Not Part of Chain of Drug Dealers: Bombay HC on Rhea Chakraborty
Rhea Chakraborty gets bail in drugs case, brother Showik’s bail rejected by Bombay High Court.
The Bombay High Court has granted bail to Rhea Chakraborty on one lakh bail bond, as on Wednesday, 7 October. However, the bail plea of her brother Showik Chakraborty has been rejected. The court has directed Rhea to appear at her nearest police station for 10 days after she has been released. The actor has also been restricted from leaving the country.
Rhea has been granted bail after nearly a month since her arrest by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in an alleged drug link related to her late partner Sushant Singh Rajput's death.
Sushant's staff members Samuel Miranda and Dipesh Sawant have also been granted bail by the High Court. The bail of another person arrested in the case, Abdul Basit, has been rejected.
No Commercial Quantity Recovered
The Bombay High Court observed that, “...it is necessary for the investigating agency to show that her activities or contravention involved commercial quantity of a Narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. The investigation did not reveal any recovery either from the Applicant or from the house of Sushant Singh Rajput”. The court rejected the application of Sections 19, 24 and 27A on Rhea by stating that, “The material at the highest shows that she has committed an offence involving contraband, but, the crucial element of incurring rigours of Section 37 in respect of commercial quantity is missing.”
Rhea Not Part of Chain of Drug Dealers
The bail order also observed that Rhea has no criminal antecedents and is not a part of the chain of drug dealers. “...I am satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the Applicant is not guilty of any offence punishable under Sections 19, 24 or 27A or any other offence involving commercial quantity. There are no other criminal antecedents against her. 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. Since she has no criminal antecedents, there are reasonable grounds for believing that she is not likely to commit any offence while on bail,” observed the judge.
Celebrity Does Not Incur Any Special Liability
While the Additional Solicitor General of the NCB had contested that celebrities and role models should be treated harshly to set an example for others, the High Court rules that it did not agree with this argument. “Everybody is equal before law. No celebrity or role model enjoys any special privilege before the Court of law. Similarly, such 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.”
Application of Section 27A is Unreasonable
The court also ruled that while the punishment of consumption of any drug is a maximum of one year, by applying Section 27A the person who pays for the consumption faces twenty years in jail, which is “highly disproportionate.” Here’s a look at the court’s observations in this context:
“There is another important angle to interpretation of Section 27A. Mr. Sayed submitted that the interpretation of “harbouring” and “financing”, as sought to be made by Respondent No.1 gives rise to anomalous situation. He pointed out that the punishment for consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, as mentioned under Section 27, is maximum one year or imposition of fine which may extend to Rs.20,000/-. By applying the interpretation of Section 27A by NCB, if some other person like a friend or a relative pays money for such consumption, then the person who actually consumes the drug can be punished only upto one year or can get immunity under Section 64-A of NDPS Act; but the person who gives money for purchasing that drug faces the prospect of spending twenty years in jail. This is highly disproportionate and would be extremely unreasonable.”
On 29 September, the Bombay High Court had reserved its order on the bail pleas of Rhea and Showik, which they had filed on 22 September.
NCB Opposed Rhea & Showik's Bail Pleas
Opposing Rhea and Showik's bail pleas, the NCB had said in its affidavit filed some time back that the applicants had 'abetted and financed' drug transactions and therefore Section 27A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, which provides punishment for financing drug trafficking and harbouring offenders, was applicable in the case.
The affidavit also stated that there was sufficient evidence to prove that Rhea is part of 'drug trafficking'.
“It is clear from the statements and electronic evidence gathered by NCB that applicant is an active member of the drug syndicate connected with high society personalities and drug suppliers. There is sufficient evidence that she is involved in drug trafficking. The applicant used to facilitate drug deliveries and payment through credit cards/cash/payment gateways for the contraband”, the affidavit stated.
Rhea's Allegations in Her Bail Plea
In her bail plea filed on 22 September, Rhea Chakraborty had alleged that her late partner Sushant Singh Rajput "took advantage of those closest to him to sustain his drug habit".
The actor had claimed in her petition that Sushant was the "only consumer of drugs and that he was directing his staff members to procure his drugs". Rhea also alleged that "if the late actor were alive today, he would have been charged for the consumption of small quantities, which is a bailable offence having punishment of a term of imprisonment upto one year."
It is "preposterous", Rhea Chakraborty had argued in her plea, that while the "consumer of drugs" would receive a maximum punishment of up to one year jail, she would, having paid for the drugs on a few occasions, would be subjected to up to 20 years in jail.
Rhea also stated that Sushant Singh Rajput, "used her, her brother Showik and members of his household staff to facilitate his own drug habit while ensuring that he did not leave a paper trail of his own in the form of any electronic evidence whatsoever".
On 6 October, a special NDPS court had extended the judicial custody of Rhea till 20 October. Rhea and Showik were arrested by the NCB on charges of consumption and procurement of drugs.
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