The amendment of Section 59 shifts Parliament’s power to BNCA board 

Amending section 59 of the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act, 2015 (NDPSSAA), the National Assembly yesterday gave the power to update the list of banned drugs to Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) board.

“The board in consultation with an expert panel may amend the schedules including addition, deletion of substances in the schedule or the whole schedule and or quantification of any of the substances deemed to be abused or trafficked,” the amendment stated.

Section 59 of the Act stated that the Parliament may amend the Schedules including addition, deletion of the substance in the Schedule or the whole Schedule and or qualification of any of the substance deemed to be abused or trafficked.

The National Assembly, with a majority show of hands, decided to empower BNCA’s board after the Legislative committee chairperson Ritu Raj Chhetri presented the amendments to the house.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo floated three options after more than 25 members spoke on the recommendations made by the legislative committee.

The other two recommendations from the members were to allow updating the lists of banned substances either by the BNCA alone, or BNCA board in consultation with the Parliament.

The House admitted the amendment as an urgent bill after the Supreme Court on July 26, in its precedent-setting judgment of the first case of Spasmo Proxyvon Plus (SP+) abuse, ruled that BNCA could update the list of banned drugs as and when necessary.

However, the condition in the judgment was that the power would continue only until the Parliament alters the law.

The Supreme Court judgment pointed out a blunder in drafting the amendment of the 2015 Act. “The Parliament didn’t put clauses in the Act that can cover other narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances not listed in the Act’s annexes,” the judgment stated.

As the prohibited drugs were annexed to the Act only the Parliament could alter the lists. “The list of prohibited narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances should actually have been left to be included in the rules and regulations of the Act and not as the annexure of the Act,” the judgment stated.

One of the main reasons to amend the first NDPSSAA 2005 was because there were new drugs in the market, which were not on the banned substances lists in the Act.

The National Assembly’s resolution is subject to the endorsement of National Council, which will deliberate the urgent bill on November 30.

Tshering Palden