Jammu and Kashmir High Court directs UT govt to strictly follow NDPS Act to control the spread of drugs

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued directions to the government to check the menace of drugs in the Union Territory, including strict compliance to the NDPS Act and imparting training to the investigating officers regarding safe disposal of the seized contraband.

The Court, while considering the Criminal Acquittal Appeal No D-107 of 2010, after taking into consideration the low rate of conviction, particularly in the NDPS cases and also with regard to the method used for disposing of the case properly, directed the Registry to register the said Criminal Acquittal Appeal as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and accordingly, the same was registered as WPPIL No 5 of 2013.

During the pendency of the petition, another PIL was filed by Atharv Mahajan, a law student seeking direction to the respondents to check the menace of drugs. besides, a suo motu PIL was also registered during the same period by the Court, pursuant to a newspaper cutting regarding functioning of Forensic Science Laboratory.

From time to time, different status reports have been filed by the respondents, the latest being an affidavit on June 16, 2021, filed by the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir by the Special Director General of Police, Crime Branch, J&K, pursuant to the direction of the High Court dated April 22.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal, on perusal of the said affidavit on October 7, observed that by each passing year, there is an increase in registration of FIRs in NDPS cases, consequently leading to increase in the seizure of contraband.

In the affidavit, details have also been mentioned with regard to the Poppy/Bhang crops being destroyed from 2016 till 2021. Further, the UT Government has constituted a separate wing called the Anti-Narcotic Task Force (ANTF). Besides, the affidavit mentioned various steps taken by the UT for creating awareness about the drug menace.

In view of the status report filed, it cannot be said that the respondents are not taking any steps for controlling/curbing the drug menace prevalent in the society, said the Court.

Advocate Deepika Mahajan, representing the petitioner, submitted that despite various efforts undertaken by the government, drug menace was on rise and there were certain hubs that were known for promoting the drug culture. She further submitted that no report has been furnished by the respondents with regard to the disposal of the seized contraband.

The Court noted that continuous efforts were required to be made to check the menace of drugs and for that purpose, the role of Police was very important. To check the spread of drugs, the court issued the following directions:-

i) The respondents shall resort to the provisions contained in Section 52-A of NDPS Act with regard to the disposal of the seized contraband.

ii) Regular surveillance be maintained/undertaken, particularly in the areas being frequently visited by the youngsters, particularly the students, so that the drug culture does not spread among the younger generation and while doing so, no harassment shall be caused to them.

iii) Proper training be imparted to the investigating officers, as this Court has come across a number of cases, in which the accused earns acquittal just because of non-compliance of the mandatory provisions of NDPS Act and also investigating officers be made aware about placing of the seized contraband in safe custody, particularly from the date of seizure till the samples are sent to FSL for chemical analysis.

iv) AAG Raman Sharma shall file a fresh status report regarding the disposal of seized contraband in NDPS cases from 2016 till date and also one regarding the functioning of Forensic Science Laboratory in the UT. Both the status reports should be filed before the next date of hearing, which is December 6.
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