In the ongoing Bollywood drug probe that started with the unfortunate and unexplained death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput earlier this year, several bigwigs of the Hindi film industry have been interrogated by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) including actors like Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, and Shraddha Kapoor with the latest addition of Arjun Rampal to the list.
In a raid conducted by the NCB at Rampal’s residence last month, the anti-drug agency had found clonazepam which is listed as a psychotropic substance under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985. This came after the NCB arrested the brother of Rampal’s girlfriend for allegedly being in touch with drug peddlers related to the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
During interrogation, Arjun Rampal had said that clonazepam found at his residence was prescribed to him by a doctor. He had also submitted a prescription before the central agency which the agency found to be backdated.
The NCB contacted Dr. Rohit Garg, a Delhi-based senior psychiatrist who had written the backdated prescription for Rampal. The agency got Dr. Garg’s statement recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code wherein he confessed to writing the backdated prescription. He said that he wrote the prescription in good faith since Rampal had approached him through a family friend. He added that he was not aware of the NCB probe against the actor.
What is the NDPS Act?
The NDPS Act was passed in the year 1985 to consolidate and amend the law relating to narcotics drugs and to implement the provisions of the international conventions of narcotic drugs and psychotropics substances to which India is a signatory. The NDPS Act is the primary law in the country to deal with consumption as well as trafficking of drugs in India. The Act lists various psychotropic substances that are prohibited under it.
The Central government is empowered to add or remove psychotropic substances to this list. For instance, in 2015, the central government classified mephedrone (aka meth or meow meow) as a psychotropic substance after it became highly popular among the youth and experts warned about serious health effects of the drug on health. The Act confers various powers on both the central and the state governments to control and regulate the use of narcotic and psychotropic substances.
Under section 8 (c) of the Act, the production, manufacturing, possession, sale, purchase, transport, warehousing, use, consumption, inter-State import, inter-State export, import into India, export of India or transhipment of narcotic drug or psychotropic substance by an any person are ‘prohibited operations’. In 1989 the central government amended the NDPS Act to make provision for the establishment of sepcialised courts to deal with offences laid down in the Act. The NCB investigates the cases under the NDPS Act and files cases in the court.
Punishment Arjun Rampal could face under the NDPS Act
The NDPS Act prescribes punishment for offences relating to psychotropic substances depending on the quantity of the substance found. The punishment can be divided into three categories with respect to three categories of quantities provided under the Act. The three categories of quantities laid down under the Act and the corresponding punishment are:
- Small (rigorous imprisonment up to 1 year or fine up to Rs 10,000 or both)
- Less than Commercial (rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years and fine up to 1 lakh)
- Commercial (rigorous imprisonment between 10-20 years and fine between Rs 1-2 lakh, the court can extend fine beyond Rs 2 lakh after giving reasons in judgment)
Thus depending upon the quantity of psychotropic substance found, a person can be punished under section 22 of the Act if he/she, in contravention of the provisions of the Act, manufactures, possesses, sells, purchases, transports, imports inter-state, exports inter-state or uses any psychotropic substances.
In case of Arjun Rampal, the NCB reportedly found him in possession of clonazepam which is a prohibited psychotropic substance under the Act. If he is booked under the Act and is subsequently found to have committed any of the abovementioned offences under the Act, he may face rigorous imprisonment and/or fine depending on the quantity of the substance found.