09 th Oct October
Ravi Bhardwaj

Kerala HC: Establish Campus Police Units in Educational Institutions to Curb Drug Abuse

The Kerala High Court bench comprising of Justice S Manikumar and Justice AM Shafique decreed numerous directions a suo motu case taken up by the Kerala HC against the rampantly rising drug abuse observed in the youth particularly in schools and colleges in the state. The bench while directing the State Government to take necessary measures in this judgment with the State of Kerala and 6 other parties being the respondents, said:

 “Establish campus police units since law enforcement agencies are not conducting regular checking inside the educational institutions.”

Mr. N. Ramachandran, a retired IPS officer and former District Police Chief of Kottayam submitted a representation to the HC on the overwhelming rise in cases of drug abuse and illegal trade, especially within educational institutions.

Taking immediate cognizance, the Kerala HC registered it as a suo motu case and ordered an enquiry into it. The Court further sought classified investigation reports from top-ranking officials in the state after gauging the gravity of the issue.

A report of the State Special Branch on drug abuse in schools and colleges exposed the gravity of drug abuse amongst students.

Upon further inspection and statistical data analysis on the use of drugs, the court observed that the most common drugs used by college students either to sell or consume are marijuana, synthetic drugs, and hashish. The cases which come to be reported and acted upon, almost always have only less than even 1 kg of marijuana, which by law is a bailable offence — a reason why the students and peddlers continue to remain undeterred from indulging in its trade and consumption. However, the use of drugs, as observed, has not been limited to these but also extended to the students inhaling strong-smelling substances including whiteners, varnish, petrol, and ink — substances that are not covered in the ambit of the NDPS Act. Consequently, no action is taken in cases like these.

Scrutinizing the situation, the Court said:

“On enquiry, it came to understand that around 400 institutions in the State are affected by drug abuse and out of the educational institutions, 74.12% are schools, 20.89% are colleges and professional institutions, and 4.97% are other institutions viz., ITI, Polytechnics etc.”

The court then went on to reiterate the three main strategies used to combat the issue of drug abuse:

a. Mass media campaigns to spread awareness about the consequences of drug abuse

b. Education of children against the dangers of drugs

c. Targeting of vulnerable groups likely to be most affected by substance abuse, and raising awareness among them

Concerning the efforts undertaken, the court highlighted and emphasized how the State Excise division of Kerala is completing school-based awareness programs under the Vimukthi Mission Project. The State Police likewise through its Student Police Cadet Initiative and by way of ‘School Protection Groups’ conducts mindfulness programs among the younger students about the hazards of drug abuse and consumption of liquor. Notwithstanding the sincere endeavours of these organizations, the pace of unlawful drug dealing and misuse is unbridled and extensive almost rising to a threatening extent.

Alarmed at the situation the court directed:

“The State Police with its wide expertise in law enforcement and access to vital intelligence, has a pivotal role in controlling the sale and abuse of drugs and psychotropic substances among school children and youngsters. The community-centered initiatives like Student Protection Group (SPG) etc., are proved to be highly effective in community based preventive efforts against tobacco, alcohol and substance use. But, as of now, the activities of the SPG programme are confined to a very small proportion of the schools in the State. The Government shall seriously look into the matter and take appropriate steps to extend the SPG project-initiative to all the educational institutions, including the unaided schools and colleges.”

Further, to counter the situation, the court proceeded to lay down certain measures to tackle the problem of drug trade and consumption in schools and colleges. The Honorable bench directed the state government to adopt the following measures:

Local police shall pay special attention to areas surrounding schools and colleges in their efforts to tackle drug peddlers.

Schools and colleges be encouraged to look out for peddlers in their vicinity and report them to police.

Schools and colleges be encouraged to conduct surveys (possibly anonymous) to assess the levels of drug addiction among their students, and if addicted students can be identified, to talk to their parents or wards to find medical help to cure their addiction.

The Central and State Education Authorities to include a mandatory and comprehensive chapter on drug abuse and illicit trafficking and its socio-economic costs to self, society, and the country, in the syllabus for 10+1 and 10+2 students.

Schools and colleges be encouraged to constitute the Anti-Drug Club to promote a drug free life among its members and also in the institution.

The court also mentioned that guidelines will be formulated and given to the educational institutions to help them carry out their responsibilities of keeping the campuses free from drugs. The adoption of the Campus Police Units methods has been suggested as a way of enabling the excise personnel to effectively enforce the NDPS Act, 1985, in all the educational institutions. The court also directed the establishment of rehab mechanisms with the universities and schools and the parents of the drug abuse victim-students to work in co-operation and thus eliminate the issue of addiction in the affected students.

The court in this judgment has stressed on organising awareness campaigns and encouraging preventive education as the most cost-effective and efficient ways of curbing the problem of substance abuse amongst students in schools and colleges.

Concluding the matter, the court directed the authorities to strictly comply with and follow the directions and measures laid down, “in letter and spirit” within 3 months from the date of receipt of the judgment.

| Research Intern | EduLegaL |

EduLegaL View:

The matter of drug abuse in educational institutions is of grave concern as it involves students, who, in their formative years are extremely impressionable and are easily influenced by bad habits that they develop which may stay with them for life, due to which there is an added responsibility of educational institutions nipping such habits in the bud.

Such ill habits cultivated at such an early age destroy the very fabric of the student as they may find it extremely difficult to keep such habits under control and often end up compromising on their priorities such as their academics, extra-curricular activities etc.

I think strict Regulations should be made by UGC in this regard. The step taken by the High Court is really encouraging but it should also be ensured that it is implemented in full force.

Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaL |

EduLegaL View:

The Kerala High Court bench comprising of Justice S Manikumar and Justice AM Shafique decreed numerous directions a suo motu case taken up by the Kerala HC against the rampantly rising drug abuse observed in the youth particularly in schools and colleges in the state.