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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Half of this year’s arrests in month after election results

Sukhdeep Kaur , Hindustan Times  Jalandhar/Kapurthala, July 02, 2014
First Published: 09:27 IST(2/7/2014) | Last Updated: 09:36 IST(2/7/2014)

The testimony of the Punjab government’s war on drugs is in the numbers. Of the 8,917 arrests that the state police made under the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act this year, nearly half (4,402) were after the parliamentary election results.

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Made between May 20 and June 18, most arrests are for peddling tablets and capsules, mostly anti-anxiety drugs such as Alprazolam, listed as narcotic in the Act. While, heroin (40 kilograms), smack (5.3 kg), opium (37 kg) and poppy husk (10,895 kg) have also been seized, most of the 4,108 cases were registered for the combined haul of 5.3-lakh tablets and 1.01-lakh capsules.

DELAYED LAB REPORTS

Most FIRs (first-information reports) do not list the chemical name of the pills. The substance seized is shown as “nasheela (intoxicant) powder”, which is sent for chemical test before the police file a challan. The powder seized has to be of commercial quantity to make it a non-bailable offence. Most arrests under the NDPS Act in the rural belt of Doaba from Jalandhar to Nakodar, Shahkot and Kapurthala, claim lawyers, have been for the alleged peddling of powdered pills such as Alprazolam.

The verdicts of various courts show that even those not caught with commercial quantity spend months in jail before they get bail.

The FIR against Prince Sharma (25) of Sangatpur village in Kapurthala states a police party seized 50-gram intoxicant powder from him. After seven months, a special court granted him bail in January, stating: “This is not a commercial quantity. He is in custody since May 2013. It will take considerable time for the challan to be presented. No useful purpose will be served by detaining him behind bars indefinitely.”

However, in the majority of cases, courts do not take a lenient view. Rashpal Kaur, mother of Hardev Singh, 23, of Surakhpur village, says her son is the Kapurthala jail on a charge of peddling ‘chitta’ (white powder).

“The chemical report has not been submitted in the court for 10 months. He has hepatitis-C and the last time I visited him, his entire body had bed sores and wounds. He has two small children. I have brain tumour and, so, cannot do the running around in courts,” she says.

‘BOOKED TO SWELL NUMBERS’

Jalandhar lawyer Prashant Sareen, who deals with the NDPS Act cases, says most arrests are being made by planting commercial quantity of powdered pills. “Any white powder such as glucose can be mixed with Alprazolam tablets to make intoxicant powder. Only addicts and small-time peddlers are being booked to swell the numbers. It is ruining their lives, as the conviction rate under the NDPS Act is almost 100%. They spend many years in jail and carry the stigma forever,” he observes.

NO INDEPENDENT WITNESS

“At times,” Sareen says, “drug addicts take anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Smalltime peddlers as well courier these drugs. In many cases, no one from the general public or gazetted officers is made witness to the recovery. The sample is neither taken out in front of the magistrate nor videographed. The sample sent to the laboratory is manipulated to show high presence of the intoxicant. All witnesses are of the police, who corroborate each other’s versions and it is taken as the truth.”

Advocate VK Puri, whose law practice in Kapurthala is based on drug cases mainly, says that most FIRs state that no one from the general public had agreed to be independent witness and the accused had posed faith in the police officer present and signed the consent memo. In the case of one Swaran Chand, the special court in Kapurthala observed: “The joining of independent witness is a rule of prudence, not a necessity.”

In the case of Krishan Lal of Jalandhar, who was arrested on the allegation of carrying 200 capsules of Parvon Spas and 1,200 tablets of Alprazolam in Kapurthala without licence or permit, the court ruled: “There is no reason to believe the testimony of Gurmej Singh, a witness from the general public, who had said during crossexamination that the police had made him sign blank papers. No one signs blank papers.”

NO FRAMING: COPS

The district has seen more than 200 arrests during the Punjab Police crackdown on drug peddlers. Kapurthala senior superintendent of police (SSP) Dhanpreet Kaur says there has been no complaint of anyone being framed under the NDPS Act.

“There have been arrests of some addict-suppliers. We even accept de-addiction centre slips, if anyone we catch claims that he is under treatment. The presence of a gazetted officer when the commercial quantity is seized is a must, and we follow the rule. No innocents are being booked to make up the numbers,” she adds.

Punjab Narcotics Control Board head Ishwar Singh says the high number of tablets and capsules seized is because the police have busted the supply chain of heroin, smack and other narcotic drugs.

“Now, the police are raiding illegal chemist’s shops alongside drug inspectors to check the sale of intoxicant pills. Mostly heroin sells in the border area; poppy husk in Bathinda and Mansa; and synthetic drugs in Patiala and neighbouring districts. From higher officials in the police department to the human rights commission, a lot of institutions hear complaints of false implication. But no such complaint has been made, so far. We go by the law,” he said.

Jalandhar/Kapurthala: The testimony of the Punjab government’s war on drugs is in the numbers. Of the 8,917 arrests that the state police made under the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act this year, nearly half (4,402) were after the parliamentary election results.

Made between May 20 and June 18, most arrests are for peddling tablets and capsules, mostly anti-anxiety drugs such as Alprazolam, listed as narcotic in the Act. While, heroin (40 kilograms), smack (5.3 kg), opium (37 kg) and poppy husk (10,895 kg) have also been seized, most of the 4,108 cases were registered for the combined haul of 5.3-lakh tablets and 1.01-lakh capsules.

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