The Criminal and Juvenile Courts have suspended all drug cases while they await the formation of a Drugs Court over the next two to three months. The decision follows stipulations for court formation provided in the recently-ratified Drugs Act.
Under Article 33 of the Act, all drug cases currently before the Criminal and Juvenile Courts must be transferred to the Drugs Court, following discussions between the Prosecutor General and judges.
Article 39 meanwhile requires the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to appoint at least five judges to the Drugs Court within 60 days after the law was ratified.
After that two month period, the courts have 30 days to transfer those cases determined to fall under the jurisdiction of the Drugs Court.
Meanwhile, article 33(b) states that the Criminal and Juvenile Courts should not hear or accept drug-related cases during that period.
The Drugs Court will have jurisdiction over those charged with possession and abuse of drugs as well as those accused of committing criminal offences under the influence of drugs.
According to the Act, a specialised Drugs Court of superior court status will combat drug addiction by integrating rehabilitation services into the court system.
Traffickers will be tried in the Criminal Court.
A 2011 prison report
by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) argued that the unnecessarily high number of inmates serving drug sentences was a major concern for prison reform. A majority of inmates are males under the age of 30, while 66 percent of inmates are serving time for drug use or possession.
Speaking to Minivan News at the time, Co-author Naaz Aminath pointed out
that most modern judicial systems carried heavier sentences for traffickers, “but here, traffickers get 25 years while small-time users get 60 to 80 years. These are not hard-core criminals, but they’re put away for almost their entire lives.”
Police officials today said that while drug arrests are made on a regular basis, they did not expect any complications to their work while the cases are suspended at the court level.
In a previous article, Police Drug Enforcement Unit Superintendent and Chief Inspector Mohamed Jinah said the bill would be “very useful and instrumental for the police enforcing the drug policies,” and would allow police to focus more on drug trafficking.
Jinah was unavailable for comment at time of press.
Ahmed Nazim, a Research and Development officer at Journey Rehabilitation Center in Male’, added that by distinguishing between the source (drug traffickers) and the consequence (drug use), the new system would reduce the amount of drugs on the street.
He said the Act “puts a lot of emphasis on giving addicts proper treatment”, and accepts the modern argument that addiction is a medical condition rather than a behavioral problem.
The Drugs Bill was introduced in 2009, detained in the Committee for Social Affairs since early 2010, and approved by Parliament on December 28. President Mohamed Nasheed ratified the bill on December 31, 2011.