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Fine line divides Rahul Mahajan's case

Addicts are treated leniently, report Sobhana K and Archis Mohan.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 03:22 IST

Recovering addicts — that is what members of Delhi's Narcotics Anonymous call themselves. For they believe drug addiction is a disease that, at best, can be arrested but never cured. Sending addicts to prison or for a forced recovery at a detoxification centre never helps and is often harmful.

Unfortunately, the law does not take kindly to drug addicts. In 2006, Delhi Police arrested 728 people under the NDPS Act. Of these, over 60 per cent are consumers. "The rest comprise 'bad characters' (BCs) or nuisance makers who are put away using the NDPS Act. Suppliers are seldom caught. Even if arrested, they manage to work the legal loopholes," said a Tihar Prisons official.

The addict versus peddler/supplier debate has raged for some years. In 2002, the NDPS Act was amended to include a differentiation between commercial and non-commercial quantities. The amendment was effected after experience from across the country of thousands of addicts languishing in jails for 10 years.

At present, below 2 grams cocaine is considered non-commercial quantity and attracts a maximum jail term of six months. Possession of medium quantity (2-100gms) or commercial quantity (above100gms) attracts a jail term from 10 to 15 years. The quantity slabs for heroin are a bit higher.

"There still are flaws in the Act as the Rahul Mahajan case has shown us. Mahajan has been booked under Section 25 of the NDPS Act, that is allowing consumption of drugs in one's house. It attracts a jail term of 10 years. It may not be difficult for the police to prove the charges with the evidence that Vivek Moitra died of a drug overdose and money to buy drugs exchanged hands," said a member of an NGO who did not want to be named.

As a rule, addicts are treated leniently if they plead guilty and are sent to a rehabilitation centre. "This may not be possible for Mahajan with the police booking him under Section 25, apart from other sections which relate to quantity of drug found," said the NGO activist.

A spokesperson for the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) says there is a lack of understanding on the part of society. "An addict is powerless over his addiction. He becomes spiritually bankrupt, and loses the discrimination between right and wrong. An addict will employ any means to arrange drugs," said the spokesperson.

NA (helpline number 9818072887) holds 40 meetings a week in different parts of Delhi. Here recovering addicts help others to keep off drugs. "It is a continuous process where we share our struggles with each other," said the spokesperson.