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Connection Between Crime and Drugs: How Different Laws Can Help

By: Shraay Bhushan


The relationship between drugs and crime since the inception of drug abuse has been complimentary in nature; for a better understanding of this relationship, a universal definition of drugs should be established. Drugs are vital to the medical industry and help patients in crucial situations. Still, if not used with consultation and medical advice, they can lead to severe complications and other harmful effects that can ruin the life of an individual. Some drugs are addictive in nature and can cause hallucinations, insomnia, respiratory problems, etc. Governments across the globe have banned these substances and developed strict laws involving fines and prison sentences for trading, selling, and consuming any such substances.

Drugs are defined as substances that change an individual's biological and neurological state. The scope of this definition is very narrow, as it does not refer to the consequences of such biological and neurological changes. Such substances are used in medicines such as painkillers, cough syrups and ointments and can positively improve an individual's life by being used as an agent for treatment, as medication, or as an addictive substance that can cause long-term diseases.


People mainly refer to drugs as addictive substances that can affect the life of an individual in the short and long term. Since the discovery of such substances, the primary users have been young, unemployed or individuals from the lower income group. The usage of such products has become a global issue and a sociological problem in many countries, as certain drugs might cause violent behaviour in society and lead to criminal activities for money. Their addictive nature and the effect of intoxication make the user resort to crime as their urge is so strong and makes an individual rely on them for basic survival. An international market for drugs exists involving famous drug cartels that transport drugs through illegal means from one country to another; the famous Pablo Escobar transported various drugs from Columbia to different parts of the world, and the Indian drug lord Dawdood Ibrahim is still believed to continue his operations in Mumbai of drug transportation. Since these drugs are illegal and due to lack of standardisation, the public can be exploited by adulteration of any foreign substance and might harm the consumer more than intended or believed. No legislation means no taxes are paid for such amounts earned via illegal methods, and the revenue generated contributes to the unaccounted sector of the economy.

Despite various bans in today’s day and age, drugs are still growing widely and catering to a significant chunk of the domestic and international population. The youth has easy access to it, and the UN recently released a statistic revealing that more than 13% of illegal drug users in India are under the age of eighteen. One of the main reasons for such drastic consumption in the youth is to fit in the social circle due to peer pressure. The development of the youth is a prime motive of the state, and the use of addictive substances that affect their growth and development shall not be available with such ease.


Drugs and criminal activities have always been complementary towards each other, and the state has consistently implemented legislation against the use of such substances. The need for legislation arose after the first study in the pre-independence era called the Indian Hemps Drug Commission Report in 1894. The extent of this study was limited to the cultivation, sale and other effects of the hemp plant, with further actions to develop legislation prohibiting its use.

The expansion of the pharmaceutical industry and the development in the field of science and technology increased the production of addictive substances formed from various chemical and industrial processes. Pharma companies efficiently produce such substances as they have the technical know-how and machinery. The legislation involving such substances was developed to regulate the use of essential drugs, prohibit illegal consumption, and increase awareness about their harmful effects. The initial laws comprised The Dangerous Drugs Act 1930 and The Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940. However, their scope was limited to meagre punishments, regularisation of imports and conformity to particular standards.
The post-independence era developed parameters for future legislation in the Indian Constitution in the form of Article 47 3 as a directive principle of the state. The extent of this article was limited to mere prohibition and consumption of intoxicated drugs except for medical purposes. No legislation was developed to take corrective action against any such use of these substances.
On the International stage, the United Nations developed policies to restrict illegal trafficking and domestic usage of harmful drugs. India became a signatory to the following conventions:
  1. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961
  2. The Conventions on Psychotropic Substances, 1971
  3. The Convention on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988
Significant steps forbidding drug abuse were taken in the year 1985 after the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 was enacted along with The Narcotics Control Bureau in 1986. The act prohibits the sale, purchase, cultivation and transport of addictive drugs along with establishing an authority under section 4(3) 4 to take measures against the use of any such substances. The act aims to illegalise the use of harmful drugs and prescribe adequate punishment for such use. The vital part of the act is to differentiate between commercial and small quantities. Illegal drugs that can be cultivated and manufactured in a chemical factory with ease, along with usually trafficked drugs and substances, are mentioned in the act, with their respective quantities described as small and commercial. The prescribed punishment in terms of a prison sentence and a fine are mentioned in the act that acts as legislation helping the judiciary and the executive to impose a penalty on the wrongdoer. However, intermediate quantity is not defined in the act, and the punishment for the possession of such quantity of drugs is at the discretion of the court.
In the case of Raju vs State of Kerela, the High Court penalised the accused with a prison sentence of ten years for a meagre 100 grams of Heroin. The Supreme Court overturned the decision as it was doubtful that such a small quantity could be used commercially, and the sentence was reduced to one year. However, in the case of Budhiyarin Bai vs The State Of Chhattisgarh, the accused was sentenced to twelve years of imprisonment for having possession of more than twenty-one kilograms of Ganja.
The Narcotics Control Bureau is a nodal agency for drug law enforcement in India. The main aim of the bureau is to seize, acquire and prohibit illegal trafficking of drugs internationally as well as domestically. This specialised agency functions in accordance with the special courts for Narcotics were established to prohibit drug abuse and sentence the perpetrator for any illegal action, as mentioned in the NDPS act. Since its inception, the NCB has handled high-profile cases involving personalities like Rhea Chakraborty and Aryan Khan. Their highlighted work involves the capture of international drug peddlers and the destruction of an enormous amount of opium paddy crops across various states.


