Drug users in India have long been the target of systematic profiling, leading in turn to unwarranted detention and arrests. However, some positive changes in law enforcement practices have been highlighted over the years. In some cities NGOs have started working with law enforcement to support harm reduction programs for people who use drugs and sex workers and this has led to a decrease in police harassment. However, it is reported that although top officials are sympathetic to such programs, lower cadre law enforcement require more sensitization to build an enabling environment. The formulation of legislation and policy that increases access to harm reduction interventions is highly necessary. Coverage of services is low, especially concerning OST.

Punishments for drug-related offences depend not only the quantity of the drug but also on the type of substance involved. Offences involving small quantities are punishable with incarceration for up to six months or a fine up to 10,000 Rs (220USD). Penalties for offences involving greater quantities result in imprisonment ranging from 2 to 10 years and fines of up to 100,000 Rs while drugs found in commercial quantities attract punishments ranging from 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine between 100,000 and 200,000 Rs. Recidivists convicted of repeating the same crime can be sentenced to prison terms and fines 50 percent above the maximums stipulated earlier. In June 2011 the High Court of Bombay has struck down the mandatory capital punishment for drug offences, instead death penalty will remain an option for recidivist drug traffickers.

Indian legislation accords preference to the diversion of users from penal institutions towards treatment. Courts can thus direct drug users convicted of illicit consumption to medical treatment facilities maintained or recognized by the government or a local authority for de-addiction. Voluntary admission into treatment for drug dependence also provides immunity from prosecution in such cases.

Reports of abuse, physical and otherwise, are common inside prisons and drug treatment centres. Harm reduction services are unavailable in correctional settings as are antiretrovirals and referrals to other health services.


The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS - amended in 1989, 2001 and a new amendment bill is under discussion in November 2011) is a comprehensive legislation that prohibits cultivation, production and manufacture, possession and consumption, sale and purchase as well as transport and warehousing of illicit drugs. The government of India is currently reviewing the draft National Policy On Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation of its Victims, which has a focus on treatment and rehabilitation as well as capacity building and training.