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Narcotics cell heads home

New Delhi, Feb. 26: It’s official now. After more than two years of deliberation, the Centre has finally transferred the Narcotics Control Bureau from the Union finance ministry to the ministry of home affairs.

The government issued a notification on February 19 to declare the change official.

The decision comes on the recommendation made in February 2001 by the Group of Ministers — constituted after the Kargil war — that the home ministry be given charge of the bureau since there was increasing evidence of links between narcotics and terrorism.

Bureau director M.K. Singh confirmed that the Centre has notified bringing the organisation under the home ministry.

The notification is, however, yet to reach the bureau, the last of some of the organisations to come under the umbrella of the home ministry following the recommendations. The others are the Special Security Bureau, which was with the Cabinet Secretariat, and the Disaster Management Cell, earlier under the agriculture ministry.

One of the reasons for delay in handing over the narcotics bureau to the home ministry was resistance from its finance counterpart, which argued that investigating agencies have very few cases proving the narco-terrorism nexus. And since the bureau is a revenue-gathering department, it should remain under their jurisdiction.

The Group of Ministers, however, said: “Given the close nexus between drug trafficking, organised crime and terrorism, it is also necessary to improve the effectiveness of the NCB.”

The Supreme Court has recently restored the bureau’s constitutional validity to carry out search, seizure and arrests.

A bench of Justices Santosh Hegde and B.P. Singh in their February 16 order quashed the Delhi High Court ruling that had virtually snatched the agency’s powers to carry out search and seizure, and arrest drug traffickers.

The bureau was notified in the gazette in 1986, where it was clearly mentioned that its officers of the rank of inspectors were empowered to carry out searches, seizure and arrest offenders, the apex court said.

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