Guwahati, Sept. 19: The absence of a special court for trying cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act is delaying the disposal of such cases in Assam.
Despite Assam being a major transit point for drugs being trafficked from the Northeast as well as Myanmar to the rest of the country, the state is yet to have a special court to exclusively try NDPS cases registered by police and other law enforcement agencies.
There are only two special NDPS courts in the Northeast — in Imphal and Agartala.
“While the NDPS Act of 1995 underscores the requirement of special courts to try out cases made out under the Act, Assam is yet to have one. As a result, hundreds of such cases are pending trial for a long period of time,” an official source told The Telegraph.
“In the absence of a special court, the NDPS cases are tried in the sessions courts, which are already reeling under huge backlog of other cases,” he said. “Since NDPS cases are taken up along with other criminal cases at the sessions court, hearing dates come after a long intervals of time and the cases drag on unnecessarily.”
Till August this year, altogether 393 NDPS cases were pending in the court of the additional district and sessions judge, Kamrup, while 102 were pending in the court of district and sessions judge, Kamrup.
“The scenario was not very different in other courts in the state,” the source said.
“Assam being the gateway to the Northeast, there has been a large number of seizures of narcotic drugs and arrests of drug peddlers by different law enforcement agencies such as police, CID, customs, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the directorate of revenue intelligence, among others. It makes setting up of a special NDPS court imperative in the state to expedite trial of NDPS cases,” he said.
He said one way to curb the illegal drug trade was ensuring fast trials so that there was no scope for the accused to escape the legal noose. “Speedy disposal of NDPS cases with severe punishment to the accused on conviction can act as an effective deterrent.”
He said prolonged trials also affected the working of the officials, as they sometimes failed to accurately recollect facts, giving the defence the upper hand, and most of the time, had to appear in court repeatedly for the same case, adversely affecting current investigations.
Moreover, the source said, as the NCB got its officials from the customs and Income Tax departments, the BSF and CRPF, among others, on deputation, they kept changing. “So sometimes, a BSF officer has to appear for an NDPS case registered many years back when he was with the NCB.”
He said the Narcotics Control Bureau, which is the nodal agency for drug administration in the country, was likely to take up the issue of setting up of a special NDPS court with the Assam government soon.