Disturbed at the growing menace of drug abuse among children, the Delhi High Court has directed the police to enforce Section 77 of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, 2015 which provides for punishment to anyone giving intoxicating liquor/ drugs to children by treating thinners, whiteners, correction fluids, vulcanising solutions/ sulochans as “intoxicating liquor”.
A bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice PS Teji directed that the police shall enforce Section 77 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 keeping in view the March 20, 2017 order of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) wherein the expression “intoxicating liquor” has been widely interpreted to include whiteners, thinners etc.
“… Keeping in view the purpose and object with which Section 77 of the Juvenile Justice Act has been enacted and considering the fact that the consumption of such like substances/ intoxicating liquid (thinners etc) by children is with the object of deriving the effect of intoxication and the children are not likely to be aware of the harmful effects of liquid that they may consume and also the fact that the same may not actually be a beverage, we are prima facie of the opinion that such like substances should be treated as intoxicating liquor within the meaning of Section 77 of Juvenile Justice Act,” the bench ordered.
The court so ordered after the Delhi government’s senior standing counsel Rahul Mehra brought to court’s attention the order passed by the JJB last year by which the term intoxicating liquor was given wide interpretation in keeping with the ground realities.
Mehra submitted that the expression intoxicating liquor needs to be interpreted widely to include not just the traditionally understood liquors which are consumed as alcoholic beverages, but also other liquids/ fluids which have the effect of intoxication and which may not be beverages per se.
Section 77 of JJ Act, 2015 states, “Whoever gives, or causes to be given, to any child any intoxicating liquor or any narcotic drug or tobacco products or psychotropic substance, except on the order of a duly qualified medical practitioner, shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to a fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees”.
No sale of whiteners etc., to children below 18
The court was informed that the Delhi government had on July 28, 2017, issued a notification directing a mandatory warning to be put on application devise (pens or otherwise) of correction fluids/ thinner and vulcanised solutions regarding the effects on health on inhalation of vapour/ consumption of chemical contained therein.
Mehra also informed the court that the chief secretary was directed to issue appropriate instructions by way of notification, circular or otherwise banning the sale of correction fluids, whiteners, thinners etc to children below the age of 18 years unless the child is accompanied by parents/ guardians or has a letter from the school authorities signifying assent to purchase of the same.
Multi-pronged strategy to curb drug menace, missing minors
The bench said so during the hearing in a petition moved by rag picker Aasha seeking production of her two minor daughters – aged eight and ten – who went missing from West Delhi’s Aman Vihar area.
The police had hinted at a child trafficking racket and the menace of substance abuse.
The court also noted that a special investigating team was in the process of being constituted to look into the aspect of a large number of children going missing from the Aman Vihar area.
“The steps taken thus far need to be redoubled. The problem of minor children going missing is a very serious one. Since some of the suspects have been identified who are engaged in human trafficking, we expect the SIT to undertake more rigorous exercise and recover the missing children not just in the present case but even in other cases,” it ordered.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police filed a compliance report setting out the steps that are contemplated to be taken to deal with the menace of drug abuse in Delhi.
The report talks of control over supply chain, setting up of narcotic squad in each district which shall be supervised by an Inspector rank officer, identification of hotspot of drug sale, potential suppliers and persons with previous convictions or pending cases for taking substantive as well as preventive actions while also speaking about enhanced action under Section 77 of the JJ Act which describes punishment to offenders also for selling narcotic material to the juveniles.
It also suggested regular visits to vulnerable schools identified by the Delhi government to identify peddlers with help from drug department by getting a nodal officer appointed at district level.
The Delhi Police submitted in the court that a multi-pronged strategy is required to curb the menace of drugs and in view of increased action in this direction it would be imperative that there is a concomitant increase in the de-addiction facilities and that department concerned of Delhi government may be issued necessary directions.
“We direct Delhi Police to forthwith take steps in terms of suggestions incorporated in the compliance report. We also direct the Delhi Police to issue appropriate standing orders in that respect,” the bench ordered.
The court also called for a status report from the social welfare department of the Delhi government disclosing the number of de-addiction centres presently in operation in Delhi and the steps which the government plans to take for setting up de-addiction centres for juveniles and grown-up addicts.
The case will now come up on March 7.