The NDPS Act is a special legislation in which the basic principle of natural justice — that one is innocent till proven guilty — is reversed and the accused has to prove his or her innocence
Many nations carry the burden of unpropitious history. India is among those which has to deal with unfortunate geography too.
India is sandwiched between the notorious Golden Crescent of narcotics comprising opium patches in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Golden Triangle, the world’s second biggest opium-growing region connecting Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos.
And beyond the coincidence of geography lies the tyranny of geopolitics. The drug trade of the region directly benefits India’s enemy nations on two sides — China and Pakistan. Narcotics money goes into the funding of India-focused Islamist terror groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Massive drug busts in Maoist areas have shown that narco money is financing Red Terror as well. Pakistan’s proxy Taliban propped up in power in Afghanistan, massive quantities of heroin coming from China- and Pakistan-controlled Gwadar port caught in Sri Lanka and Gujarat’s Mundra port give us an idea about the grower, supplier and the target.
In 2018, the Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said that Pakistan was exporting narco terror with China’s backing to ensure India’s youth was destroyed and only a few were left to join the Army.
These rather mundane reasons stand between Indians being allowed to legitimately roll a joint or recreationally pop a pill and simply. These also make Indian drug laws such a party bummer for Bollywood.
Why can’t a star or his or her offspring get blown on a cruise?
Why does Prime Minister Narendra Modi harass the 23-year-old ‘child’ of a ‘Muslim superstar’, those from the Congress ecosystem have repeatedly asked since Aryan Khan and seven others (who incidentally are insignificant for the media crews and the outraged social media celebs) were arrested in a Mumbai drug bust this month.
The Congress ecosystem must understand some simple ground facts. It is not Modi but the special NDPS which has denied bail to Aryan and others. The lower court judge is not the sadist either.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 was passed in Parliament by one of Congress’ own dynastic icons, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The global sentiment against drugs had peaked with generations in the West getting wasted on chemicals. The US was exerting tremendous pressures on countries including India.
It began after World War II with Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights promising the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health. Specific international statutes came along. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971, went for the kill in the war against drugs. India acquiesced. Even marijuana, openly sold till then, was packed into the same black box with the much deadlier cocaine, heroin, and chemicals like LSD, Ecstasy, Meth, and Yaba.
It is not easy to dodge the NDPS Act or get bail. It is a special legislation in which the basic principle of natural justice — that one is innocent till proven guilty — is reversed. The accused has to prove his or her innocence.
Also, most provisions of this law are non-bailable and the prosecution has cited enough precedent for the judge to sweep everything aside and give Aryan bail in one fanboy moment. Bail is ultimately his discretion; but only after very careful consideration, after substantial investigation has been done.
Being Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan has got multiple hearings in less than a month. Lesser mortals, who can’t afford a minute of celebrity lawyers like Satish Manshinde or Amit Desai’s time, do not get a hearing from the courts even in a year or two. They rot in prison.
The process punishes them, whether or not the punishment kicks in. Until the NDPS Act is drastically changed or scrapped by Parliament, one has to go through the process. Those outraging daily and cheerleading Aryan are only advancing the cause of VVIP racism, already trenchant in our society.
But they must not lose hope. Knowing the shortcomings and certain inbuilt biases of the Indian judicial system towards the rich and the powerful, Aryan Khan’s predicament is likely to be less agonising, his wait for freedom shorter than those not born with his family name.