Constitution of India
Drug consumption and treatment is arguably most broadly addressed by the Constitution of India. Addressing the role of the State in public health, Article 47 reads: “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”
Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees protection of life and personal liberty to every citizen. The Supreme Court has held that the right to live with human dignity, enshrined in Article 21, derives from the directive principles of state policy and therefore includes protection of health. Further, it has also been held that the right to health is integral to the right to life and the government has a constitutional obligation to provide health facilities.
Harm reduction programs, which improve public health while reducing the use of drugs and also has been proven to substantially contribute in reducing morbidity and mortality caused by use of intoxicating drugs, should arguably fall under the scope of both these Articles.
Recent developments : New National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
In February 2012, the Ministry of Revenue introduced the New National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Approved by the Union Cabinet in January, the policy claims to address a dissonance found between the many ministries that have a mandate related to drug consumption. With regards to harm reduction, the Ministry of Revenue emphasizes the need to employ such strategies only to the extent that they help to de-addict PWUD. While allowing for the continuation of NSP and OST programs (including both buprenorphine and methadone), the policy rejects the establishment of shooting galleries and harm reduction programs in prisons.Of further concern is its insistence that “If drugs for oral consumption or drug paraphernalia (such as syringes) are distributed freely on the streets, it will be seen as an official sanction and patronage to drug addiction and can promote drug addiction. If any NGO or person is allowed to promote ‘harm reduction’, there is a great risk of it being used as a cover to actually push drugs or promote them. Hence, harm reduction will be allowed only as a step towards de-addiction and not otherwise.”
The policy further threatens organizationsproviding harm reduction services. According to Section 73, only centers in hospitals and those “supported by or recognized by the Central Government or any State Government” may provide harm reduction treatments. Any other organizations will be “treated as abetting consumption of drugs.” The policy also requires that centers offering harm reduction keep records of those seeking services. In addition to its focus on drug consumption and treatment, the policy provides prescriptions for handling the large illicit cultivation of opium poppy in India and proposes the production of concentrate of poppy straw and low or noalkaloid poppy varieties so as to keep up with demand for legal opium substances while discouraging the expansion of illicit production and cultivation.
Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.