A special narcotics judge’s pronouncement last week that neither the police nor the main anti-narcotics agency in Mizoram has jurisdiction to make arrests or investigate pseudo-ephedrine trafficking cases without proving consignments are meant for illegal export has sent shock-waves through the law enforcement establishment, with senior officials immediately consulting the NCB, or Narcotics Control Bureau.
Lucy Lalrinthari, special judge for the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, or ND&PS, Act at the Aizawl District Court had said at a seminar last week that the legislation does not authorize agencies charged with enforcing it to book pseudo-ephedrine trafficking cases because the kinds of medical preparations normally seized in Mizoram are not controlled under the ND&PS Act but merely barred from being exported without proper permits.
The judge had said that only the Drug Controller’s office under the Health Department could seize these consignments under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and police and END officials can only properly prosecute traffickers if they are able to prove the consignments are meant for exports without required permits.
Mizoram Police and the anti-narcotics squad of the Excise and Narcotics Department (END) have together seized about 200 million tablets of pseudo-ephedrine in the past three years as these consignments made their way towards Myanmar, where ethnic militias and drug cartels use it to manufacture methamphetamine, a highly-addictive narcotic with no known medical rehabilitation measures.
Both the police and the END have in these years booked traffickers under the ND&PS Act even as the Drug Controller has made no seizures — officials in the latter agency say they do not have the required manpower to investigate the hugely profitable trafficking business.
Pseudo-ephedrine trafficking in Mizoram is commonly referred to as “Khehpuam”, meaning “to rapidly grow large from peeling” in reference to the way traffickers peel tablets from their strips before sending them to Myanmar and the huge amounts of money involved.
Senior police officials said they have contacted the NCB over the judge’s pronouncements and said they will meanwhile take a re-look at charge-sheets that have already been filed and, if necessary, file additional charge-sheets showing the intent to export seized consignments.
Senior NCB officials meanwhile expressed doubts over the accuracy of the judge’s speech, and pointed out several traffickers have been convicted under the ND&PS Act across the country.
“We are also planning a major awareness drive for law enforcement agencies as well as other stakeholders including the legal fraternity about the laws involved in pseudo-ephedrine trafficking in Aizawl because that has emerged as the major route in the past few years. ,” said an NCB official.