Advocate Aditya Barthakur has filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay high court challenging the criminalisation of cannabis under Indian law, based on the fact that none of six government organs he queried had any idea about how the herb is harmful to the human body.
The High Court has issued notices to the central and state governments.
Barthakur last year filed a Right to Information (RTI) request seeking medical or scientific reasons for how the consumption of Cannabis in any form is harmful to humans.
He filed this request first with the ministry of health and family welfare from where it travelled, through transfer by the departnment, to the department of health research, the Indian Council of Medical Research and finally to the national institute of nutrition which replied to Barthakur with an excerpt, allegedly, copy-pasted from the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of New Jersey.
Barthakur then filed an RTI with the same query with the legislative department of the law ministry, which transferred it to the department of revenue which replied to Barthakur with the word “NIL”.
Barthakur also filed an RTI on the same query with the Law Commission of India next, which transferred it to the ministry of health and family welfare from where it once again followed the same transfer route as before, until it landed with the home ministry which forwarded it to one of its divisions.
Barthakur also filed the same RTI with the Central Bureau of Narcotics, adding in it the further query that what is the basis of the law prohibiting Cannabis under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985, if there are no medical or scientific reasons as were asked for. The Bureau replied to him with a reproduction of the NDPS Act provisions criminalising Cannabis.
He then filed the criminal writ petition making all the queried government organs respondents alongwith the union of India and the state of Maharashtra. In the writ petition Bathakur produces research, such as British Commission reports containing mythological texts which note the medical and other benefits of the Cannabis plant, including curing cancer.