Posted on: July 24, 2013

Manipur plans to have its own law to check drug trafficking. But it is nothing but a political gimmick as the state can’t have its law bypassing the already existing NDPS Act.

● June 2, 2013: Two persons arrested from Manipur’s Thoubal district for allegedly carrying six cartons of drugs without proper licence. The seized items include 41,314 Spasmo-Proxyvon capsules, 4,500 Nitrosun 10 tablets, 380 bottles of Lupicof Codeine syrup and 100 bottles of Rcof Codeine syrup.

● May 9, 2013: The officer in charge of Moreh Commando Post arrested for his alleged role in the trafficking of banned narcotic substances.

● February 24, 2013: Seven people, including a former defence PRO, arrested for allegedly trafficking a consignment of drugs to Myanmar through Moreh, a border town 110-km from Manipur’s capital Imphal. The son of former minister and Congress MLA T.N. Haokip also arrested in connection with the case.

Drug trafficking is not new in Manipur. But the recent cases have raised such an alarm that the state government is now proposing a new law to check the drug menace.

“We want stricter punishment for offenders who hold government office to instil a sense of fear in them. Government officers must know that they will not be spared if caught in the trafficking of drugs,” says a state home ministry official.

Currently, the offence of drug trafficking in India is governed by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and the Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. The Manipur government plans to bring a new law that will be stricter than both these existing laws.

Manipur is one of the main transit points for drug trafficking in India. Drugs come to Manipur from the notorious Golden Triangle — the region covering Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. From Manipur these trafficked drugs find their way to other parts of the country as well as the Middle East. With the start of formal trade with Myanmar through Moreh in 1994, the illegal flow of drugs has increased.

Around 56.21kg of opium, 14.566kg of heroin and 6,808.40kg of ganja were recovered from Manipur in 2012. Besides this, large consignments of pharmaceutical preparations such as Corex, Phensedyl, Buprenorphine, Spasmo-Proxyvon too have been seized during raids in the state.

Drug abuse is one of the serious problems that the state has been grappling with. It is also one of the reasons for the rising number of HIV cases in the state.

The new law also plans to encourage informers who could help the police nab those involved in drug trafficking. “In the proposed law there will be rewards for informers who help the police capture any consignment of drugs being trafficked,” says Ishaq Shah, superintendent of police, narcotics and affairs of border, Manipur.

The state also proposes to increase the degree of punishment for offenders. The NDPS Act lays down that the punishment for the production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transport, import, inter-state, export or use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in small quantities is rigorous imprisonment up to six months or a fine of up to Rs 10,000 or both. “But the new law plans to increase the punishment to five years and double the amount of fine too,” the state home ministry official adds.

The big question, however, is whether the state can increase the quantum of punishment for an offence that is already being dealt with in a central act.

Most legal experts don’t think so. Going by the Supreme Court judgment in the T. Barai vs Henry Ah Hoe case in 1982, lawyers say that the state cannot alter the degree of punishment when there is already a central law on it.

“The Supreme Court had observed that where both laws prescribe punishment for the same offence but the punishment differs in degree or kind or in the procedure prescribed, the law made by Parliament shall prevail over the state law under Article 254(1),” says Tripti Tandon of Lawyers’ Collective.

Experts also point out that the state has the power to introduce rules but not make any law relating to the NDPS. “Sections 10 and 78 of the NDPS Act allow the states to make rules, but not enact a separate law,” says R.K. Sahoo, deputy director-general, Narcotics Control Bureau, eastern region. Adds Rajesh Nandan Srivastava, director, narcotics control, revenue department, Union ministry of finance, “Even if they formulate a new law, it would stand void. Their law cannot override the existing NDPS Act.”

However, law ministry officials in Manipur are hellbent on bringing in a new law. “We are studying the legal implications of a separate state law and it will be framed according to the parameters of the Constitution,” says state law secretary G. Rameshchandran.

Manipur’s law ministry officials also point out that the state can take the President’s assent for its law as per the provisions of Article 254(2).

Lawyers say that according to the Constitution, there are two aspects to whether Manipur can enact a separate state law to stop drug trafficking. “The first concerns the subject of the legislation, that is, drugs, which falls under Entry 19 of the Concurrent List in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution.

This means that both the Centre and the states can enact laws on this subject. However, in the event of an inconsistency between the central and the state laws, Article 254 of the Constitution comes into play. According to this, the central law will prevail over the state law,” Tandon says.

Some say the Manipur government is showing undue haste in introducing a new law to check drug trafficking only to pacify those who have taken to the streets protesting against the involvement of senior Army and Manipur police officials in drug trafficking.

“It is an attempt to show people that they are serious about eradicating the drug menace in the state. The NDPS Act is good enough to deal with the problem,” argues a senior Narcotics Control Bureau officer in Guwahati.

Clearly, the powers that be in Manipur beg to differ.


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