Different investigative bodies from the police to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) became involved in the Sushant Singh Rajput case. The case was handed to the CBI after the allegations on the state police underperforming to “protect” unnamed abettors or murderers. Society played a significant role as for a few weeks, we had judges and spectators in millions. It was surprising to find out the ability of my fellow citizens. It was equally funny to see the shift in the stance. Alas, from an alleged murder case, the focus shifted to the folly of drug consumption.
In this article, Tushar Kol discusses the functions of the NCB and expresses his opinions on the fiasco that followed the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
I. A Tragic Death and a Public Spectacle
What can be more depressing than the death of a young man?
As witnessed, the aftermath is no less than a farce. A spoiled theatre not because it did not have perfect elements to move but because of impassive bystanders. The unfortunate demise of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput has different meanings for different sets of people. The market of conspiracy theories flourished. People who were deadpan a moment ago suddenly experienced the newly found bhava and rasa as depicted in the Natya Shastra. The whole thing turned out to be a series of mendacities.
The people who were hooting for the custody and hanging of the “prime suspect” transformed into people howling against drug consumption in the Indian film industry. Then came Narcotics Control Bureau in the picture. Those who had never heard of NCB before started idolizing the agency. NCB arrested 34-year-old actor Rhea Chakraborty under sections 27A, 21, 22, 29 and 28 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. NCB filed a criminal case against her claiming to have proof about the consumption of banned substances.
In a systematic democracy or anywhere in life, it is important to do the role that is assigned to us for proper and rich functioning. Failing which the outcomes can be harmful to the individual as well as for the whole idea of democracy as pointed out by me in my article, “Extra-judicial Killings and a Cry for Justice”.  What are drugs and psychotropic substances under NDPS Act? What is NCB? Why was it formed? What function does it perform? What is its limitation and if it has the mandate to meddle in this case? These are some of the points at issue this article will attempt to discuss fairly.
II. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985
The NDPS Act, 1985 constitutes the statutory framework for drug law enforcement in India. The enactment consolidates the erstwhile Acts viz., the Opium Act 1857, the Opium Act 1878 and the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930. India is a signatory to the Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Conventions on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988. Article 47 of the Constitution mandates:
“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.” 
III. Drugs and Psychotropic Substances under the NDPS Act
Despite having several medical and scientific uses, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances can be and are also abused and trafficked. Section 3 of the Act defines different substances (narcotic drug or psychotropic substance) that are illegal to produce/manufacture/cultivate, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store, and/or consume. The section defines broadly:
- Cannabis (hemp) and charas, i.e., the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and a resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish; Ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated
- Coca derivative including coca leaf and mixtures without neutral material.
- Opium derivatives including opium poppy
The list and classification are not exhaustive as section 3 of the NDPS Act provides the power to omit and add to the list. The power lies with the central government.
Interestingly, bhang is one of the forms of cannabis and cannabis and its various forms come under the purview of the NDPS Act. But the production, sale and consumption of bhang are outside the purview of the NDPS Act as it is not made from cannabis resin or from flowering tops, it is not covered under the NDPS Act, 1985. The production and sale of bhang are permitted by many State Governments. Whoever is so licensed to produce bhang shall be allowed to produce it from the leaves of the wildly grown cannabis plants only. 
IV. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)
The Narcotics Control Bureau was created in March 1986 in terms of Section 4 (3) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, which envisages an authority for taking measures with respect to such matters under the Act as may be specified by the Central Government, subject to the supervision and control of the Central Government. Since India has signed different UN conventions against narcotic drugs and illicit trafficking, it has a role in the prevention of the import of narcotic drugs from other countries and to stop the usage of India as a transit point for narcotics bound for a third country. The role of the NCB includes:
- Coordination of actions by various officers, State Governments and other authorities under the principal Act, the Customs Act, 1962, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and any other law for the time being in force in connection with the enforcement of the principal Act.
- Implementation of the obligations with respect to counter-measures against illicit traffic under various international conventions.
