As Part of Ganja Crackdown, Hyderabad Police Are Looking Through People's Phones

A report by The News Minute has highlighted that in what could be a glaring infringement upon individuals' right to privacy, cops have been keying in 'ganja' to find evidence of consumption or peddling in chats.

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New Delhi: The Hyderabad police has been checking the phones of people to find out whether they are peddling or consuming ganja, The News Minute has reported.

The raids correspond to the the city police’s attempts to “eliminate ganja” and its use from the city.

The report notes that the Commissioner of Police’s instructions have authorised police stations to carry out raids and searches to nab those who peddle and consume ganja in the city.

A video showing police officers asking for the phones of citizens has been shared multiple times.

TNM has reported that there have been allegations that police have been searching chats with words like “ganja” to look for related conversations that might indicate involvement with consuming or peddling it.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Zone, Gajarao Bhupal told TNM that people are “cooperating” with the phone checks and “no one is complaining”. Bhupal claimed it was not as if police were forcing anybody.

“The public can deny giving their phone. However, we will then have to see what legal provisions apply,” the south zone DCP said, adding that police has so far not faced an issue with checking phones.

A Telangana high court lawyer, along with other rights activists, has noted that checks like these are illegal and unconstitutional.

“The cops have no right to randomly check phones of people. If they wish to do so, they have to do it by following a procedure established by law,” lawyer Karam Komireddy said.

In 2017, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that Indians enjoy a fundamental right to privacy, that it is intrinsic to life and liberty and thus comes under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. Notably for Hyderabad police, the apex court had noted:

“Privacy has both positive and negative content. The negative content restrains the state from committing an intrusion upon the life and personal liberty of a citizen. Its positive content imposes an obligation on the state to take all necessary measures to protect the privacy of the individual.”

Earlier too, the Hyderabad cops had stoked controversy for collecting fingerprints and photographs as part of Operation Chabutra, TNM has reported.

The Hyderabad police’s enthusiasm to curb the use of ganja comes amidst renewed conversation concerning the penalisation and methods used by law enforcement against drugs.

Amidst hearings in media spotlight in the cruise drugs case in which the Narcotics Control Bureau has held Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan, and others, there is conversation on a possible need for demarcation between kinds of drugs.

In India for instance, the crackdown against ganja has been deemed out of place by many commentators.

Abhinav Srinivasan, for one, points out in a piece on The Wire Science titled, ‘It’s High Time India Reclaims Its Ganja‘, that the the scientific and colonial history of cannabis offers valuable lessons on why its illegality deserves reexamination.

In December last year, The Wire had reported on how India has voted in favour of a highly divided resolution in the UN Commission for National Drugs to remove cannabis from the category of most dangerous drugs.