Volunteer for de-addiction treatment and walk out of jail without being prosecuted. That’s the reformist spin the Parkash Singh Badal government on Thursday debated and decided to give to its current drive of rehabilitating drug addicts. The move follows the clampdown re-launched by the Punjab police on May 20, under which the retail network of drug peddlers was smashed.
As chief minister Parkash Singh Badal chaired a high-level meeting to review arrangements for de-addiction and rehabilitation of drug addicts, sections 39 and 64-A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, which provide immunity from prosecution to addicts volunteering for treatment, were discussed at length, government sources said.
Though no formal decision was taken, all those present at this meeting agreed that as per the law, this option of freeing addicts from prisons and bringing them back to the mainstream should be implemented.
More than 1,500 to get benefit
The initial conservative assessment of the government is that more than 1,500 addicts now in jails will be benefited if the government implements this decision.
From January 1 to June 16 this year, the police had lodged 7,825 cases under the NDPS Act and arrested 8,917 persons. During this drive, a sizeable number of addicts-cum-peddlers were also nabbed to completely choke the supply of narcotics and psychotropic substances.
But this clampdown has posed a major challenge of ensuring that the drug addicts are not only properly de-addicted but also rehabilitated so that they don’t fall prey to this again. The chief minister has accepted that the drug problem is one of the biggest challenges Punjab is facing.
As per Section 64-A of the NDPS Act, any addict charged with an offence punishable under Section 27 or with offences involving a small quantity of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances will not be liable to prosecution if he or she voluntarily seeks to undergo medical treatment for de-addiction from a hospital or a government-recognised institution.
“This immunity from prosecution may be withdrawn if the addict does not undergo the complete treatment for de-addiction,” the act says.
Thursday’s meeting was attended, among others, by finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, health minister Surjit Kumar Jiyani, technical adviser (to CM) Lt Gen BS Dhaliwal (retd), chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, principal secretary (to CM) SK Sandhu, principal secretary (health) Vini Mahajan, and principal secretary (home) Jagpal Singh Sandhu.
Section 39 of the act was also discussed at the meeting. This section provides that the court, despite finding any addict guilty, can direct that the accused be released for undergoing medical treatment for de-toxification or de-addiction. The guilty drug addict has to submit a bond in the form prescribed by the Centre with or without sureties. Such person(s) will have to appear and furnish before the court within a period not exceeding one year a report regarding the result of his medical treatment and abstain from the commission of any offence.