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Court upholds ruling on drugs

Guwahati, Oct. 18: The Supreme Court has upheld a Gauhati High Court order stating that anyone found in possession of large quantities of codeine phosphate-based cough syrup without valid documents can be booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.

The apex court passed the ruling while dismissing a criminal appeal filed by two persons challenging the high court order that was issued while rejecting their bail applications. The appellants were arrested for illegally transporting a huge consignment of codeine phosphate-based cough syrup at Chagolia in Dhubri district on February 16 this year.

A division bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, passed the order on October 5.

“In light of the Supreme Court order, henceforth, if anyone is found in possession of cough syrup or medicine containing codeine phosphate without valid documents, then the case will come under the stringent provisions of the NDPS Act and not under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act under which the punishment is only six months’ imprisonment,” public prosecutor of Gauhati High Court Ziaul Kamar said today.

The duo — Md Sahabuddin and Bishu Das — were arrested following recovery of 347 and 102 cartons of Phensedyl and Recodex cough syrup respectively (each carton containing 100 bottles) from their truck. The cartons were hidden under household articles.

The appellants’ counsel contended that possession of the cough syrup fell under the purview of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and not under the NDPS Act.

The Assam government submitted that codeine phosphate (methyl morphine), a derivative of opium, is a psychotropic substance banned under the NDPS Act.

The government also stated that the total quantity of codeine phosphate in the seized consignment was 8.218 kg — a commercial quantity — and invited imprisonment for not less than 10 years and a minimum fine of Rs 1 lakh under the NDPS Act.

The Supreme Court rejected the submission of the appellants’ counsel and stated that since the appellants had no documents to justify transportation of such a huge quantity of Schedule H drugs containing narcotic substances, and that too, stealthily, it cannot be simply presumed that the consignment was meant for therapeutic use.

It stated that if therapeutic usage of the consignment was not established, it would certainly fall within the penal provisions of the NDPS Act.