Decoding the Sandalwood Drug Racket Case


Drug Abuse has become a trend in the modern world and has encroached upon every part of the world. To curb this menace, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) was founded in 1986 with a task to combat drug trafficking and the use of illegal substance. Despite it, illegal use of drugs has been in full fledges in our country and the latest blow on it was the involvement of Indian Film Industries in a drug scandal and drug abuse. This article attempts to decode the sandalwood drug racket that was busted a few weeks back in Bengaluru, Karnataka and also analyses the laws and governmental bodies created to curb it. The article also throws light on the World Drug Report 2020 published by the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC). The author also elucidate the policies adopted by different nations to combat these menace and at the same time tries to recommend some policies which the Indian government should adopt to stop drug abuse.

Keywords: drug scandal, narcotics, psychotropic substances, NDPS, CCB


Just when the raging debate on the issue of narcotic influence in the Bollywood industry was gaining light and curiosity, a massive drug scandal was busted in Karnataka which brought several people including a top actress of the Kannada film industry under the radar of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and Central Crime Branch (CCB). The drug scandal surfaced after the arrest of three individuals M Anoop, Anikha D, and R Ravindra and started to dominate media headlines and public debates after they revealed that some prominent musicians, top actors, and children of VIPs were also involved in the drug racket.

Later, a case of money laundering was also registered by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) in the Sandalwood drug scandal case. 

Kannada filmmaker, Indrajit Lankesh helped Central Crime Branch (CCB) and gave them few crucial leads including the name of 15 persons who were related directly or indirectly to the drug scandal. As a result, the Central Crime Branch (CCB) police arrested 12 accused and they were charged under Sections 21, 21C, 27A, 27B, and 29B of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.

(NDPS) Act, 1985 and its Application in the present case

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act which replaced the earlier Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930 was enacted in 1985. The NDPS Act places a “restriction upon cultivation, production, sale, purchase, possession, use, consumption, import, and export of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances except when they are used for a scientific purpose or medical use.” It was enacted to fulfil India’s treaty obligations to the three of United Nation’s drug Conventions namely Single Convention on Narcotic drugs (1961), Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), Convention against Illicit trafficking Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances (1988).

The procedure to be followed in case of any search or seizure or arrest of any person who is charged under the provisions of this act is laid down under Chapter V of the NDPS Act. The Act since its enactment has been amended three times with the latest amendment made in 2014. The main objective behind every amendment was to make the act more stringent so as to inculcate a feeling of deterrence in the mind of the accused. 

The accused in the present case were charged under Sections 21, 21C, 27A, 27B, and 29B which lay down Punishment for contravention in relation to manufactured drugs and preparations, Punishment for consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance and Punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy.

World Drug Report 2020

According to the World Drug Report 2020 published by United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC), India is one of the major hubs of illicit drug trade ranging from age-old cannabis to newer drugs like tramadol and designer drugs like methamphetamine.

Drug use has been on the rise around the world, in terms of both overall numbers and the proportion of the world’s population that uses drugs. In 2009, the estimated 210 million users represented 4.8 per cent of the global population aged 15-64, compared with the estimated 269 million users in 2018, or 5.3 per cent of the population.

Policies Adopted by Different Nations to Tackle the Menace

To minimize the use of drugs and to make people realize the harmful effects of drug consumption and trafficking, the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2018 organized a National Conference on Drug Law Enforcement. Moreover, the Punjab Cabinet in 2018 also decided to recommend the death penalty for drug traffickers even in the first instance of conviction to the centre.

The ‘War On Drugs’ campaign was started by the president of the Philippines as a result of which approximately tens of thousands of people have been killed who were involved in drugs. Although this campaign was started to prevent drug abuse and drug trafficking, it ultimately increased it.

We have a belief that imposing harsher punishments like life imprisonment or death would inculcate a feeling of deterrence in the wrongdoer, but to the contrary there are a few countries which have been able to control drug abuse to a large extinct by decriminalizing it. Portugal is one such nation which decriminalized drugs in 2001 and this step made Portugal the least drug addicted country in the European Union. It was a success because the Portugal government rather than sending the accused to prison, used to send them to rehab centres which ultimately was a better and long term solution. 

But having said that, there are countries like Singapore, China, Indonesia, Vietnam who have implemented harsher laws and have been able to tackle this menace. It all comes down to the efficiency of a country in implementing their laws properly.


It is pertinent from the result of the campaign started in the Philippines that bestowing harsher punishments on the accused not only fails in curbing this menace but also has an adverse effect on the society. Hence rather than giving death sentence to the accused, the government should focus on raising awareness on drug-related harms. Measures should be taken to aware children and young adults since they are most vulnerable to drug abuse. Moreover, according to a national survey carried out by the Pew Research Centre, 67% of Americas believed that the government should focus more on rehabilitating drug addicts rather than punishing them. 

Hence, the Indian Government should also focus on setting rehabilitation camp for such drug addicts and drug traffickers which would ensure a drug free nation in long run. For this, a certain percentage of money should be allotted for setting such rehabilitation camps every year as the population of drug users in India is very high and hence needs a substantive amount of money to rehabilitate them.

Other step which the Indian government could take is to add more officers who can enforce laws properly as specific officers to look after drug trafficking will help in limiting the number of individuals involved in drug trading.

As far as the case of Bengaluru Sandalwood Drug Scandal is concerned, it is yet to be seen how many more high profile people are involved in it. A top official said that “It is a layered network of people, who are part of the cartel of drugs and prostitution” which hints the possibility of political involvement. This can only be decoded as the investigation furthers.


  1. Arun Dev, Glamour, Raves & Sandalwood: Decoding Bengaluru’s Drug Racket (September 10th 2020, 07:09 AM), roots-in-sandalwood-actors-arrested.

  1. Guest post, Drug Laws In India (May 18th 2016),

  1. Arfa Javaid, World Drug Report 2020 by UNODC: All you need to know (June 29th 2020, 21:38),

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