Parliament proceedings | Bill to correct drafting error in NDPS Act introduced in Lok Sabha

Opposing the introduction of the Bill, RSP member NK Premachandran demanded proper scrutiny of the draft legislation, absence of which could lead to a “bad law”.

A bill was introduced in Lok Sabha to correct a drafting error in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that rendered a key provision dealing with punishment of those financing illicit trafficking inoperable.

Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad introduced the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to replace an ordinance that was promulgated on September 30 this year.

Opposing the introduction of the Bill, RSP member NK Premachandran demanded proper scrutiny of the draft legislation, absence of which could lead to a “bad law”.

Mr Premachandran said the drafting error was highlighted when an accused moved a special court in Tripura contending that he could not be charged for the offence as Section 27 A is referred to a blank list. The Tripura High Court subsequently asked the Centre to amend the law.

Mr Premachandran and BJD member Bhratruhari Mahtab cautioned the government against making the amendments to a criminal law applicable with retrospective effect from 2014.

The anomaly crept in when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was amended in 2014 to allow better medical access to narcotic drugs, removing state barriers in transporting and licensing of “essential narcotic drugs”.

Prior to the 2014 amendment, clause (viiia) of Section 2 of the Act, contained sub-clauses (i) to (v), wherein the term ‘illicit traffic’ had been defined.

“This clause was re-lettered as clause (viiib) by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2014, as a new clause (viiia) in section 2 defining ‘essential narcotic drugs’ was inserted. However, inadvertently consequential change was not carried out in section 27A of the NDPS Act,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was quoted as saying in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill.

She said the amendment does not create any new offence, but contains a legislative declaration that reference of clause (viiia) always meant the corresponding renumbered provision in clause (viiib).

The amendment also seeks to rectify this anomaly by making changes in section 27A of the said Act in order to carry out the legislative intent of the statute, which has always been to read clause (viiib) in section 27A, and already stood therein, Sitharaman said.

Mr Karad introduced the Bill in Lok Sabha after assuring members that the concerns raised by them would be addressed during the debate.

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