No death penalty

No death penalty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PTI | May 8, 2012, 07.17PM IST

NEW DELHI: The government proposes to drop the mandatory death penalty provision for drug offences through an amendment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

“In view of the observations of the Standing Committee on Finance made in its report on the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2011, it is proposed to amend Section 31A of the NDPS Act and replace the words ‘shall be punishable with death’ with the words ‘may be punishable with death’,” Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today told Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

The NDPS Act, 1985 has provision for a graded system of punishment, with the quantum of punishment varying with the quantity of drug or substance involved in a case, he said.

The Bombay high court had in June last year held that the Section relating to mandatory death penalty was violative of Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life).

However, the court’s verdict was given for the accused convicted twice for the offense.

The court had observed that second conviction in NDPS case need not be death penalty and it was the sole discretion of the judge of the special court to decide about the capital punishment.

The Rajya Sabha was told there was a surge in the number of people prosecuted under the NDPS Act in the last three years and decline in the cases of conviction.

As many as 20,364 people were prosecuted in 2011 for their involvement in offenses under the Act as against 19,720 in 2010 and 19,377 in 2009, Mukherjee said.

Whereas, 7,857 and 9,819 people were convicted in 2011 and 2010 respectively. In 2009, a total of 11,418 were convicted for the offenses, he added.