Drug laws in India

“Life is a precious gift, don’t waste it on drugs[1]“; “Say ‘no’ to drugs and ‘yes’ to life”; “drug abuse is life abuse”; “born free, live free”. These are some of the messages which are delivered by the by the Ministry of Welfare, Narcotics Control Bureau,[2] and every man of importance to the deluded youth of India.

As we live in the 21st century, nobody is oblivious to the term “drug”. So, what a drug is? A drug is a chemical substance associated with distinct physical and psychological effects. It alters a person’s normal bodily processes or functions. Well, in medical parlance, a drug is a substance prescribed by a physician for curing and preventing disease and ailment by its chemical nature.

But here, we are concerned about the definition of drug from the psychological and sociological contexts. In this context, a drug is a term for a habit-forming substance which directly affects the brain or nervous system. It is a chemical substance which affects bodily function, perception or consciousness which has the potential for misuse, and which may be harmful to the individual or the society.” The frequent use of drugs is considered so dangerous that at worse it can cause death. Most importantly it is also considered as immoral, anti-social and against laws of any country.

Drug abuse is the use of an illicit drug or misuse of legitimate drug resulting into physical or psychological harm. It includes smoking ganja or hashish, taking heroin or cocaine or LSD[3], injecting morphine. These are sometimes referred to as being ‘high on speed’ or ‘trip’ or ‘getting kicks.’ According to UN reports, one million heroin addicts are registered in India and unofficially there are five million. Punjab, Mizoram and Manipur are the three most top states in India to use drugs. Punjab accounted for almost half of the registered cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 2013. Cannabis, heroin and opium are the most frequently abused drugs in India.

India might suffer from critical issues like rape, corruption or bribery to deal with more than drug abuse. Still, in this height of globalization and urbanization, there are many states who have succumbed to drugs in order to live a “high life.” It’s just a matter of time that drug abuse might turn out to be one of the sensitive and concerned matters in our country.

The two major drug laws which can prevent the use of drugs are the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (1985) and the Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (1985). The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) came into force on 14th November 1985 and amended in 1987 to tighten the noose around the traffickers. This Act was formulated[4] with the purpose of making drugs illegal and any person mishandling such substances would be given rigorous punishment as per the NDPS Act. One of the reasons behind NDPS Act coming into force is the international treaty the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which was drafted in 1961.

The NDPS Act 1985 mentioned the various narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, the guidelines for using such substances judiciously, the Prevention, Regulation and Control of such substances and the powers of the Central and State Governments.  This Act also states the punishment which is the rigorous punishment of ten years and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh which may be extended to twenty years of rigorous punishment of Rs. 2 lakhs. In respect of repeat offences, the Act provides for a minimum punishment of 15 years imprisonment extendible up to 30 years and also a minimum fine of Rs. 1.5 lakh. The Act relates to drug addicts also. It lays down imprisonment of one year or fine or both for illegal possession for personal consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.

It also empowers the court to release an addict for undergoing medical treatment from a hospital recognized by the government. This Act has been amended three times – in 1988, 2001 and 2014. Moreover, the 2014 amendment [5] mentioned a number of “essential narcotic drugs.” Another Act for the prevention of narcotic drugs is “The Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act” which was passed in the year 1966 by the Parliament of India. It was enabled for the enforcement of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

Drug abuse has become a growing threat to humanity. Drugs pose complex problems for law enforcement agencies, while drug traffickers and mafias play havoc with the social structure of our country by wielding enormous power with illegal wealth. Since 1991, June 26 is observed every year as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to create awareness among drug abusers as well as those who are engaged in waging war[6] against drugs.

[1] it is an illicit use of a chemical substance which is injurious to health.

[2] NCB is the nodal drug law enforcement and intelligence agency of India responsible for fighting drug trafficking and the abuse of illegal substances.

[3] A drug named lysergic acid diethylamide

[4] prepared in a concise or systematic way

[5] an addition to improve a piece of legislation

[6] Refer to section 121 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860




Somanka is a fifth-year law student pursuing BA LLB in Calcutta University. She’s also pursuing a diploma course in Entrepreneurship and Business Laws. After interning in various law firms in Calcutta High Court and gaining experiences about the practicalities of legal practice, she’s now keen to test her theories. An enthusiast and diligent worker, she’s also a good researcher and writer.


One response to “Drug laws in India”

  1. Very interesting topic . It is well covered from all dimensions.


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