Uttarakhand HC Issues Directions To Curb Drug Peddling

Coming straight to the nub of the matter, it has to be said at the very outset with a lot of appreciation that in the landmark case of Manoj Singh Pawar v State of Uttarakhand & others Writ Petition (PIL) No. 156 of 2016 which was delivered on June 18, 2018, the Uttarakhand High Court issued a slew of landmark directions to check drug peddling and abuse in the state. We all know that drug peddling and abuse has become a very common phenomenon. It has to be checked from spreading further so that the damage can be contained from further spreading!
                                       As it turned out, the Bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh specifically took note of drug abuse in educational institutions, prevailing so rampantly. It directed the State to ensure that a policeman in plain clothes is stationed around each educational institute from 8 am to 6 pm. It further directed all educational institutes in the State to ensure appointment of the senior-most teacher as the nodal officer to counsel students every Friday on the ill effects off drugs.    
                                    Simply put, the present petition has been filed by the petitioner, Mr Manoj Singh Pawar highlighting the opening of liquor vend right in the heart of Almora town in the close proximity of District Hospital, opposite the Government Museum and Govt. Girls Inter College and bus stand. Mr Manoj had drawn the Court’s attention to the fact that the establishment of liquor vends is regulated and controlled under the Uttar Pradesh Number and Location of Excise Shops Rules, 1968 which bars opening of such vends in close proximity of places of public worship, schools, hospitals or residential colonies. Similar instructions had been issued by the State as well.
                                      Briefly stated, the essence of Sub-rule 4 of Rule 5 is as follows: “4(a) No shop or sub-shop shall be licensed within a distance of 50 (fifty) meters in case of Municipal Corporations; within a distance of 75 (seventy-five) meters in case of Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayat; and within a distance of 100 (one hundred0 meters in other areas from any place of public worship or schools or hospitals or residential colony:
Provided that if any place of public worship, school, hospital, residential colony comes into existence subsequent to the establishment of shop or sub-shop, the provisions of this rule shall not apply:
Provided further that the distance restriction shall not apply in areas designated as “commercial” or “industrial” by the development authority/industrial development authority or other competent authority.  
(b) The distance referred in clause (a) shall be measured from the mid point of the entrance of the shop or sub-shop along the nearest path by which pedestrian ordinarily reaches to the mid-point of the nearest gate of the place of public worship or a school or a hospital or a residential colony, if there is a compound wall and if there is no compound wall to the mid-point of the nearest entrance of the place of public worship or a school or a hospital or a residential colony.”
For the sake of brevity, the mention of explanation after Sub-rule 4 (a) has been omitted.
                                                 It would be pertinent to mention here that in view of the petitioner’s submissions, the Bench observed that, “This should not have been permitted to be done by the State government. The availability of narcotics including liquor, wine should not be readily available. These liquor vends should be far away from the educational institutions, busy hubs, commercial centers, hospitals, factories, temples etc.” Very rightly said! There can be no denying it!
                                        Truth be told, the Bench then enlarged the scope of the petition in larger public interest to ensure that no liquor vend is issued licence, opened, and operated in contravention of these rules. During the course of the hearing, it also interacted with the police authorities in the State, and expressed its concerns with regard to the availability of charas, heroin and artificial drugs to the students community in the State. It lamented the fact that “drug abuse has broken the social fabric and has destroyed number of families”, and directed the officers to sensitize the entire police force to ensure that drugs are not available to the students.
                                          Going forward, the Bench was further informed that a Special Operational Group (SOG) has been constituted in each district under his jurisdiction. It however noted several deficiencies in the machinery put together by the State, observing, “There are no special check posts to check the smuggling of drugs/narcotics substances from across the border as well as in the bordering districts of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana. A startling revelation has been made by the Deputy Inspector General that there is only one Drug Inspector available in the entire Kumaon Range. There are no rehabilitation centers in the entire Kumaon Region for rehabilitation of the youth addicted to drugs. There are no sufficient number of psychiatrists for counseling in the hospitals. There is no separate ward earmarked for rehabilitation of drug addicts.”
                                      Needless to say, the Court then opined that kingpins of the trade should be booked under the provisions of Money Laundering Act, 2002. It in fact went on to direct the Principal Secretary (Home) to the Government of Uttarakhand to issue directions to all investigating officers in the State to take recourse to Section 27A (punishment for financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 for charging those accused of such activities in order to curb the menace of drug abuse.
                               Having said this, it is now time to dwell upon the mandatory directions which were issued by the Bench of Uttarakhand High Court before disposing of the  petition. Those directions are as follows: –
   Constitution Of Special Protection Groups
A.  The Special Operational Groups shall be headed by an Officer not below the rank of Inspector along with at least 10 police personnel out of which 5 should be women. The S.S.P./S.P. of each district shall be personally responsible to monitor the operations carried out by the Special Operational Group. The Circle Officer of the concerned Circle shall be the Supervising Officer.
  Appointment Of Drug Inspectors Within 3 Months
B.  The State Government is directed to appoint more Drugs Inspectors in each district in cluster of two districts in hill areas and two Drugs Inspectors in each plain district i.e. Dehradun, Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar and plain areas of Champawat and Nainital within three months from today.
Special Check Post On Indo-Nepal Border
C.   The Director General of Police, State of Uttarakhand is directed to set up special check posts on Indo-Nepal Border to check the free flow of narcotics substances into the State of India from Nepal. The Special Check Post shall be headed by a person not below the rank of Sub Inspector. Needless to add that the check post shall be equipped with the latest state of art equipment i.e. Scanners. The check posts shall be set up within three months from today and the necessary equipments shall be supplied within this period only.  
