Drug abuse has become a major social problem over the years. To combat this problem, the Department of Social Welfare has been declared as a Nodal Agency to co-ordinate all the measures and activities being undertaken by various governmental and non-governmental agencies and to launch relentless publicity propaganda drive against this evil.
The Government of India, enacted a very stringent and comprehensive law, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, which inter-alia provides for a minimum punishment of 10 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh which may go up to Rs. 3 lakhs. Moreover, the courts have been empowered to impose fines exceeding these limits for reasons to be recorded in their judgements. Further, the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988, has been brought into force to provide for detention in order ro prevent illicit trafficking. The NDPS Act was amended in December, 1988 to impose a stringent punishment for financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders, including death penalty for perpetrations of this crime. It also prescribes forfeiture of property derived from or used in illicit traffic.
A central authority called 'The Narcotics Control Bureau' was also set up under this Act to co-ordinate the enforcement efforts of the various agencies in the country and also for carrying out the obligations under the different international conventions to which India is a party.
The Ministry of Welfare is the nodal Ministry to coordinate and monitor all aspects of drug abuse prevention which include assessment of the extent of the problem, preventive action to counteract drug abuse, dissemination of information, public education and welfare of those in need of care. The Ministry of health & Family Welfare is concerned with such hard core addicts who are required to be dealt with through concerted medical treatment. While the Ministry of Finance is concerned with the trafficking in drugs and the enforcement of the relevant laws, the Ministry of Welfare has been taking steps through voluntary organisations to safeguard people from the ill-effects of drug abuse by imparting knowledge through various means of media and by providing community-based services for the identification, treatment and rehabilitation of addicts.
The NDPS Act provides very stringent punishment for trafficking, illegal attempts, abetment and conspiracy to commit drug related crimes, illegal cultivation of drug plants, irregularity in licensing in drug related matters etc.
As per NDPS Act -
Section 23 provides mandatory minimum punishments of 10 years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh extendable to 20 years' rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 2 lakh for major trafficking offences.
Section 31 of NDPS Act provides 15 years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1.5 lakh which may go up to 30 years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 3 lakhs repeated trafficking offences.
Section 27 of NDPS Act provides that the persons found to have illegal possession of drugs in a small quantity (the quantities for different drugs which would be deemed to be small quantity for the purpose of the Act has been laid down by the Government) are liable to a punishment up to six months imprisonment or fine or both, which, in respect of hard drugs like heroin would be up to one year's imprisonment or fine or both. However, the court is empowered to instead of straightway sentencing the addict convict to imprisonment, release him for undergoing medical treatment for de-addiction on his executing necessary bond prescribed under the Act.
The comprehensive and stringent action initiated against items (ii) and (iii) of the preceding para by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 has been further intensified with the enactment of Prevention of Illicitly Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988, providing for preventive detention for drug traffickers and the narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment). Act 1989, providing for capital punishment for drug traffickers in certain cases and for the forfeiture of their properties.