Punjab drug menace: Of 5,517 cases, source identified in less than 3%
In a report submitted before the Punjab and Haryana high court, the Punjab government has admitted that out of 5,517 cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 across the state this year till November 30, sources of drugs have been identified in 152 cases only.
The report says that not even a single source has been identified in 11 of the total 29 police districts or commissionerates.
The highest number of cases with identified sources has been reported from Amritsar rural police district. Even there too, sources have been identified in only 50 of the total 287 cases registered. Amritsar rural falls along the international border with Pakistan. In three districts or commissionerates, the number of cases with identified sources is only one each.
The report was filed in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) wherein the HC is monitoring Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh’s efforts to battle the drug menace. The case mainly emerged out of the infamous Jagdish Bhola synthetic drug case.
The state government’s report comes in compliance with the high court order of September 7, wherein it was asked to file an affidavit with details of all cases registered since January 1, including whether the sources of drugs have been identified therein. The order was passed in the wake of allegations in the court that small-time drug peddlers were being targeted by the Punjab Police, which did not touch the “big drug lords.”
Though arguments did not take place on the police report, which was handed over to former director general of police (DGP, prisons) Shashi Kant for its minute study, the HC bench of justice Surya Kant and justice Sudip Ahluwalia observed that the state’s prosecution was helping “big sharks” in getting acquitted in drug cases.
“It is proved from a recent case wherein four persons were acquitted and only two convicted in a drug seizure case. In the order, the judicial officer has mentioned five times that no evidence was produced (by prosecution),” the HC bench observed.
It stated that there was a spate of FIRs in 2013, but after that the state lost the track. “You can argue that nothing is happening. But then such incidents (acquittal of four) belie your claims,” the bench observed.
In the report, the state has claimed that in 5,517 NDPS cases, 6,595 persons were arrested while the “total number of sources nominated” was 152. However, the affidavit filed by Ishwar Singh, director, Punjab State Narcotics Control Bureau, does not specify how many arrests were made in cases with “identified sources”.
‘List of drug lords’
Meanwhile, director, Punjab Bureau of Investigation, Iqbal Preeet Singh Sahota, said that reports were procured from intelligence and security wings of the state police and there was no list of drug lords on the record as claimed by Shashi Kant. However, Shashi Kant contested Sahota’s claim and said that on an earlier occasion, the state had changed its stand before the HC from “list did not exist” to “not traceable”. Kant claims that during his stint in intelligence wing he had prepared a list of drug lords and handed it over to the government.
Meanwhile, Shashi Kant sought direction from the high court to transfer the defamation cases filed against him in Jalandhar to Chandigarh courts. He stated that he had to frequently travel to Jalandhar and the police have to make extensive security arrangements during his visits as people were out to “eliminate” him. “They (Punjab police intelligence) had also informed me that one Punjab minister had planned to get me killed in some road accident,” Shashi Kant said in his application, seeking transfer of these cases out of Punjab.
The defamation cases have been filed by some individuals who were allegedly named by Kant as “drug lords” at a 2014 press conference in Jalandhar.
The HC also directed the Haryana government to submit a report on drugs cases registered since January 2016, along with details of sources identified. The report is to be submitted by February 15, 2017, the next date of hearing.