Centre empowers RPF officers to exercise powers under NDPS Act

Already vested with powers to arrest, investigate and prosecute under The Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act and The Railways Act, field-level officers of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) have now been empowered to exercise the powers under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and perform duties as specified under certain sections of the Act.

A detailed set of guidelines to deal with seizure, sampling and arrest under the NDPS Act has been circulated to the RPF by the Railway Board, New Delhi consequent to a gazette notification issued by the Central Government.

The gazette notification issued by the Union Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue) last month empowers RPF officers of the rank of Assistant Sub Inspector and above to exercise powers and perform the duties specified under section 42 of the NDPS Act within their respective jurisdiction. It also authorises the officers to exercise powers conferred upon them under section 67 of the NDPS Act.

The Railway Board has asked the RPF top brass to circulate the guidelines to ensure that the officers were aware of the powers and the procedure for dealing with search, seizure, detention and arrest under the NDPS Act.

The guidelines circulated to the field-level RPF officers has clearly spelt out the provisions contained under sections 42, 43, 50, 52 and 67 of the NDPS Act. It said section 42 of the Act authorises the empowered officers to search the premises, seize the drugs, detain any person or arrest the person who has committed the offence, while section 43 of the same Act authorises the empowered officers to carry out seizure and detain or arrest in public place.

As per the guidelines issued, the search, seizure and arrest could be carried out any time if there was a court warrant or if there was authorisation from an empowered gazetted officer or if the gazetted officer himself was carrying out the same.

It further said the search operation should be carried out by an empowered officer in a well-coordinated and planned way in the presence of a gazetted officer. The team should consist of a female officer if a house search was planned or if a female drug trafficker was searched or apprehended.

The communication said availability of Drug Detection Kit (Field Drug Identification Test Kit) was mandatory with every field unit of the RPF since it was difficult to identify a substance as a drug unless it was tested with different reagents unlike natural narcotics drugs such as ganja and charas which could be identified by their colour, texture and smell. Weighing the recovered substance suspected to be narcotic substance was necessary.

Drawal of sample, seizure to be documented in the panchanama and preparation of arrest memo details have also been mentioned in the detailed guidelines. In case the arrested person was a foreign national, the arrest details should be shared with the Ministries of External Affairs and Home Affairs.

The article seized and the person arrested under section 42 of the NDPS act should be forwarded without unnecessary delay to the officer-in-charge of the nearest police station or to the officer empowered under section 53 of the Act. Details of seizure and arrest should be uploaded on the web portal by the in-charge of the RPF post concerned within 48 hours of completion of formalities. The details of seizure and arrest should also be furnished to the Director General, Narcotics Control Bureau within 48 hours of completion of formalities, the guidelines further said.

RPF authorities here said necessary orientation would be conducted in batches to the field-level RPF officers of Tiruchi division on the NDPS Act and its provisions besides other aspects connected with it by roping in experts.

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