Improper burning of confiscated drugs certain to perpetuate environmental hazards

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Sikkim is posed with rampant drug abuse which, in fact has acquired an alarming proportion affecting the youth. We all know the stark reality of the deleterious effect of drug abuse; such practice is not a new phenomenon in Sikkim. Authorities have been keeping an eye over those who are engaged in trading such narcotic substances. Many times we see in the news that tons of contraband substances get confiscated by the police, and we wonder where this confiscated materials go?

Yesterday, we came across a news report where a prosecution branch destroyed the confiscated drugs and contraband substances totalling to 44 thousand. It was distinctively clear from the images that the seized liquid drugs were released in drains and were burned thereafter. In its report, they have stated that the contraband substances were seized from 66 cases, whose disposal/destruction, have already been decided by the court of law. In its aftermath, there was a buzz among the social media users on the methodology adopted by the prosecution branch in burning the contraband drugs. Among many suggestions that popped up was the suggestion for disposing of it in eco-friendly approach and to hand over the drugs to the hospital looking at their viability.

No matter what, we need a realistic approach to dispose off the drugs keeping in mind the factors of air, water, and land pollution. In the other hand, if proper disposal is not made, then there is every likelihood for huge accumulation of the contraband substances and most importantly, there may be the possibility of theft and recirculation of drugs among the drug users.

In view of ascertaining the information regarding the seizure, storage, disposal, and destruction of seized contraband, the Supreme Court in the year 2012 while hearing Union of India’s plea in Mohanlal’s judgment directed all the concerned authorities from the states to furnish the information with regard to the above aspect.
The report submitted to the Supreme Court in the year 2012 by the state of Sikkim has been reproduced below for reference.

Storage of the confiscated drugs
Well, standard practise has to be followed for the storage of the confiscated drugs as per the Standing order No. 1/89 passed by the Central Government in the year 1989 to protect the seized drugs against theft, substitution or pilferage. The rule also prescribes that such seized drugs shall be stored in the godowns under the supervision of the gazetted officer of the respective enforcement agencies.

The Court while acknowledging the submission made by the Amicus Curiae in Mohanlal’s judgment found only 16% of the contrabands seized between 2002 to 2012 were disposed of. The court expressed its concern about the where about of the remaining 84% of the seized drugs.

All that we can suggest is that a specific register has to be maintained and periodic inspection has to be made to bring more transparency in order to know the collection of the seized drugs and its total disposal.

Disposal of the seized drugs
The central government in the year 2015 published a notification as per the power conferred under Section 52A of the NDPS Act, 1985 to specify the modes of disposal of the seized narcotic drugs.

Manner of disposal
Once permission is granted by the magistrate, the seized item shall be handed over to the Drug Disposal Committee comprising of three-member responsible for disposal of the drugs.Only those drugs without proper labelling shall be destroyed and those drugs which are seized in bulk may be sold by way of tender or auction to a person fulfilling the requirements of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

If the seized drugs after confirming with the standards of fitness are found to be usable for industrial use then it may be auctioned for the industrial purpose as per the manner prescribed by the Disposal committee.

Destruction of Drugs through burning
Keeping in mind the factors related to pollution, destruction of drugs can be made through burning, proper incinerators shall be fitted with appropriate air pollution control devices, which comply with emission standards and such burning activities shall be carried out at the place where the Pollution Control Board approves.

Conclusion
Prima facie the manner in which the burning of drugs was carried out by the prosecution branch without any use of incinerators was baffling and further, adding the liquids into the drains was not less than rubbing salt in the wounds. We should accept that the manner in which the act was done is wrong and will certainly perpetuate various environmental hazards endangering the ecological cycle. Therefore, its high time for the concerned to come up with a proper solution that inspires confidences among the people.

The author acknowledges the guidance rendered by Advocate. Tashi R. Barfungpa, General Secretary of Sikkim Bar Association.

By Pramit Chettri. The author is an Advocate who hails from Malbassey, Budang village under Soreng Sub-Division, West Sikkim and is currently practicing law before the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court. He can be contacted via his email id pramitchhetri@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are intended for the sole purpose of generating a public debate and eliciting public response.

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