India is among the few countries in the world that can prosecute drug offenders and can impose fines of up to $5 million on those found guilty.
The law makes it easier to prosecute drug dealers and pushers than ever before.
But many Indian citizens have trouble getting a fair trial in courts, and the criminal justice system is often not up to the task, said Aishwarya Parashar, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
A recent study by the New Delhi-based National Institute of Public and Economic Policy (NIPER) found that more than half of India’s 3,300 criminal cases were dismissed because of delays or insufficient evidence.
That’s because judges are often reluctant to pursue drug cases in cases involving large numbers of witnesses, or because witnesses and the accused are not usually familiar with each other, said Parashkar, who is also a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The result is that India’s criminal justice systems are often not equipped to deal with such cases, she said.
In recent years, many Indian judges have been forced to resign, or been forced out of their posts for their involvement in drug trafficking cases, said Sarwar S, a former justice secretary in the Indian Parliament and now the executive director of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
In cases involving the production, distribution and trafficking of drugs, judges in India are generally reluctant to go after the traffickers, because of the high penalties that can be imposed, S said.
In the past, judges often used the law to prosecute people for minor offenses that were trivial in comparison to the amount of money involved, such as shoplifting.
The government has taken steps to modernize the Indian criminal justice process in recent years.
But the current reforms are not always successful, said Gautam Gupta, a professor of law at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
He said many judges in the current system are not aware of how the criminal law applies to the production of drugs.
A number of states have recently passed laws to strengthen the provision of criminal justice for drug cases, including in Punjab, which has the world’s highest number of drug cases.
In some cases, judges have said they will dismiss drug cases if the case is not supported by evidence, Gupta said.
The government is also working to make drug trafficking more difficult, but that too requires cooperation from police, he said.
The NIPER report said judges in Punjab have been slow to enforce drug trafficking laws, and many judges have also said they are reluctant to punish drug dealers for the crimes they have committed.
And there are problems with the prosecution of drug traffickers, S of NIPERS said.
India is one of the few nations in the Middle East and Africa that does not have a drug trafficking law.
In addition, there are serious challenges for the drug war, said S of the NCRB.
India has been struggling with drug violence for years.
More than half the country’s drug users are under 30, and one in three are addicted to drugs.