The bench comprising of Hon’ble Chief Justice S. Manikumar & Hon’ble Justice A. M. Shaffique, of the Kerala High Court on 10th February 2021 heard a Suo Motu writ petition from 2019, about drug abuse in the State. For the same, departments such as Police, Excise, Health, Drugs Control and Narcotic Control Bureau were made respondents.
A representation made by former District Police Chief of Kottayam retired IPS Sri. N. Ramachandran was made before the court on 15th March 2019, which highlighted various aspects of drug abuse in Kerala. The representation also highlighted the various crimes committed by youth under the influence of drugs and its alarmingly growing use in children and students of both genders. It emphasized the need for proper allocation of funds, both by the State and the Center in fighting this drug problem.
On consideration of the representation, the court decided to register a suo motu public interest writ petition. It was also observed that ‘Abon Kits’ were used by the Police in Vadodara and Gujarat, which are capable of detecting if drugs were consumed along with their type. Writ court suggested that efforts could be taken to make such devices available to the Kerala Police, excise and other departments for extensive use.
- Director-General of Police: The Statement consisted of various actions taken by the Police, such as Constitution of a Special Action Force which curbs manufacturing/cultivation, transportation, storage, sale, use and trafficking of substances in large quantities; conducting training programs to equip police personnel to handle all kinds of drug offences; awareness programs among students, youth and citizens It also stated various programs being instituted for awareness. It emphasized the checks and balances kept with vehicles and pharmacists, as well as several raids and inspections. The statement also talked about budget allocation for these activities, and future proposed plans, as well as problems with the budget and plans. The above stated ‘Abon Kits’ were also ordered for trial.
- Assistant Inspector General of Police: The Public Grievances and Legal Affairs also filed a statement stating the purchase of the ‘Abon Kits’, their distribution, and performance analysis. It presented the problems reported upon the use of the kits.
- State Police Chief/Director General of Police: Filed another statement showing the number of registered crimes under the NDPS act from 2016-19, gender-wise. According to the court’s interim order from 2019, the department did a detailed analysis of men, women and children involved in the crime and the performance analysis of the kits. The statement went in detail regarding the various functions of the kit and laid out the detailed procedure of its usage. It further went on into a study of the advantages and disadvantages of the kit and the requirements for betterment.
- Further statements given included surveys, reports and studies showing substance abuse in India. These revealed the increase in usage rates, drug-related crimes and commonly abused substances etc. It also showed a Statewide report/study on the subject. These also included sources of supply of drugs in the State and the efforts of the police in breaking this supply chain. Another aspect was to help drop-outs find a better pathway in life, making resources available to them. It could be largely seen that drug/substance abuse of various types is largely increasing in youths and younger populations regardless of gender and socio-economic status.
- The bench restudied the representation made by Sri. Ramachandran. It stated that the increasing drug abuse was a failure on part of society and family. He stated the increasing use of alcohol and other drugs as a mode of enjoyment and also highlighted several crimes done against women, as well as society. He expressed dismay over inadequate resources and the protection of youth.
Analysis and Judgement:
The court analyzed the statements, reports, recommendations and representations before it and also looked into judgements given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
“Drug abuse has emerged as a serious concern, adversely affecting the physical and socio-economic well-being of the country…The general aim to prevent drug abuse is the healthy and safe development of children and youth to realize their talents and potentials and become contributing members of their community and society.”
Greater the involvement in substance abuse, more severe is the violence and criminality. By early intervention and regulations, such abuse can be curbed. Despite the efforts taken, the drug use is still on the increase.
“There are three main strategies for drug prevention. The first involves mass media campaigns to inform and warn the public of the dangers of drug use. The second involves educating children at school about drugs. The third consists of efforts to raise awareness and change the attitude in targeted groups, such as vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.”
It stated that the state should follow an awareness and abstinence approach rather than the present encroachment approach to curb drug use. The court then recommended guidelines for the following:
- Measures to tackle the problem of sale of drugs in schools and colleges
- Street peddlers being an important link between the addicts and the traffickers, steps to tackle them
- Issued directions to each respondent separately to tackle the issue such as:
Establishing Campus Police Units; regular checking inside the educational institutions; chalk out programs to ensure reduction substance abuse among youth; Universities/Colleges/School authorities shall be provided with guidelines as a charter of duties and responsibilities, to make the campuses of the educational institutions, drug free; seek the services of Student Police Cadets, NCC, NSS and other student bodies; Introduce a special scheme to ensure drug-free institutions; and establish counselling and rehabilitation mechanisms, to save the students who are already using drugs and addicts.
Orders were given to strictly implement the above directions in a period of three months.
Story by Sai Kulkarni-Intern