REJECTING ALL arguments of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) point by point, including the key allegations that she was part of a “drug syndicate” and was “harbouring” actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the Bombay High Court Wednesday granted bail to actor Rhea Chakraborty “with stringent conditions”, nearly a month after she was arrested in a drugs case arising from Rajput’s suicide on June 14.
Chakraborty was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with sureties, while the High Court rejected the bail pleas of her brother Showik and alleged drug peddler Abdel Basit Parihar in the case. The Bench also granted bail to Rajput’s cook Dipesh Sawant and his domestic help Samuel Miranda on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each and other conditions.
The High Court had reserved its orders in the case following a hearing on September 29 after the NCB opposed the bail pleas and submitted that the accused were involved in crimes “worse than murder or culpable homicide” and that the case should be a “lesson” for others.
Chakraborty, who was in a relationship with Rajput, was arrested by the NCB on September 8 on charges that she was part of a drug syndicate operating in Mumbai. Her brother Showik was arrested on September 4.
Chakraborty had approached the High Court after her bail plea was rejected by the special court hearing the case. Since her arrest, she was lodged in a Byculla jail cell, with the special court Tuesday extending her judicial custody till October 20. She was released Wednesday evening following the High Court order.
Ruling on Chakraborty’s plea, Justice Sarang V Kotwal, who passed separate orders for the five accused, stated: “She is not part of the chain of drug dealers. She has not forwarded the drugs allegedly procured by her to somebody else to earn monetary or other benefits…(there is) nothing at this stage to show Rhea had committed any offence involving commercial quantity of contraband.”
The ruling also stated that “since she has no criminal antecedents, there are reasonable grounds for believing that she is not likely to commit any offence while on bail”.
Justice Kotwal also disagreed with the NCB’s argument that celebrities and role models should receive “harsh” punishment so that it sets an “example” for the young generation.
The judge said: “Everybody is equal before the law. No celebrity or role model enjoys any special privilege before the court of law. Similarly, such a person also does not incur any special liability when he faces law in the courts.” Each case will have to be decided on its own merits, irrespective of the status of the accused, the court said.
The NCB, through Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, had told the court that Chakraborty had bought drugs for and “concealed” Rajput’s drug habit, and hence Section 27A of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, mandating punishment for financing drug trafficking and harbouring offenders, was applicable.
The NCB had also alleged that Chakraborty and her brother had “abetted and financed” drug transactions.
But the order stated: “In the present case, no criminal case or FIR was pending against Sushant Singh Rajput. He was residing in his own house and was spending for his own food and other necessities. At that point of time, he had no apprehension of any arrest. Therefore, the act on the part of the applicant (Chakraborty) cannot be stretched to attract the allegation of ‘harbouring’ Sushant Singh Rajput.”
The order further said: “Simply providing money for a particular transaction will not be financing of that activity. It will have to be interpreted to mean to provide funds for making the activity operational or for sustaining it…The allegations against the applicant of spending money in procuring drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput will not, therefore, mean that she had financed illicit traffic.”
However, rejecting her brother’s plea, the court noted that he knew many drug dealers and was in touch with them and transacting with them. “At this stage, the investigating agency has sufficient material to show that he (Showik) is a part of a chain of drug dealers engaged in illicit traffic of drugs,” the order stated.
Granting bail to Miranda and Sawant, the HC stated that there was no sufficient material to show that they were part of any chain as they had not sold the drugs to earn profit.
After the verdict, Chakraborty’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde said the “hounding and witchhunt” of the actor must stop. “Truth and justice have prevailed and the submissions on facts and law have been accepted. The arrest and custody of Rhea was totally unwarranted and beyond the reach of law,” he said.
An NCB official said: “If one goes through the order, it’s clearly evident that there is no issue in which the court has questioned the investigation. Rhea’s bail is on the interpretation of Section 27A and not the applicability of the same.”
The High Court also declined a plea from the NCB for a stay on the operation of the order for one week, saying that it had declared offences under the NDPS Act that were “non bailable”, and stringent conditions have been imposed for granting of bail.
The court asked Chakraborty to mark her presence before the police station nearest to her residence for 10 days after her release and directed her to be present at the office of the investigating agency on the first Monday of every month for six months.
She has also been restricted from leaving the country without the special court’s permission and will have to deposit her passport with the investigating agency. She has been ordered to seek permission of the special court if she has to leave Greater Mumbai.
(With Sadaf Modak)
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