Actor Rhea Chakraborty was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on September 8, following three days of questioning and was charged under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
Rejecting the actor’s bail application, the court remanded Chakraborty to 14-day judicial custody. This culminated the narcotics angle to actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
NCB alleged that Chakraborty, who was Rajput’s girlfriend, procured drugs for the actor who was found dead in his Mumbai residence in June.
Also read: What do India’s laws say about the use of ganja and charas?
What is the NDPS Act?
The Act prohibits any person from producing, manufacturing, cultivating, possessing, selling, transporting, storing and/or consuming any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
The NDPS Act is also meant to meet India's treaty obligations under the global Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Convention on Psychotropic Substances and United Nations’ Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. However, the law was amended in 1988, 2001 and 2014.
The NCB, established in 1986, uses this law as its foundation.
A large number of narcotic drugs and substances including cannabis, heroin and opium are covered by the law. However, bhang is excluded.
The maximum punishment that can be given under this Act is the death penalty. But the law says that such a punishment can be given to repeat offenders, on the discretion of a judge.
NDPS Act and Chakraborty's case
Chakraborty was reportedly booked under Sections 8(c), 20(b)(ii), 22, 27 A, 28, 29 of the NDPS Act.
Section 8(c) of the Act bars production, manufacture, sale, purchase, transportation and consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substances.
Section 20(b)(ii) allows punishment for production, sale, purchase, etc., of cannabis.
This section says that anyone caught with a “small quantity” of the drug can be punished with rigorous imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of up to Rs 10,000. In 2008, a court had ruled that the punishment under NDPS Act would depend on the quantity of the drug seized by the police.
However, the Supreme Court reversed this judgement in April 2020 saying that traces of an offending drug in the seized mixture will be sufficient to declare the entire quantity to be an offending drug under NDPS.
While reports suggest that Chakraborty herself and her brother Showik Chakraborty were not caught with any drugs, the agency reportedly discovered 59 grams of curated ganja from two others identified as Abbas Lakhani and Karan Arora. The duo was allegedly linked to Rajput.
Section 27A allows punishment for “financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders”. This could attract a jail term of 10 to 20 years and a penalty of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.
Sections 28 and 29 of the Act deal with attempts to commit offences, abetment and criminal conspiracy.
How stringent is the law?
According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 81,778 persons were arrested under NDPS Act in 2018. Of these, 79,028 were male and 2,750 female. About 568 persons were above the age of 60 – about 87 percent of them were male.
According to data from NCRB, there were 63,137 cases of drug smuggling and drug abuse across India in 2018 -- marginally lower than the 65,436 cases registered in the previous year.
Punjab and Maharashtra top the list of states with the highest cases of drug smuggling, the data shows.
Maharashtra recorded 11,708 cases of drug possession for personal use, followed by Kerala (8,095) and Punjab (5,925). Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had reported 4,032 and 1,578 cases of possession for personal use, respectively.
Punjab, with 5,729 cases, topped the list of states with the highest cases of drug smuggling. This was followed by Uttar Pradesh (4,789), Tamil Nadu (2,139) and West Bengal (1,226).
Data from NCRB shows that 3.9 lakh kg of ganja was seized by authorities in 2018 – highest quantity for any narcotic drug in the country. This was followed by Acetic Anhydride (9,717 kg), Opium (4,307 kg), Hashish (3,911 kg), Heroin (1,258 kg) and Ephedrine /Pseudoephedrine (337 kg).
According to the NCB, total 49,450 cases were registered for drug seizure in 2018. These cases involved 60,156 people, including foreign nationals.