The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to set up campus police units to conduct regular checking inside the educational institutions and personal search of students in view of the rising instances of drug abuse in Kerala.
A Bench of Justices S Manikumar and AM Shaffique also ordered the State government to take measures to make it easier for the police and excise personnel to enforce NDPS Act, 1985, in educational institutions.
“Respondent No.1 is directed to adopt a method of establishing campus police units, since the Law Enforcement agencies are not conducting regular checking inside the educational institutions. Measures shall also be taken to make it easier for the police and excise personnel to enforce NDPS Act, 1985, in the educational institutions,” the order said.
The order was passed in a petition registered suo motu by the High Court taking note of the menace of drug consumption and trade after a representation was sent to the High Court in this regard by retired IPS officer and former District Police Chief of Kottayam, N Ramachandran highlighting various aspects of drug abuse in Kerala.
The Court after registering the suo motu case had sought reports from top ranking Police officials of the State regarding the drug menace.
The judgment noted that a report of the State Special Branch, as regards drug abuse in educational institutions, revealed that in the past so many years, there was a significant increase in the number of drug abuse cases, and it has become a serious problem in the educational institutions.
“On enquiry, it came to understand (sic) that around 400 institutions in the State are affected by drug abuse and out of the education institutions, 74.12% are schools, 20.89% are colleges and professional institutions, and 4.97% are other institutions viz., ITI, Polytechnics etc,” the Court observed.
The report also revealed that a range of drugs from Ganja, Hashish to Synthetic Drugs are used by the student community and majority of cases registered are regarding possession and sale of Ganja, the Court added.
Importantly, the Court noted that as per the report, in most of the cases detected in the college campuses, the seizure is below 1 kg of ganja, which is bailable, and this encourages persons to engage in drug abuse.
The Court also noted how students apart from rampantly using narcotic and synthetic drugs also inhale chemicals like whitener, ink, fevicol, varnish solution used for repairing tyre puncture for getting intoxicated.
“This would cause illness and sometimes damage their organs permanently. Since the above substances do not come under the purview of NDPS Act, no legal action is initiated,” it was observed.
The Court lamented that the unacceptably high drug usage in Kerala is significant driver of economic under performance, crime, risk to children and health inequalities.
In a bid to address the problem, the Court batted for a three-pronged strategy.
– mass media campaigns to inform and warn the public of the dangers of drug use
– educating children at school about drugs
– efforts to raise awareness and change the attitude in targeted groups, such as vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
While media and Government machinery have primarily focused on the ”Enforcement – centred,” approach to drug abuse, with a focus on the number of people arrested and weight of drugs seized, the Court said that preventive education and public awareness is a more efficient and cost-effective approach than either enforcement or treatment.
The Court, therefore, proceeded to issue a slew of directions besides directing the establishment of campus police units. The following are the directions issued by the Court:
– State government should convene a meeting of all the key officials from the Department of Home Affairs, Excise, Health, Law, Education and representative of State Mental Health authority, Department of Social Justice, and chalk out programmes, to ensure reduction in the incidence of Substance abuse among teenagers and youth and for the implementation of the suggestions made above.
– The Universities/Colleges/School authorities shall be provided with guidelines as a charter of duties and responsibilities, to make the campuses of the educational institutions, drug free.
– Kerala Police should seek the services of Student Police Cadets, NCC, NSS and other similar organisations to tide over the situation that the students are unaware of the legal repercussions of the usage and trafficking of drugs, and the health and career hazards caused due to the usage of drugs.
– Kerala Police should introduce a special scheme to ensure that the premises of the educational institutions and Universities are drug free. It should also initiate steps to conduct anti-drug programmes in the institutions, propagate health awareness campaigns, and use the assistance of social medias.
– Counselling and rehabilitation mechanisms should be established by Police, to save the students who are already using drugs and addicts, and for that purpose, co-operation of University authorities, affected students, and their parents be elicited.
These directions, the Court underscored, must be strictly complied with strictly, in letter and spirit, within a period of three months.