What is the NDPS Act under which Rhea Chakraborty has been booked?
Actor Rhea Chakraborty and nine others so far have been booked under various sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
The NDPS Act, enacted in the country in 1985, is the primary legislation for dealing with drugs and their trafficking. It was passed as India had to fulfil obligations as a signatory of various international conventions on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances to prevent its use and illicit trafficking. It has various provisions to punish manufacturing, sale, possession, consumption, use, transport of banned drugs.
Punishment under the Act can vary based upon the sections the accused is charged. The Act has provisions for the court to grant immunity from prosecution to an addict involved in a small quantity of drugs after they voluntarily seek to undergo medical treatment for deaddiction under section 64A. The Act also has the maximum punishment of the death penalty under section 31A for certain offences involving commercial quantities of a drug if the accused has been convicted before as well.
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The central government can add or omit from the list of psychotropic substances. For instance, in 2015, the central government classified mephedrone – also called as meth or meow meow – as a psychotropic substance in the Act after its popularity grew among the youth and experts warned of its grave health consequences.
What are the sections applied in the case against Chakraborty?
The ten accused in the case are booked under Sections 8 (c) read with section 20 (b) (ii), 22, 27A, 28, 29 and 30 of the NDPS Act. These pertain to alleged use and possession of cannabis and psychotropic substances, financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders as well as abetment and criminal conspiracy, attempt and preparation of committing an offence.
What is the evidence so far that NCB has presented before court against the accused on these charges?
An FIR was filed by late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s father KK Singh in Patna on July 25 against Chakraborty, her family and others. The allegations in the FIR pertained to sections including abetment of his suicide, criminal conspiracy, cheating, claiming that they had siphoned money from Rajput. Due to this allegation, the Enforcement Directorate began its independent probe and registered a complaint of money-laundering against Chakraborty and her family. Chakraborty was summoned and questioned by the ED which also sought access to her electronic devices including her cell phone. The ED claimed that it had found chats on her phone pertaining to use and procurement of drugs which were shared with the NCB, the central agency dealing with such offences.
Two complaints were subsequently filed by the NCB – one against Chakraborty based on the chats and another against alleged drug peddlers, in which she was not named initially. The arrest of Chakraborty on September 8 was in the second case. With the arrest of nine others including Chakraborty’s brother, Showmik, the NCB claimed that it had found evidence of her involvement in the second case.
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The NCB’s remand applications before the court states that it has relied on the statements made by the other accused in the case, including alleged drug peddlers and Rajput’s house staff, who have allegedly spoken about selling and receiving drugs respectively for Rajput on his directions and “on several occasions” as instructed by Chakraborty. The NCB claims that Chakraborty is “an active member of the drug syndicate connected with drug supplies”. The NCB’s remand plea makes no mention of consumption or possession of drugs by her. The NCB says that she would “manage finance for drug procurement along with Sushant Singh Rajput” and “procure drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput for consumption purposes.” Based on this, the charge under section 27A related to financing illicit traffic has been applied in the case, which is non-bailable.
What is Chakraborty’s defence?
Chakraborty has said that NCB is “silent and deliberately vague” about the quantum of drugs, amount of finance, and type of drugs, she is alleged to have procured and financed. She has also claimed that the NCB’s own case is that she would procure drugs for Rajput for his consumption which even if proven may be punishable up to one year in prison or a fine or both and is bailable offence.
The NCB, however, says that at the stage of arrests, the individual role of each accused is not clarified and the sections and allegations are common to all accused. Three accused booked on the same charges, including two who were found with possession of cannabis, have been granted bail by the court.
At the stage of filing of the chargesheet, the NCB will have to specify the type, quantity of drugs and finance made for their procurement by Chakraborty to determine the punishment. She has maintained that she did not consume drugs.
What happens to the other case filed on the basis of alleged chats?
The first FIR against Chakraborty was based on chats allegedly found on her phone. The NCB says that while the first case ‘begins with her’, the second case where she was not named initially but arrested in, ‘ends with her’. In the first case, if Chakraborty is seen to have spoken about consumption or procurement of drugs in chats proved to be hers, it will have to be corroborated with other evidence-that she did indeed consume or procure the drugs mentioned in the chats.
The NCB claims that the second case, which was based on arrests made by them of alleged drug peddlers, led them to Chakraborty. If the evidence in both the cases is found to be the same, the NCB can prosecute her only in one as there cannot be double jeopardy or punishing the person for the same offence twice, as per law.