AS narcotics and opiates continue to be easily available, the hydra-headed menace of drug abuse refuses to let go of its tentacles in Punjab. Rather, the monster now also has in its grip the neighbouring Haryana and Chandigarh. So, it is no surprise that cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act are piling up. Prisons are teeming with people caught with or convicted of various offences of drug abuse or drug peddling/smuggling. The deaddiction and rehabilitation centres, grappling with youth wanting to give up the habit of taking the dangerous intoxicants, are overcrowded. Creaking under the weight of sheer numbers, the wheels of justice move slowly. Efficient job by the investigators and law enforcers can prevent an accused from being unduly incriminated or punished. One factor that has a direct bearing on the culpability of the accused charged with a crime under the NDPS Act is the amount of drugs found on his person.
But a recent order of the Punjab and Haryana Court to Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh in one such case sadly points to a careless attitude adopted by the authorities concerned regarding proper measurement of drugs seized. It smacks of alarming disregard to their obligation and duty of following the procedure precisely. Knowing full well that discrepancies in the quantity of drugs found can impact the trial and subsequent punishment meted out, laxity on this score amounts to gross negligence and criminal lack of concern.
Small variations in measurement of the contraband substance found can make a huge difference in the quantum of sentence awarded. Ensuring electronic scales to weigh the substance and separating it from the container while doing thus acquire significance. The weight is the pivot on which depends whether the rigors of possessing individual or a commercial quantity of contraband come into play. The penalties for the two categories are hugely different. With CMs Amarinder Singh and Manohar Lal stepping up the fight against the drug menace, any accused having to suffer injustice for a wrong measurement would be a blow to the crusade.