- Assistance to the concerned authorities in foreign countries and concerned international organizations with a view to facilitating coordination and universal action for the prevention and suppression of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
- Coordination of actions taken by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Ministry of Welfare and other concerned ministries, departments or organisations dealing with matters relating to drug abuse.
Narcotics Control Bureau is also responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of the NDPS Act.
V. NCB: Mandate
According to national policy, the role of the NCB is widespread and includes drug law enforcement, the identification and destruction of illicit opium and cannabis crops, receipt and monitoring of returns regarding controlled substances under the NDPS (Regulation of Controlled Substances) Order, 1993, the compilation of seizure statistics from different agencies, etc. in coordination with other agencies and organisations.
Speaking to the press, the deputy director-general of the Narcotics Control Bureau, Mutha Ashok Jain said:
“Normally we look into international and interstate connections. We look for the big fish. Normally this is not part of our mandate.” 
National Policy on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances also points out that on the state level, drug law enforcement is under state police or state excise officers. However, there is no specific and absolute restraint on NCB’s indulgence in smaller cases.
VI. NCB: Cases in the Recent Past
- NCB in Nov 2020 seized 879.53 Kilogram ganja from Odisha and arrested three persons in M.P involved in smuggling.
- In February 2020, the NCB arrested India’s first “darknet” narcotics operative, who allegedly shipped psychotropic drug parcels abroad in the garb of sex stimulation medicines. 
- In May 2019, NCB in a drug bust seized over 50 Kg of ketamine infamously known as “date rape” drug. Two men were arrested having links to a drug trafficking network expanding South Asian countries and Australia.
- An international drug racket spreading across more than seven countries was busted by the NCB in December 2019. In this case, nine were arrested and 20 Kg of cocaine was seized. The racket reportedly used India as a destination and transit for their consignments and the drug syndicate operated in India, Colombia, the US, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, and Nigeria. 
In Rhea Chakraborty’s case, the NCB Deputy Director General (South-West region), Mutha Ashok Jain said:
“We have seized 590 gms of hashish, 0.64 gm of LSD sheets, 304 gms of marijuana including imported marijuana joints and capsules, Rs 1,85,200 in cash and 5,000 Indonesian Rupiah after the raids on Keshwani.” 
The Deputy DG of NCB was correct in saying that to deal with Rhea Chakraborty’s case is not their mandate but if the responsibilities have been laid on them, they won’t shrug their shoulders. According to the National Policy on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, the state police have been given a role to deal primarily in a smaller case and if they smell something big, the NCB may get involved to investigate inter-state or international links.
In this particular case, things became strange because of the total loss of faith in the state police by the public. It might be true that Central Govt., reading the situation between the state police and the sentiments of the public, came up with a political move to gain.
The Indian film industry is a large network. From casting couch to drugs, one can find mishaps ranging differently. It must not be ignored that this particular case may have big fishes involved. Whether the involvement of the NCB at the earliest will be fruitful or not, only time will tell. It is crucial to understand that if the CBI and NCB will deal with all the cases, what will the state police do? We have seen a rise in the demand for handing over cases to CBI in every other case on just one significant ground that state police have lost their credibility nationwide.
Whether the NCB will become a new CBI? This particular case has the potential to create a shift in the role of the NCB in smaller cases overshadowing the state police in drug-related cases within a state.
 India Const. art. 1
 National Policy on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances.
 Staff, S. (2020, September 06). ‘Normally this is not part of our mandate’: NCB on drug probe in Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case.
 Madhya Pradesh: Ganja worth Rs 1.3 crore seized in Jabalpur; three held | Bhopal news – Times of India. (2020, November 24). The Times of India
 Reporter, S. (2020, February 10). India’s first ‘darknet’ narcotics operative held. The Hindu.
 International drug racket busted in Bengaluru; NCB seizes 50 kg of ketamine. (2019, May 3). The News Minute.
 Global drug racket spread across 7 countries busted, drugs worth Rs 1.3 CR seized. (2019, December 26). Hindustan Times.