As drug abuse has turned into an epidemic across the country, the government has taken numerous measures to combat it, including the formulation of a new law with harsher punitive measures.
Law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies have been tasked with preparing separate reports on drug peddlers.
Based on the reports, the Home Ministry will prepare a detailed list containing three categories, with category A for the most notorious criminals.
Flaws in the existing law
Officials at the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) and law enforcers said there are some loopholes in the existing laws. Arrested drug dealers making use of those loopholes can easily secure bail soon after their detention, thus getting away with their crimes.
Also, in remote areas, local terms are used for narcotic substances instead of their brand names or scientific names. Police too use those informal local names in case statements and charge sheets, which, in turn, reduces the magnitude and severity of crimes committed by drug addicts and peddlers, the DNC officials said.
New law on the cards
To address the loopholes in the Narcotics Control Act 1990 and modernize it, the government has prepared a draft act “Narcotics Control Act 2018, with much stricter punitive measures to fight substance abuse in the country, according to the officials concerned.
A DNC official said the new law would be passed soon.
Great attention has been paid to the Yaba inflow in the draft act in which there will be a mention of narcotics that are not included in the existing act
“We are taking time because we want to formulate a comprehensive, implementable and workable act. The discussion will involve all stakeholders including social organizations,” he said.
DNC Director General Jamal Uddin Ahmed said: “We hope the new act will greatly help law enforcement agencies in investigation and preparation and submission of charge sheets using the actual names of narcotic substances.
He added that the draft act recommends death penalty as maximum punishment for crimes associated with drug abuse.
“In the existing law, there is limited scope for bringing the kingpins of gangs linked with narcotics trade to book [as they do not generally come to the forefront]. Therefore, provisions have been included in the proposed act in order to bring them to justice, Jamal further said.
The draft has been sent to the authorities concerned for vetting and will be placed at an inter-ministerial meeting today, the official added.
Rights activist Nur Khan Liton said there are allegations against members of the police that they implicate commoners as drug peddlers in “false” cases to harass and extort money from them.
The authorities must take into cognizance the issue of potential abuse of the stricter provisions, he stressed.
DNC sources said the DNC DG held a meeting with Inspector General of Police JabedPatwary on March 20 to discuss the draft act and find ways to enhance cooperation in their drives against drug abuse.
The inflow of contraband Yaba and other addictive substances is on the rise and a major barrier to enforcing laws, said Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
“So, great attention has been paid to the Yaba inflow in the draft act in which there will be a mention of narcotics that are not included in the existing act.”
Also there is scope in the draft for incorporating substances that are likely to enter the country over time, he added.
“Punishment is not enough to control drug abuse. Therefore, we have decided to have all, including the civil society and social organizations, on board and work together to this end. If we can successfully do this, only then it will be possible to combat substance abuse and drug peddling in the country,” the minister said.
Hailing the authorities for incorporating the provisions of stricter punishment in the draft, anti-drugs campaigner Dr Arup Ratan Choudhury said: “The DNC did not function properly in the past. But, now Narcotic Control Advisory Committee should play proactive role.
“As the kingpins always stay behind the scenes, the government should strictly enforce the act so that they cannot get away with their crimes.”
Arup, founder and president of Manash, an anti-drug social organization, also stressed the need for coordination between the DNC and law enforcement agencies.