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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 124
June 27, 2009

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Laws on Narcotics control

THE United Nations General Assembly decided to observe June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse. Here is a reflection on Bangladesh's response to narcotics and drug control.

Previously Bangladesh had no adequate and enabling law to handle the sordid condition created by drug abuse and the related issues. All that we had at that time were some colonial laws (the Opium Act, 1878, the Excise Act 1909, the Dangerous Drugs Act 1930, the Opium Smoking Act 1932 and the Prohibition Rules, 1950) inherited from the British and Pakistan period. These laws were intended and designed for earning government revenues through excise levying activities. These laws, however, proved to be inadequate to suit the needs of the time. The Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh enacted the Narcotics Control Act in 1990 repealing all the colonial laws with a view to encountering drug problem true to the aspiration of our society.

The Narcotics Control Act 1990
The Narcotics Control Act, 1990 was passed in 1990 by repealing all previous laws for control of narcotics, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. The government has enacted the Narcotics Control Act, 1990 as amended in 2000, 2002 and 2004 in order to update the law.

The Narcotics Control Act, 1990 (as amended in 2000, 2002 and 2004) has got the following salient features reflecting the growing needs for effective encounter against drug smuggling on the one hand and corroborating on the other the international efforts to contain this problem.

1. The Narcotics Control Act. 1990 came into force on 2nd January, 1990.
2. It is a special law having predominance over other laws in respect of its ambit and jurisdiction on drugs and drug related issues.
3. Interception of illicit drug trafficking through law enforcement, control of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances used in medical, industrial and scientific purposes coupled with treatment and rehabilitation of the drug addicts underlie the propriety of this law.
4. It provides legal coverage for establishment of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) as the Nodal Agency of the government to fulfil the objectives of the law in question. It also provides the legal basis for formation of the National Narcotics Control Board (NNCB) as the highest policy-making body of the government for formulating necessary policies and strategies to combat drag problem in the country.
5. The Narcotics Control Act. 1990 empowers not only the Department of Narcotics Control but also the other agencies of the government like the Police, the BDR (the border security force), the Customs and the Coastguard for drug enforcement activities.
6. This law provides for mutual cooperation among the different law enforcement agencies as and when required for conduct of search, seizure and arrests.
7. The law introduces an effective licensing system for controlling import, export, manufacturing, processing, distribution, sale, transport, possession and use of licit narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals.
8. This law prescribes deterrent punishment for various categories of drug offences as well as for breach of the conditions of the licenses issued under the law.
9. The law prescribes the highest penalty of death sentence for the offenders accused of possessing either heroin or cocaine or cocaine derivatives exceeding the quantity of 25 grams. Similarly the illegal possession of pethidine or morphine or possession of tetra-hydro-canabinal exceeding the quantity of 10 grams renders the offender or offenders concerned liable to death sentence or life-long imprisonment. Death sentence has also been prescribed for certain other drug offences of serious nature
10. The law takes the wisdom of the three major UN Conventions and the SAARC Convention on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances particularly in regard to forfeiture of sale proceeds of illegal drug business, freezing of bank accounts and properties, sending of juvenile offenders to the correction centre in lieu of imprisonment, inclusion of the controlled delivery technique, compulsory maintenance of accounts of licit drugs by the license holders, incorporation of the 22 precursor chemicals and so on.
11. The law provides the legal basis for the Chemical Laboratory of the DNC and its proper functioning in respect of forensic analysis of all seized drugs and suspicious substances. This lab, established in Dhaka, caters to the needs of all the agencies charged with the responsibilities of drug enforcement and thereby it plays an important role in quick disposal of drug cases under trial.
12. The amendment of 2000 to the law brings about the government first venture into the control of precursor chemicals from drug control point of view.
13. An amendment of 2002 has introduced the minimum time limit of 15 days for completion of investigation of drug cases filed under this law.
14. Another amendment in 2004 redefines alcohol by reducing the lowest limit of alcoholic strength from 5% to only 0.5%. Any liquid preparation containing more than 0.5% alcohol shall fall within the purview of the law. This amendment is intended for safeguarding our young generations from the clutches of the so-called energy (alcoholic) drinks and their bad impacts.
15. The law has got 61 Sections in all. It has got two Schedules of which the first schedule lists the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances including the 22 precursor chemicals. The second schedule on the other hand lays down the rates of excise duties to be imposed on the domestically produced liquor and alcoholic spirit.
16. The law is a unique combination of legal provisions comprising violation sections, penal sections, hybrid sections (prescribing violation and punishment together), modus operandi sections and administrative sections.

Adorned with the foregoing features, the Narcotics Control Act. 1990 (as amended in 2000, 2002 and 2004) stands to be adequate and enabling enough to meet the challenge of the time.

Some relevant acts and rules
The Narcotics Control Rules, 1999
The National Narcotics Control Board Fund Rules, 2001
Alcohol Control (License Fee) Rules, 2002
The Private Sector Drug Addiction Counselling, Treatment & Rehabilitation Centre Control Rules, 2005.
Acid Control Act, 2002
Acid Control Rules, 2004
Prohibition Rules, 1950 (For Control of Alcohol drinking)
The Private Sector Drug Addiction Counselling Treatment & Rehabilitation Centre Control Rules, 2005.


Source: Department of Narcotics Control, Ministry of Home Affairs.


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