India seems to be making some serious head way to legalize Cannabis in a country which has always revered the sacred plant for its spiritual and medicinal qualities.

Advocate Aditya Barthakur has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court challenging the criminalisation of cannabis under Indian law, based on the fact that none of six government organs he queried had any idea about how the herb is harmful to the human body.

The high court has issued notices to the central and state governments, reported the Express.

Barthakur last year filed a Right to Information (RTI) request seeking medical or scientific reasons for how the consumption of Cannabis in any form is harmful to humans.

He filed this request first with the ministry of health and family welfare from where it traveled, through transfer by the department, to the department of health research, the Indian Council of Medical Research and finally to the national institute of nutrition which replied to Barthakur with an excerpt, allegedly, copy-pasted from the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of New Jersey.

Barthakur then filed an RTI with the same query with the legislative department of the law ministry, which transferred it to the department of revenue which replied to Barthakur with the word "NIL".

Barthakur also filed an RTI on the same query with the Law Commission of India next, which transferred it to the ministry of health and family welfare from where it once again followed the same transfer route as before, until it landed with the home ministry which forwarded it to one of its divisions (an "IS-II division").

Barthakur also filed the same RTI with the Central Bureau of Narcotics, adding in it the further query that what is the basis of the law prohibiting Cannabis under the NDPS Act 1985 if there are no medical or scientific reasons as were asked for. The Bureau replied to him with a reproduction of the NDPS Act provisions criminalising Cannabis.

He then filed the criminal writ petition making all the queried government organs respondents along with the union of India and the state of Maharashtra. In the writ petition Bathakur produces research, such as British Commission reports containing mythological texts which note the medical and other benefits of the Cannabis plant, including curing cancer.

The 34-year-old lawyer, who is appearing in person in the writ petition, concluded it with an Atharvaveda Sloka:

To the five kingdoms of the plants which Soma rules as Lordwe speak.Darbha, hemp, barley, mighty power: may these deliver us from woe.

He prayed in his petition:

The Hon’ble Court be pleased to declare, the defining and penal provisions, in relation to Cannabis, of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and inclusion of Cannabis in Schedule I, Entry (2) of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and inclusion of Cannabis at Sl. No. 23 in Notification Specifying Small Quantity and Commercial Quantity, dated 19.10.2001, published in the Gazette of India, for the purposes of Section 2 (viia) and 2 (xxiiia) of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and, inclusion of Cannabis in National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, as being, unjust, and, ultra vires, the provisions of Constitution of India, 1950, and

The Hon’ble Court be pleased to direct, the defining and penal provisions, in relation to Cannabis, of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and inclusion of Cannabis in Schedule I, Entry (2) of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, and 1985, and inclusion of Cannabis at Sl. No. 23 in Notification Specifying Small Quantity and Commercial Quantity, dated 19.10.2001, published in the Gazette of India, for the purposes of Section 2 (viia) and 2 (xxiiia) of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and, inclusion of Cannabis in National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, be suitably amended for being, unjust, and, ultra vires, the provisions of Constitution of India, 1950, and,

That as an interim relief the operation of every provision in relation to Cannabis in The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and Notification Specifying Small Quantity and Commercial Quantity, dated 19.10.2001, contravention of which is a unjustified penal offence, be suspended until the final hearing and disposal of this Public Interest Litigation

Cannabis currently occupies an uncertain position under Indian criminal law, which allows certain forms of it to be consumed, also during religious festivals such as Holi.


Source : Indian Express


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