Parliament has passed the Narcotics Control Act 2018 with a provision for death penalty to the people convicted of yaba manufacture, distribution and trade. All types of drugs, including yaba and Shisha, have been added to the new law. The maximum penalty will be death in case of over 5 grams of methamphetamine. The punishments for such offences also include life-term imprisonment and fines in the law. “It’s a cruel law. Anybody carrying 25 grams of drugs will be sentenced to life in prison or death,” said Jatiya Party's Shamim Haider Patwary.
“Many carriers themselves do not know that they are carrying drugs.”
As the law does not use the word “highest” before punishment leaving scope for ambiguity, the sentencing may often be capital punishment, Patwary said.
“Because of this, the judge will not have any other option to punish offenders than sentencing them to death or life in prison. So it was necessary to take public opinion into account before passing the law.”
Presenting the law in Saturdays session of parliament, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said: “Under the 1990 law, if 50 grams of drugs are found, the punishment will be the death penalty.”
“Since 1990, as many as 1,596 people have been sentenced to death for various crimes. But no-one was sentenced to death under the Narcotics Act. The new law covers yaba users and drug traders for the first time.”
Proposals for an amendment and public scrutiny were rejected by voice votes.
Defending the law, Khan said narcotics in various forms are widely used in Dhaka and the remote areas of the country. “These drugs are deadly threats to life and harmful to public health.”
“Yaba has spread tremendously. A large part of the youths has become addicted to this deadly drug. Yaba trafficking required harsher punishment,” Khan said.
On Oct 8, the cabinet approved a draft of the Act at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The draft law proposed jail terms between one and five years and fines for offences relating to less than 5 grams of methamphetamine.
The existing anti-narcotics law stipulates death sentence as maximum penalty for offences related to heroin, cocaine and drugs made from coca, morphine, tetrahydrocannabinol, opium, cannabis resin, and methadone.
Amphetamine drugs are under category B in the law and offences related to such drugs may hand the convict a jail term between six months and three years for up to 5gm amphetamine. The punishment for producing, trafficking or distributing over 5gm amphetamine is between five years and 15 years in jail.