In response to the present legislation and reforms that have taken place since the inception of the Narcotics Control Bureau, the approach by all three pillars of administration- the judiciary, legislature and executive towards substance abuse has been favourable. The development of new laws, specialised agencies, and severe punishments for the use and abuse has increased seizures of illegally trafficked drugs across the country and reduced cross-border import and export.

Despite enormous development, drug consumption in India has increased. According to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the use of opium has increased from 0.7% to 2.1% and Cannabis from 2.83% to 3% between the years 2004 to 2018. The increase in consumption makes the introduction of new reforms and legislation a necessity for the future.
The limitations of the legislation and corrective action to reduce the reduction of illegal drugs are as follows:
  • The Indian legal system is sentence-oriented and not reform-oriented. The convict, even after serving the prison sentence, resorts to substance abuse and
    continues to tackle the social evils of society, like unemployment and criminal activities like theft and robbery. The key to this concern is to reform an individual by providing access to drug education and punishments like community service.
  • The infrastructure development for the narcotics bureau has taken place rapidly since its inception. However, looking at the other side of the coin, drug convicts still have access to poor infrastructure facilities in prisons. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has suggested alternatives to prison reforms that include a term in a drug de-addiction camp as an untreated drug dependency can lead to a resumption of consumption post-release.
  • The need of the hour is to impart drug education at the grassroots level in schools, universities and educational institutes. In case of the use of such substances by students, the school authorities, along with the parents of the concerned students, shall take measures to reform the student rather than take any harsh action.
  • The involvement of politicians and police with illegal traffickers and consumers of addictive drugs has majorly contributed to the availability of drugs in the market. India ranks 93 out of 180 countries 7 in the corruption perception index and is believed to be a primary reason for the availability of drugs. Mr Sameer Wankhade, NCB Zonal head, was recently arrested for an alleged bribe of ₹25 Crore for destroying evidence in a high-profile case. The legislature needs to implement specific laws, which are triable by the special courts of NCB against any such matter. The criminal punishment for such crimes shall be similar to that of a drug convict.


This article explains several factors that have led to an increase in the consumption of illegal drugs and suggests reforms as future actions. Several indirect factors contribute to the increase in such substances.

Sociological problems such as lack of education, poverty and unemployment, along with low levels of infrastructure development, have increased drug abuse among the economically weaker sections of the society. A study conducted in Delhi’s Seemapuri district observed that around 80% of the children are drug addicts 9 . Tackling sociological problems in such circumstances will help more than implementing legislation.  India is located between two massive opium regions, the Golden Cresent and the Golden Triangle. The central and the state governments need to collaborate in bordering states to prevent the illicit transportation of illegal drugs. The inception of a new authority responsible for such prevention may reduce such illegal imports.

The approach towards making India a drug-free country is on the correct path with the combined efforts of all three pillars of administration, but this goal still seems to be a far reality with the current hardships.


  • Anmol Sharma & Akriti, Analysis of the Relationship between Crime and Drugs, 4 INDIAN J.L. & LEGAL RSCH. 1 (2022).
  • Drug Policy in India, By Tripti Tandon, 2015, IDPC India Briefing Paper
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Prison Reforms and Alternatives to Imprisonment, February 2011, Prepared by the Justice Section, Division for Operations
  • Drug Trafficking: A Growing Problem for India, Ketan Patil, Astha Pandey, Asian Journal of Forensic Sciences 2022, Vol. 1 (1) 34-41
  • DRUG POLICY IN INDIA: COMPOUNDING HARM?, Molly Charles, Dave Bewley-Taylor and Amanda Neidpath, October 2005, THE BECKLEY FOUNDATION DRUG POLICY PROGRAMME
  • Ambekar A, Agrawal A, Rao R, Mishra AK, Khandelwal SK, Chadda RK on behalf of the group of investigators for the National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India (2019). The magnitude of Substance Use in India. New Delhi: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.