After three days of questioning, 28-year-old actor Rhea Chakraborty was on Tuesday arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) under various sections of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. She has reportedly been booked under several sections of the NDPS Act which was introduced in 1985 with the aim of combating the menace of drug trafficking. According to several reports, NCB claims to have evidence linking Showik Chakraborty, Rhea’s brother who was arrested last week, and Sushant Rajput’s house manager Samuel Miranda, to the purchase of marijuana.
The actor has been taken for a medical test and will be produced before a magistrate via video conferencing by 7:30pm today, NCB officials told reporters. Rhea has, in all her interviews to the media, denied consuming drugs. Let’s take a quick look at the NDPS Act, 1985 to understand what the NCB has accused Rhea of, and the possible quantum of punishment the actor could be looking at if she were to be convicted.
What is the NDPS Act and how did it come into existence?
The Act came into existence in 1985 through its enactment by the then President Giani Zail Singh. The Act was introduced because till that time India did not have a law that dealt exclusively with drug-related crimes. It is meant to deter drug trafficking, forbid and criminalise cultivation, production, sale, purchase, possession, use, consumption, import and export of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
Under what sections has Rhea Chakraborty been booked and what penalties dothose sections attract?
Rhea Chakraborty has been booked under Sections 27 A, 21, 22, 29 and 28 of the NDPS Act.
Section 21: This section punishes a person who possesses, sells, purchases, transports or imports manufactured drugs. The definition of ‘manufactured drugs’ has been listed separately as ‘all coca derivatives, medicinal cannabis, opium derivatives and poppy straw concentrate’. Punishment varies based on quantity seized, from small quantities, which could attract a penalty of Rigorous Imprisonment (RI) for up to 6 months and fine which may extend to Rs 10,000, to seizure of large quantities which could attract a penalty of 10 years RI and fine up to Rs 2 lakh.
Section 22: This section punishes possession, sale, purchase, transport or import of psychotropic substances. Quantum of punishments in this section are same as those in section 21.
Section 27A: This section imposes punishment for the consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, like cocaine or morphine. It carries similar penalties.
Section 28 and 29 : These sections deal with the offences of attempting to commit offences, and for abetment and criminal conspiracy.
How effective has the NDPS been as a tool to deter drug trafficking crimes?
In August 2018, Vidhi Center for Legal Policy published a detailed report on the conviction under this Act in Punjab which, in 2013 reported nearly half of the total cases booked under this law in the country, and remains the hotbed of drug trafficking.
Legal researchers found that “despite the changing nature and type of drugs consumed over the years, overall addiction and use has continued unabated." The report underscored the high conviction rate under this Act on two grounds – “(a) they do not offer a long-term solution to the problem of drug addiction, even if achieved effectively and (b) contrary to the original conceptualisation of the law, they do not comprise cases of trafficking."
What is the most stringent punishment awarded under this Act?
Section 31A of the NDPS Act, 1985, has a provision for death penalty for repeat offenders. It lists the sections under which a previous offender should have been convicted and the minimum quantity of psychotropic or narcotic substance that is found from the convict’s possession, upon which he or she could be awarded the death penalty.
Several human rights bodies, such as Harm Reduction International, have criticised India for being among the 33 countries in the world that have capital punishment provisions in drug-related crimes. Moreover, the Act has been criticised for its inherent nature because it presupposes the guilt of the accused and puts the onus on the accused to prove innocence. It further states that, unless the contrary is proved, it will be believed that the accused intentionally held the illicit drugs that were found in his possession, which is found contrary to international human rights principles.