While there have been numerous reports in the past about the rise of ganja trade in Visakhapatnam and the amount of ganja being seized almost every other day, there is still a growing concern over the low rate of conviction. Our city is amongst the top producers of weed in the country and yet the conviction rate in these cases is low.
Under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, the amount of cases being booked by the Department of Prohibition and Excise against ganja smugglers has been on a rise. The rate of conviction on the other hand stands only at 5-10%. In the year 2014-15, 132 cases were booked, 272 persons arrested, and 18.4 tonnes of ganja seized. In 2015-16, 300 persons were arrested and the amount of ganja seized increased to 25 tonnes. But out of the number of persons arrested, only 35 have been convicted under petty sections.
The figures show an alarming pattern, the reason reportedly being, enforcement officials having little to no knowledge of the various sections of the Act. This results in cases being booked by them leading to no conviction. Most of the cases related to ganja trade have resulted in acquittals due to the same. Reportedly, failure on the part of the investigating officers to produce evidence in court keeps helping these smugglers escape jail time. The same was stated by G Kalyani, a public prosecutor of the Prohibition and Excise ((P&E), Department, at a one-day workshop held in the city on the NDPS Act.
While she lauded the enforcement agencies for doing a good job identifying and arresting these smugglers, she urged them to keep key elements in mind such as – alerting the superiors or involving a gazetted officer as witness to the arrests made. The NDPS Act has stringent punishment such as life imprisonment or capital punishment, the proper execution of these arrests is lacking.
Another worrying factor is that the enforcement officials have not yet been able to identify the main kingpins of the trade. All the arrests and the few convictions are limited to the smugglers and not the lead of the show. Assistant Commissioner, P&E, (Enforcement- Visakhapatnam) SVVN Babji Rao stated that problem lies in the ‘need-to-know’ basis that any drug cartel operates on, hence their failure to go beyond the smugglers.