The Centre on Monday introduced the bill to correct a drafting error in the existing Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act that rendered a key provision related to the punishment of those financing illicit trafficking inoperable.
Minister of State for Finance, Bhagwat Karad, introduced before the Lok Sabha the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which seeks to replace an ordinance that was formed on September 30 this year.
Under the Act, financing certain illicit activities — such as cultivating cannabis, manufacturing narcotic drugs, and harbouring persons engaged in those actions, among others — is an offence. People found guilty can be punished with rigorous imprisonment of at least ten years (extendable up to 20 years) and a fine of at least Rs 1 lakh.
Objecting to the Bill, Revolutionary Socialist Party MP N.K. Premachandran said the retrospective effect would violate the Constitution and that he "challenged the legislative competence of the Bill".
"The new provision is giving retrospective effect from May 1, 2014. That means a criminal provision is given, which will not hold in good law. It also violates the fundamental rights in Article 21 because you can be punished for an offence for which there is a law in existence at the time of commission of the offence," said Premachandran.
However, Karad said the issues raised by the members would be addressed during the discussion on the Bill, after which it was introduced.
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).