TODAY -

Acquitting the criminal, penalising the victim
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: February 23, 2024 -



IN a development that needs to be given due attention with the seriousness it deserves, especially in the light of burgeoning problem of drug menace in the society; it has been learnt that the Supreme Court of India is looking into the issue of whether the drug users should be considered as victims of the crime of drug trafficking.

The development has come following a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by The 3-5 Collective in the apex court challenging the acquittal of Lukhosai Zou, a former chairperson of Autonomous District Council (ADC), Chandel and other co-accused by the Special NDPS Court, Manipur in a drug bust case dating back to 2018 as well as the judgement given by the High Court of Manipur denying filing of appeal against the NDPS court's acquittal order.

The 3.5 Collective is a civil society coalition striving to strengthen the movement for prevention and treatment of substance abuses and it is one of the many civil society organisations in Manipur which has been pressing the state government to appeal against the order passed by the Special Court (ND & PS) Manipur in connection with the Special Trial Case no. 100 of 2018 on December 17, 2020 and praying for re-investigation and re-trial of the case in the high court.

How Lukhosai Zou, who got elected to the Chandel ADC in june 2015 on Congress ticket, and later defected to BjP in April 2017 after becoming its chairman, was reportedly caught red-handed with drugs worth crores of rupees along with large amount of cash and arms during raids conducted in June, 2018 when Thounaojam Brinda was an Additional Superintendent of Police in the Manipur Police Department, and how the lady police officer, who was awarded not only the state's Police Medal for Gallantry but also honoured with the Chief Minister's Commendation Certificate in recognition of her continued effort against smuggling and sale of drugs in Manipur came to be in the Chief Minister's bad books following her allegation of getting pressured to let off the arrested politician cum drug smuggler, etc., have been well-documented and we are not going to go into detail here.

As the Supreme Court has given four weeks' time to the government of Manipur to file its response to the prayer of the petitioner, it's only a matter of time to wait and see what new development follows in the infamous drug bust case that has been often cited by critics in raising question on efficacy of the 'war on drugs campaign' launched by the chief minister N Biren Singh-led BJP government in Manipur.

Now that it is up to the sagacity of the learned lawyers in the apex court to decide on the merit of the response to be given by the government of Manipur, as and when it comes, we have nothing more to say on the case, which is not likely to let go without a good fight to its logical conclusion by civil society organisations despite acquittal of the main accused by the law court.

But what we find really interesting in the instant case [Special Leave Petition, (Criminal) number 3010-3011 of 2022] is the acknowledgement of the need to looking into the issue of whether the drug users should be considered as victims of crime of drug trafficking and it has come from none other than the highest judicial authority of the country.

If the drug users are considered victims of the crime of drug trafficking, then they will have the right to appeal against the acquittal of drug traffickers in the future even if the government fails to do so.

This is a significant proposition that would necessitate redefining of who is a victim is drug abuse in the present context.

Despite the fact that drug abuse has been globally considered as a form of victimless crime; in India, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 continues to criminalise the drug abusers, making them a victim and an offender at the time same - a victim to the drug and an offender against the law.

Making a victimless crime an offence towards oneself while letting off the drug traffickers, who are directly or indirectly responsible for the problem of drug abuse in the society, is not the sign of a robust judicial system.



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