Justifying mandatory death sentence for repeat drug offenders, the Central government said the deterrent punishment “is now needed more than ever before” in view of the increasing opium production in Afghanistan.
While the Golden Crescent [Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran] and Golden Triangle [Myanmar, Laos and Thailand] have gradually reduced illicit opium production, it has grown exponentially in Afghanistan in the last 15 years, the government told the Bombay High Court.
Satya Narayan Dash, under-secretary in the ministry of finance, made this statement through an affidavit in reply to a petition challenging Section31A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
This section provides for mandatory death sentence for certain repeat drug-related offences.
Indian Harm Reduction Network, a consortium of NGOs working for humane drug policies, had filed the petition contending that the Act imposes “barbaric and disproportionate punishment and disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable”.
According to the affidavit, while 3,416 metric tonnes of opium was cultivated on 71,000 acres in 1994 in Afghanistan, 3,600 tonnes of opium was cultivated on 1.23 lakh acres in 2010.
Besides, the quantity of seized drug specified for mandatory death penalty in India is much higher than in neighbouring countries, the affidavit pointed out.
In Sri Lanka, offenders who are caught with minimum 2gm of heroin get capital punishment, while in China, Singapore and Malaysia, death penalty is awarded to those found in possession of 15gm of heroin and more.
In Pakistan, the specified quantity is 25gm of heroin and more. But in India, death penalty is meted out only if the offender is caught with a minimum of 1,000gm of heroin in a repeat offence, the affidavit said.
The situation is same for offences related to opium seizure.
While neighbouring countries award death punishment for possessing opium ranging from 200gm to 2kg, in India, the specified quantity is 10kg, the affidavit added.