Drug Trafficking: Meghalaya HC Suggests Army Conduct Surprise Checks on Its Vehicles

New Delhi: In a significant move, the Meghalaya high court has asked the Indian Army in the Northeast to take immediate remedial measures, including the possibility of conducting surprise checkings of their vehicles to ensure that drugs are not transported in army trucks.

These trucks are generally not stopped for scrutiny at police checkpoints across the region.

A division bench of the HC comprising Justices Sanjib Banerjee and W. Diengdoh directed the orders to the general officer commanding the 101 Area and the director general of the Assam Rifles on March 30 while hearing a case based on a PIL filed by the chairperson of the Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) Meena Kharkongor on the easy availability of drugs in the state.

The HC’s March 30 order came in response to the amicus curiae’s detailed submission of certain places where drugs are prevalent in the state including the mention that an Army colonel posted in Manipur was detained in 2013 with Rs 15 crore worth of drugs. The officer was detained along with six others, including a member of his staff. Their vehicle was going towards Moreh on the India-Myanmar border.

“What if what is reported is true, there must also be intelligence reports received by the state in such regard and the chief secretary should coordinate with, inter alia, the Army and Assam Rifles, both to make the highest officials aware of the problem and for immediate action being taken,” the court order said.

Asking the Army top officials “to verify the position and take immediate remedial action”, the court said, “It may also do well for teams of flying army checkers to be deployed along the route to make surprise checks on Army vehicles which are otherwise not subjected to checks by civilian personnel.”

According to a Shillong Times report, the order praised the amicus curiae for their “meticulous work”, including visits to correctional homes, opioid substitution therapy (OST) centres. In this process, it was discovered from some drug users that “for the safe passage of the drugs, high-ranking defence personnel may have been roped in.”

“Unbelievable though such allegation is, it has to be noticed nonetheless that according to the relevant inmates, drugs are sometimes transported in army trucks, which are generally immune from checking,” the court said.

The sale and transportation of drugs have become a menace across the Northeast, which is also widely believed to be linked to the region’s political economy.

This past week, the Supreme Court had intervened in a sensational drug trafficking case in Manipur. The apex court asked the Manipur government why it has not appealed against the lower court’s acquittal of the politically connected main accused. The Wire conducted a detailed interview with one of the petitioners of the case, Imphal-based rights activist Babloo Loitongbam, which provides an insight into the issue.