Why high acquittal rate under NDPSA?

One of the deterrents against those who indulge in trafficking of narcotic drugs would have been in the form of the barest minimum acquittals from the courts in respect of cases registered under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPSA) but when the ground realities depict a picture contrary to it, the issue raises many questions. Are we really interested to be fighting and appearing to be fighting, the horrendous scourge of use of narcotic drugs especially when day in and day out, it is spreading its prowling across Jammu and Kashmir? Has the State administration created the requisite infrastructure to fight the menace right from seizures of the contraband to apprehending and booking the offenders to have cases registered against them, tried speedily? Has the administration designated fast track courts for speedy trials and whether such courts are operational? Has the scientific and technical support base been provided to the entire apparatus meant to fight trade and sale of the narcotic drugs and substances with particular reference to the Forensic Science Laboratory having reportedly not been properly staffed with the experts with scientific knowledge of testing and certifying such substances which are seized by the Police to help in speedy prosecution?
It can safely be deduced that the above mentioned points have the greatest and the immediate bearing upon the entire anti drugs campaign which otherwise is slowly eating into the vitals of individual families already affected and also posing a danger to prospective victim families. The youth are falling prey to and getting entrapped in the use of such substances with an alarming speed. It may be recalled that Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was framed nearly three years back to be followed by the state police and other concerned departments but the question is whether the procedure is meticulously followed. On close perusal of the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, in common parlance those provisions would be termed as very stringent, severe and inflexible but again the point is as to whether the concerned prosecuting authorities are taking advantage of those provisions in dealing with the cases for trials in the courts. If it would have been so, the question is as to why there are more acquittals than convictions? Since at one or the other level, mandatory provisions are not seemingly strictly followed, the results are quite discouraging and most of the offenders get unwarranted reprieves from getting nothing except deterrent punishment.
It is not that the State High Court has not taken a serious view of these shortcomings in the prevalent system process. The Division Bench has, instead, passed certain important directions to the State for ensuring that investigations were conducted in a proper and professional manner which means following mandatory provisions of the NDPS Act. Following strict directions of the State High Court, State Home Department, way back in late 2017 issued necessary circulars in this regard whereby the concerned investigating and prosecuting officials were called upon to follow the provisions of the NDPS Act as also the Standard Operating Procedure. Well, the double effect on the chances of more convictions based on the intrinsic intentions of the Home Department circulars, prima facie being praiseworthy, but strict monitoring and follow-up even on case to case basis being completely found wanting in the entire matter, defeats the purpose of the entire exercise. This, we say on the basis of the fact that there has been no noticeable improvement in the rate of convictions and acquittals reign supreme which is a matter of grave concern.
The entire process has to be seen from the conservative view that whatever name was given to drugs and other narcotic substances, they were nothing less than poison which miserably maimed and incapacitated more, than it killed. The victims being mostly the young, must shake the conscience of everyone associated with fighting the menace right from seizures up to prosecution and conviction. It is not that the state is not blessed with capable, professional and dedicated Police personnel who could show encouraging results but the moot question is whether a dedicated team of such officers is identified, encouraged, properly trained and given professional autonomy. Exposure of a dedicated team of Police officers to training institutes of Maharashtra, Gujarat and other places and a back to back arrangement for other teams would result in a perceptible change. Whether showing encouraging results by dedicated officers are going to be backed by recognition, appreciation and even promotions and equally the obverse in cases where lethargy reigned supreme and professional acumen was in much deficit. Furthermore, unless the State Forensic Laboratory was equipped with the latest scientific testing apparatus and it was properly staff with adequate knowledge in the concerned scientific and technical fields, prosecution cannot build up its case strongly. A paradigm shift in the entire scenario is needed, sooner the better.


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