The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) investigating a case against Rhea Chakraborty and six others based on purported WhatsApp chats that surfaced during an Enforcement Directorate investigation into the actor’s bank accounts, will be an “inquiry FIR” and no arrests will be made in this case.
The 20 arrests by the NCB, including that of Rhea and her brother Showik, have been made in a different case lodged after the “inquiry FIR” was registered. While the “inquiry FIR” is numbered 15/20, the second one is 16/20, pertaining to what NCB has said is its attempt to “uproot the drug citadel in Mumbai, especially in Bollywood”.
Both FIRs were lodged in connection to actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death probe.
An NCB officer said as the first FIR has been lodged only on the basis of purported chats, it would be difficult to build a case against anyone.
“We will be treating 15/20 as an inquiry FIR. We will use the information that we get during probe in other cases, like we did in the case of Rhea, wherein we registered a second FIR, on the basis of the first FIR. Similarly, if we find incriminating evidence against the others named in 15/20, we will register another FIR, rather than charging them in 15/20,” the officer added.
How the law works
An FIR is registered when a cognizable offence is disclosed as per law. The ED, which itself is investigating Rhea Chakraborty in a money laundering case, found purported conversations about narcotics and passed it on to NCB that registered an FIR. Usually, if there is evidence of a crime, a chargesheet is filed in the FIR or else a summary report is submitted to the court if no evidence of an offence is found.
On the basis of the purported chats, Rhea, her brother Showik, Sushant’s cook Dipesh Sawant, housekeeper Samuel Miranda, talent manager Jaya Saha and former manager Shruti Modi, as well as Goa-based hotelier Gaurav Arya have been booked.
“Even while filing a chargesheet, FIR 15/20 will be used as additional information for the other FIRs registered on the basis of this case,” the officer said.
Notably, the only other FIR that has so far been registered is 16/20, in which Rhea, Showik and a former employee of producer Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment have been arrested. Kshitij Prasad, who has alleged that he was being forced to implicate Johar, is in NCB custody till Saturday.
Meanwhile, the NCB will have to limit its scope of investigation to a period from early 2019 till now due to the absence of availability of call data records (CDR) beyond then.
“We will get call data records for as back as 2019 from telecom companies. Hence, for instances of narcotics procurement pre-2019, it will be difficult to substantiate charges of consumption even if we find chats to that effect, as it will be difficult to complete the chain of evidence,” said an officer. So far, NCB has retrieved chats of actor Deepika Padukone that go beyond that time period.
Currently, it is awaiting retrieved data from the cellphones of Padukone as well as actors Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor among others.Officers said Rhea’s arrest became possible as they could find money transfers made purportedly from her credit card to alleged peddlers, who have also been arrested in the case. An officer claimed that call data records also showed the presence of Showik and Miranda at the same place around the same time as the arrested pedlars, circumstantially showing procurement.
In order to arrest someone even for consumption, NCB will need to complete the chain of evidence in the form of phone communication with a peddler and transfer of money among other things, officers said.
Meanwhile, 20 personnel of the NCB team involved in the investigation who had tested positive for Covid-19 nearly 10 days ago are likely to return to work soon.
NCB officers heading probe
Rakesh Asthana: DG, Narcotics Control Bureau
The 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer, the head of the agency, is “guiding the investigation”, and flew down to Mumbai at the beginning of the probe. Sources said it was under his supervision that the second FIR was registered to “uproot the citadel of drugs in Bollywood”, in which 20 people have been arrested so far. Asthana, who was formerly in the CBI, has investigated many important cases, including the fodder scam case, resulting in the conviction of RJD chief Lalu Prasad. He was IG Vadodara Range when the 2002 Godhra train burning took place. In 2018, Asthana, then deputy director of CBI, was involved in a bitter tug-of-war with the agency’s director Alok Verma.
Sameer Wankhede: Director, Mumbai Zonal Unit, NCB
IRS officer Sameer Wankhede is currently the investigating officer of FIR 16/20, in which several persons, including actor Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik, have been arrested and actors Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor called for questioning. Wankhede is on “loan” from DRI to NCB. Earlier this week, one of the arrested persons in FIR 16/20, Kshtij Prasad, alleged that Wankhede put pressure on him to name Dharma Productions head Karan Johar, a charge that the officer denied. In August, he led the seizure of heroin worth Rs 1,000 crore from Nhava Sheva. Earlier, he had detained singer Mika Singh at the airport for not declaring currency over permissible limits and fined actor Shah Rukh Khan for carrying excess baggage.
KPS Malhotra: NCB deputy director and spokesperson
Malhotra, part of the operations division of NCB, is a 2009-batch DANIPS officer. He is the investigating officer of the first FIR and laid the groundwork for the second FIR. It was Malhotra who questioned actor Deepika Padukone. The NCB Operations team was the only one to arrest a darknet drugs vendor in India.
Mutha Ashok Jain: Deputy DG (South-West Region) NCB
A 1995-batch IPS officer from UP cadre, Jain was posted to NCB in September 2017. As the official briefing the media, he has been the public face of this celebrity-studded investigation. Before being deputed to NCB, he served as IG of Agra and Allahabad and DIG of Kanpur and Gorakhpur range.
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