illegal poppy cultivation) and 47 (duty of certain officers to inform the authority) under NDPS Act, 1985.

It further suggested that incentives in the form of awards should be instituted for individuals informing the authority of illegal poppy cultivation. Due protection should also be provided to such individuals from reprisal by drug cartels, it stated.

Even though it is common knowledge that large tracts of hill areas in Manipur are under poppy cultivation, there is hardly any penalty imposed on the land holders and officers as per section 46 and 47 of the NDPS Act. It is imperative that the reason behind this inaction is identified and addressed effectively in order to curb the cultivation and supply of drugs, it added.

It mentioned that the difficulty of mapping stated in article 1.7 of the present draft policy can also be addressed if section 46 and 47 of NDPS Act is strictly implemented.

It mentioned that the financial investigation should be mandatory in every investigation of drug haul in line with section 68 (j) of NDPS Act. “Most of the accused who have been arrested belong to low income families; whereas the prize of drugs seized involve astronomical amounts beyond the means of the arrested persons. The investigation usually comes to an abrupt conclusion on the confession made by the accused person that he/she is the sole owner of the seized drug. This pattern has become the standard practice of shielding the real culprit/kingpin from exposure to criminal investigation,” it added.   

Specific time frames should be given for submission of expert opinion (FSL report) in cases related to drugs haul. Most of the accused persons are released on default bail due to non-submission / late submission of charge-sheet awaiting expert opinion (FSL report), it stated.

The representation also suggested that the government of Manipur should initiate setting up a model drug free village in line with objective No. 2.1 of the present draft policy. The overall objective of the state draft policy of ‘Manipur free from substance use’ will be achieved by cleaning the villages one by one, it stated.

The 18 civil bodies namely, AMBA,AMSU, AMKIL, AIMS, CONE, CADA, DESAM, EKAL, EEVFAM, HRA, LIPUL, LOUSAL, SUK, USER, WASEDEV, AMSRDS, UVYC, BSD drafted the comments after several roundtable consultations. 

First Published:Sept. 7, 2020, 9:24 p.m.