New Delhi: The Bombay High Court virtually trashed all charges against actor Rhea Chakraborty while granting her bail Wednesday. The court held that neither was she a part of a chain of drug dealers nor had she forwarded the drugs allegedly procured by her to somebody else for monetary or other benefits.
Rhea was arrested on 9 September in a drug case being probed by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in connection with actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
A single bench of Justice Sarang V. Kotwal allowed Rhea’s bail petition filed against a special judge’s order denying her bail, and ordered her release on her furnishing a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh along with one or two sureties of the same amount.
“Since she has no criminal antecedents, there are reasonable grounds for believing that she is not likely to commit any offence while on bail,” said the judge, asking her to deposit her passport with the NCB and not to leave the country without prior permission of the special judge hearing Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) cases in Greater Mumbai.
The judge, however, denied bail to Rhea’s brother, Showik Chakraborty, concluding he not only knew many drug dealers, but was in touch with them and transacting with them.
Court sets conditions
For traveling out of Greater Mumbai, Rhea will have to inform and give her itinerary to the investigating officer in advance, the judge said, enlisting the stringent bail conditions for her.
The bail order makes it compulsory for her to attend the office of the investigating agency on the first Monday of every month between 10-11 am, for a period of six months, to mark her presence. Immediately after her release on bail, Rhea will have to be present at the police station near her residence any time between 11 am-5 pm for the next 10 days, stipulated the conditions.
The judge, however, did not accept Rhea’s contention that the NCB was not authorised to investigate the matter since the CBI was the only agency allowed to look into the circumstances leading to Rajput’s death.
‘Giving money to another for consuming drugs is not financing illicit trade’
According to the case filed by the NCB, Rhea had financed procurement of drugs for Rajput. While booking her under various sections of the stringent NDPS Act, offences under which are non-bailable, the anti-drugs agency had called Rhea an “active member of the drug syndicate connected with drug supply”.
The NCB alleged Rhea had financed an “illicit trade” and “harboured” a person, in this case Rajput, engaged in such trade. Once proven guilty, Rhea can be imprisoned for a jail term not less than 10 years but which may extend to 20 years.
On charges of financing, the judge held: “I am unable to agree with the submission that giving money to another for consuming drugs would mean encouraging such a habit and would mean “financing” or “harbouring” as envisaged under Section 27A of the NDPS Act.”
Using the definition in Black Law’s dictionary, the judge said providing money for a particular transaction or other transactions will not be financing of that activity.
“Financing will have to be interpreted to mean to provide funds for either making that particular activity operational or for sustaining it. It is the financial support which directly or indirectly is the cause of the existence of such illicit traffic. The word “financing” would necessarily refer to some activities involving illegal trade or business,” said the court.
In Rhea’s case, it held, “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.”
Also read: Rhea Chakraborty held in drugs case — here’s legal history of cannabis, weed, hash in India
Rhea did not harbour an offender, court says
Speaking on Rhea’s involvement in the illicit trade, the court said the same is an offence if the psychotropic substance recovered from the accused is in commercial quantity, whereas in the present case, it added, there was no recovery from the actor or Rajput’s residence.
“Therefore, 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,” the judge said.
On “harbouring”, the judge said a person who is charged with “harbouring” the main offender should have supplied him with food, shelter, etc and that this should be done to prevent the main offender’s apprehension.
But in the present case, the court held, there was no criminal case against Rajput and 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 cannot be stretched to attract the allegation of harbouring Sushant Singh Rajput,” the court ruled.
Harbouring, the court said, is in respect of a person who is engaged in illegal activities or has taken part or embarked on such activities.
Also read: Why India needs to re-look at messy drug laws, and not go for ‘Bollywood clean-up’
‘Everybody is equal before law’
The bench rejected the NCB’s argument that celebrities and role models should be treated harshly so that it sets an example for the younger generation and they do not get encouraged to commit such offences.
“I do not agree,” the judge said, adding, “Everybody is equal before 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.”
The judge also said each case will have to be decided on its own merits, irrespective of the status of the accused.
The trial court’s apprehension that Rhea may alert other accused and destroy evidence was without any basis, he said.
“It is also important to note that when the applicant (Rhea) was produced before the court for her first remand, the investigating agency did not seek her custody. That means, they are satisfied with her interrogation and she had cooperated in that investigation,” read the concluding remarks of the judgement.
(With inputs from Poojasri Ganesan)
Also read: Indians find the perfect villain in Rhea Chakraborty. It says more about India than her
Awesome Judgement. Legalize Drugs and provide services to addicts… Stop this arcane laws that were foisted on us by Nixon and the West…. Legislate things better.. You cannot have laws that makes normal citizens living their lives as they deem fit criminals… especially when it does not cause harm to others directly….
Sensible judge. It beggars belief that the government agencies would make such silly arguments …. seems they have abandoned common sense.
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