The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the central government to formulate a National Action Plan to combat drug abuse amongst children and undertake a survey to know the extent of the menace and for effective policy intervention.
Hearing a petition by Nobel laureate Kailah Satyarthi's NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which had besides other things sought setting up of district level drug addiction centres, the apex court expressed concern over the growing menace of the drug abuse amongst children.
The bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud directed the government to undertake a nationwide survey to identify the prevalence of drug abuse across the country.
"Complete a national survey and generate a national data base within a period of six months", the court said in its three directions.
Justice Chandrachud, speaking for the bench said: "Generation of reliable data is an essential requirement of a policy aimed at curbing substance abuse. In the absence of accurate data at a national, state and sectoral level, policy interventions can at best remain ad hoc as … in the absence of data there will be no realistic assessment of the nature and extent of policy interventions required …"
"It is only through such a survey there can be an assessment of vulnerable states and regions; high risk populations; requirement of infrastructure, including de-addiction centres across the states: requirement of trained man power; and requirement of rehabilitation, treatment and counselling services," the court said.
It gave four months time to the government to put in place the National Action Plan, as it said: "Formulate and adopt a comprehensive national plan within four months, which will among other things also address the areas of immediate concern noted earlier."
Asking the governments — both at the Centre and in the states — to create awareness about the serious consequences of the drug abuse, the court directed the Centre to include in the school curriculum the subject on harmful effects of using drugs.
"Adopt specific content in the school curriculum under the aegis of NEP," it said.
"The importance of adopting a holistic solution to deal with issues pertaining to alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse in the school curriculum has to be adequately emphasised. We are of the view that since the entire issue is pending consideration before the government, it would be appropriate to await the ultimate formulation," the court said.
However, the court said that "we may indicate that rather than resting on an 'implied inclusion' of such an important subject within an extant head or topic, it would be appropriate if the competent authorities consider how children should be protected from the dangers of substance abuse."
"These are matters which should not be brushed under the carpet. The authorities should consider how children should be sensitised (having due regard to the age and stage of the child) of the dangers of drug use, the necessity to report drug use and the need to develop resistance to prevailing peer and social pressures," said the judgment.