Drug testing: Chemical analysts must be qualified as per advancements in science, says HC

  • Sanjeev Verma, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Oct 29, 2014 21:44 IST

Mandatory qualification for the recruitment of chemical analysts in Punjab’s chemical laboratories is not commensurate with the advancements in science and coming up of new subjects for analysing, specifically, cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

This observation has come from the Punjab and Haryana high court in an ongoing case raising questions over the authenticity of chemical analysts’ reports, especially of the Kharar chemical laboratory, that play a crucial role in deciding a large number of NDPS cases pending before several courts.

Justice Paramjeet Singh has hence asked the state government to amend its notification issued in December 2010 with regard to qualifications of analysts to make them commensurate with the change of pace in the modern scientific world. “This court hopes that this will be done expeditiously, preferably within six months, so that the large pendency of samples may be cleared in this regard,” the court ordered.

Rather than just recruiting the persons as chemical analysts with basic qualification of MSc chemistry, justice Singh said the court was of the opinion that other qualifications, such as MSc in pharmacy, pharmacology, biotechnology or other advanced sciences which are presently developing, could be added as qualification so that persons equipped with required knowledge are available and a proper analysis could be carried out.
Justice Singh observed, “On an earlier date, I put certain questions to one of the analysts who was present in court, but he was not in a position to identify the plants and told this court that he possesses qualification in MSc chemistry and does not know the plant’s botanical name and the extract which is taken out from it.”

The judge added that since under the NDPS Act, many of the derivatives of drugs and psychotropic substances are obtained from plants and their various parts, and punishment for illegal use of plants is also provided, so it is proper that a person who is well versed in plants and their consequential effects is to be assigned the duty of analysing such samples to do justice in matters pertaining to offences under the NDPS Act.

As of now, there are only two agencies in Punjab for analysing chemical or NDPS samples of thousands of cases pending in courts across the state and these agencies are reeling under pressure due to shortage of manpower. Kharar has the Chemical Examiner Laboratory, while the Forensic Science Laboratory is located in Mohali.

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