Special Task Force At Check Posts Adjoining Neighbouring States
D. The State Government is directed to have Special Task Force (STF) at all the check posts adjoining the State of Uttarakhand i.e. Himachal Pradesh, U.P., Haryana etc. to check the transportation of narcotics and more particularly artificial drugs in the State. The units and check posts shall keep a close vigil on the buses, trains and other conveyances in the State of Uttarakhand.
      Uprooting Of Cannabis From The Wild
E.  The State Government is directed to undertake special drives to uproot the cannabis found even in the wild. All the revenue officers, forest officers and elected representatives of Panchayat Raj Bodies are directed to inform the police about the illegal cultivation of cannabis, opium and poppy in their respective areas.
                 Awareness Drives
F.    The State Government is also directed to launch awareness drives to make the people aware of the ill effects of drugs on the society. The District Magistrate of the district shall be the Nodal Officer to make the citizens aware of the ill-effects of the drugs and controlling the same. The State Government shall make sufficient provisions for awareness drives through electronic media, print media, internet, radio television etc.
    Latest Kits To Investigating Officers
G. The State Government is directed to provide latest kits to the Investigating Officers to investigate the matters under the Opium Act, NDPS Act and other allied Acts.
Registration Of Cases Under Money Laundering Act
H. The State Government through the Director General of Police is directed to register cases against the kingpins under the Money Laundering Act, 2002 at the time of lodging the FIR under the NDPS Act and Opium Act and also, if necessary, by attaching their properties provisionally relating to supply of poppy straw, coca plant and coca leaves, prepared opium, opium poppy and opium, opium by cultivator, cannabis plant and cannabis, manufactured drugs and preparation and psychotropic substances including artificial drugs etc.
Rehabilitation Centres In Each District Within Six Month
I.     Since the drugs menace has attained alarming preparation, the State Government is directed to establish Rehabilitation Centers in each district of the State within a period of six months from today. The rehabilitation centers shall provide all the basic necessities to the inmates including boarding, lodging, counseling etc.
Appointing One Psychiatrist For Counseling
J.    The State Government is directed to appoint one Psychiatrist for counseling in each Rehabilitation Center. The Counselor appointed in rehabilitation center shall also visit all the schools falling in his jurisdiction advising the students about the ill effect of drugs.
Counseling Of Students In All Schools
K.   All the educational institutions i.e. government run, government aided, private schools, minority institutions, are directed to appoint the senior-most teacher as the Nodal Officer to counsel the students on every Friday of the month about the ill-effects of drugs. In case, he finds any drugs abuse or symptoms, he shall be at liberty to summon the parents of students. The parents will be sensitized against the drugs abuse in parent-teacher meetings.
One Policeman Around All Educational Institutions
L.   The State Government is directed to ensure one plain clothed policeman from 8AM to 6 PM around all the educational institutions to nab the drugs peddlers and kingpins. The local intelligence units are directed to keep a close watch on the shops including Dhabas, tuck shops, Khokas, tea stalls to ensure that the owners thereof are not permitted to indulge in the sale of drugs etc.
Raiding Of Factories, Industries And Medical Shops
M.         The Drugs Inspector while raiding the factories, industries, medical shops shall be accompanied by a person not below the rank of Circle Officer including the Gazetted Officer from the Food and Supplies Department.
SSP/SP To Personally Monitor All Cases
N. The SSP/SP of the concerned district shall personally monitor all the cases registered under the Opium Act and the NDPS Act, 1985 to plug the loopholes during the course of enquiry and investigation to increase the conviction rate.
Updating Executive Magistrates And Gazetted Officers
O.            The Executive Magistrates and the Gazetted officers throughout the State shall be informed about their duties to be discharged under the NDPS Act more particularly, Section 50 and the latest law laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and by this Court from time to time.
Cancellation Of License If Liquor Is Supplied to Minors
P.   The Police Officers shall ensure that no minor is served any drugs, alcoholic beverages in any medical shops, bars restaurants and through vend. No vend shall supply/sell the liquor to any minor. In the eventuality of liquor being supplied/sold to a minor, the license issued for bar/vend shall be cancelled after putting them to notice. This direction shall be complied with by the police force as well as by the Excise Department. The concerned Circle Officer shall visit every medical shop at least within 24 hours to check the supply of drugs to any minor.
Examination Of Respondent Liquor Vend
Q.            The SDM, Almora is directed to measure the distance as per the Rules and the norms prescribed by the State Government within 72 hours. In case, the distance is found less than 100 meters, the State Government shall shift the liquor vend within 7 days from today at an appropriate place and if, it is more than 100 meters, it shall be permitted to operate
Ensuring That All Liquor Vends Comply With The Law
R.  The Secretary, Excise to the State of Uttarakhand is directed to ensure that no liquor vend is situated in violation of the Uttar Pradesh Number and Location of Excise Shop Rules, 1968 as well as the instructions issued by the State Government on 16.06.2008. The necessary exercise shall be undertaken within one week from today.
                              All said and done, it is a landmark judgment with far reaching consequences. It has issued most landmark directives which must be implemented in letter and spirit. To check the young age group from getting immersed in drug abuse, it is imperative that these landmark directives are implemented in its entirety!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.