Supreme Court grants bail to Kannada actor accused of drug peddling
- Ragini Dwivedi has been in custody for over 140 days after her arrest last September.
The Supreme Court on Thursday granted bail to Kannada actor Ragini Dwivedi who is accused of arranging sale and consumption of drugs at rave parties.
The Court, on a prima facie reading of the evidence produced by the prosecution, Karnataka Police, concluded that at best the actress could be found guilty of consuming drugs for which the maximum punishment under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act Section 27 is one year's imprisonment.
The order came as a big relief to the 30-year-old actor who was arrested in September last year and has been in custody for over 140 days. On November 3, 2020, the Karnataka High Court had dismissed Ragini’s bail plea along with that of her co-accused.
Ordering her release, a bench of justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and KM Joseph noted that the charges against her of possession, sale and purchase of commercial quantity of drugs punishable under Section 21(a) of NDPS Act with 10 years or more was “prima facie” not made out.
The Court noted three arguments to support this conclusion as pointed out by Ragini’s counsel and senior advocate Sidharth Luthra. He stated that pursuant to search of the petitioner’s residence, no drugs were found by police and the entire case against her rested on the statement of a co-accused BK Ravishankar. At best, Luthra told the Court that the petitioner could be faulted for consuming drugs at rave parties. In addition to these grounds, the bench further noted that the charge of criminal conspiracy between the actress and other drug peddlers for sale of drugs was found to be “tenuous” by the High Court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the state government informed the Court that investigation of the case was still on as the charge sheet was yet to be filed. He told the Court that the petitioner was in regular contact with drug peddlers and such contraband was sold at rave parties organized by her.
The bench told Mehta that their view was only “prima facie” and said that similarly placed persons who are accused in this case would get benefit of this judgment. The Court added a line that the observations made in this judgment will not hamper investigation of the case and will not be used to influence trial.
Twelve people including Ragini were named in a FIR registered in September 2020 by the Cottonpet police station in Bengaluru. The Crime Branch which began investigation in the case had arrested two actors – Ragini Dwivedi and Sanjana Galrani and other persons linked with the film industry in connection with supply and consumption of drugs. Sanjana had obtained bail in December on medical grounds.
The single judge bench of the Karnataka High Court while dismissing bail to Ragini had said, “The very purpose of participation of accused Nos. 2 (Ragini) and 14 (Sanjana) was to attract a large number of consumers as they are celebrities. The materials so far collected by the investigating officer show that accused Nos. 2 and 14 are not only consumers but also sellers and facilitators.”
The state police had found a diary from Ragini’s possession where she disclosed that on her birthday party, she consumed cocaine with Ravishankar and offered to sell it to a witness for ₹5,000 per gram. Another witness had stated to have paid three lakh rupees to accused no.14 towards purchase of drugs. The police had also begun investigations into the financial wealth amassed by the two actors through sale of drugs at parties.
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