New Delhi: The Central drug regulator may come up with uniform guidelines with regard to the power of drug inspectors to arrest offenders for cognizable offences, in line with a Supreme Court order in August, 2020.

A recent Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) meeting, which considered a proposal put forward by the Drug Controller of Punjab in connection to issuance of a uniform guideline, recommended to constitute a sub-committee comprising members from those states where arrests have been made by drug inspectors—Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), East Zone —to deliberate the matter and come out with recommendations.

The Punjab drug regulator proposed that guidelines should be issued under the Section 33p of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 for uniform implementation of the regulation by all the States and Union Territories, in the light of the order by a Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India in the case Union of India vs Ashok Kumar Sharma and others.

The Bench, comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K M Joseph, in an order on August 28, 2020, said that in regard to cognizable offences under Chapter IV of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the police officer cannot prosecute offenders in regard to such offences in view of the Section 32 of the Act and also the scheme of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

“Only persons mentioned in Section 32 are entitled to do the same,” said the order.

Section 32 states that no prosecution under the Chapter IV shall be instituted except by an inspector or any gazetted officer of the Central or State Government authorised in writing in this behalf by a general or special order, or the person aggrieved, or a recognised consumer association with such person is a member of that association or not.

There is no bar to the Police Officer, however, to investigate and prosecute the person where he has committed an offence, as stated under Section 32(3) of the Act, that is, if he has committed any cognizable offence under any other law, added the Supreme Court.

“Having regard to the provisions of Section 22(1)(d) of the Act, we hold that an arrest can be made by the Drugs Inspector in regard to cognizable offences falling under Chapter IV of the Act without any warrant and otherwise treating it as a cognizable offence,” said the Order.

However, the Drugs Inspector is bound by the law as laid down in certain previous matters and to follow the provisions of CrPC. The Court also asked the Police Officers to hand over the cases filed by them, on cognizable offences falling under Chapter IV of the Act.

The Court further directed that the Drugs Inspectors, who carry out the arrest, must not only report the arrests, as provided in Section 58 of the CrPC, but also immediately report the arrests to their superior officers.

It also reiterated that the existence of the power to arrest with the Drugs Inspector is not to be understood as opening the doors to making illegal, unauthorized or unnecessary arrests.

“Every power comes with responsibility. In view of the impact of an arrest, the highest care must be taken to exercise the same strictly as per the law. The power of arrest must be exercised, recognizing the source of his authority, to be Section 22(1)(d) of the Act, which is for carrying out the purpose of Chapter IV of the Act or any Rules made thereunder,” added the Court.

Under Section 33P of the Act, the Central Government is conferred with powers to give directions to the State Government for the purpose of carrying into execution, in the State, any of the provisions of the Act or any Rule or Order made thereunder.

It is for the Central government to consider the question whether it can, under the said provision, issue directions in regard to the power of arrest, which we have found, subject to what we have stated in this Judgment, it added.