As Govt Agencies Debate Law, Drug Suspects Escape
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26 March 2010
By Pushpa Narayan & A Subramani
Continuing its crackdown on distributors of spurious drugs, the state administration on Thursday raided medical shops and warehouses and arrested a key accused, but two others managed to evade arrest as police and drug control officials apparently failed to act in coordination.
Invoking provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA) against these two had posed a “Technical difficulty”, as the police put it. Drugs control authorities said the police could have arrested them on March 11 under the DCA when they were first detained, but the police contend that the arrests could not be made unless charges were framed under the IPC. Clearly, the interpretation of the law seemed to differ for the two agencies.
Curiously enough, four of the accused had been presented before the media by the drugs control officials a fortnight ago. They included Sanjay Kumar, in whose Egmore house spurious stocks were found, Bhaskar, an alleged tout, Sekar, a licensed surgical dealer, and Sri GH Pharma owner Pradeep Chowdia. Health secretary VK Subburaj had then said that the police had been requested to arrest them as per the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. However, the police did not respond.
The crux of the matter appears to be in the fine print.
Since drug inspectors have no arresting powers, the Drugs Act allows them to seek police help to “exercise such other powers as may be necessary for carrying out the purpose...” According to the Act, some offences are non-bailable.
Invoking this provision, the director of drugs control, M Bhaskaran, had approached the police to arrest the suspects. “Our legal advisor had told us that the police could arrest them though we had filed the case,” he told TOI.
But the police declined. Commissioner T Rajendran said, “We could not register a fresh FIR for the same offence under the IPC. By the time the second case could be filed, which took at least three days, these men had escaped.”
City public prosecutor M Shahjahan disagreed with the police action. “If the drug inspectors feel the offence is serious, the police can arrest the accused based on a complaint from them,” he said.
One of the four suspects, Pradeep Chowdia, was eventually arrested on Thursday, while Sekar, another accused, surrendered before a court.
“The remaining accused will also soon be arrested,” said Rajendran.