Govt to regulate Internet-based drug trade

New Delhi: Even as a raging controversy brews over monitoring Internet content in the country, government has recently constituted a high-level committee to put in place "regulatory and legislative" measures to check online pharmacies trading in banned drugs.

Termed by anti-narcotic sleuths as one of the most "lethal and clever modus operandi" used by drug traffickers to smuggle psychotropic substances in and out of the country, the government has now woken up to the threat posed by `Internet pharmacies` and has set up a committee under the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to firm up country`s action against the illegal online trade.

The clandestine business, according to top sources, also begets blackmoney and finances criminal activities. The committee is a part of the new drugs policy unveiled by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday.

The committee will also consider to establish "cyber patrol units" to intercept syndicates and individuals indulging in such criminal activities over the Internet.

The NCB Director led committee, set up to look "into the whole gamut of issues pertaining to Internet pharmacies, will recommend to put in place regulatory, administrative and legislative measures to control Internet pharmacies and seek active cooperation of Internet service providers" in this regard.

It will not only mull to introduce legislation for routing and inspection of international mail (containing contraband couriers) but will also seek cooperation and exchange of information with other enforcement agencies like CBI, DRI and ED, within the country.

NCB is the national enforcement agency to take penal action against drug traffickers under the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) and the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking-NDPS (PIT-NDPS).

The government has framed a number of guidelines for the committee after approving the recommendations made by global anti-narcotics body, International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), in this regard in 2010.

"Several large illicit Internet pharmacies have been detected by the Indian authorities in recent years. The board (INCB) recommends that India further enhance the measures against illicit pharmacies and call centres which are illegally supplying pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances to persons in India and other countries and to continue cooperating with the authorities of countries to which pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances are illegally exported from India by traffickers operating these facilities," the charter for the committee said.

The committee will also frame rules with regard to "specific legislation providing for registration of Internet pharmacies selling controlled substances and establishing of standards for pharmaceutical service via Internet, gathering information on drug trafficking through the Internet and consider establishing cyber patrol units."