Sushant Singh Rajput death: Rhea Chakraborty, others’ judicial custody likely to be extended
The judicial custody of actor Rhea Chakraborty, her brother Showik Chakaborty, and 18 others arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), in connection with its probe into the drug angle to late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, ends Tuesday.
Their judicial custody is most likely to be extended for another 14 days considering their bail pleas before the Bombay High Court have been heard, and a single bench has reserved its order.
Chakraborty and her brother were arrested by NCB after WhatsApp chats regarding the alleged use of drugs surfaced during the investigation into Rajput’s untimely death. Chakraborty was arrested after being interrogated by an NCB team for three consecutive days, on September 6, 7 and 8. According to NCB, the actor was “involved in illicit trafficking of drug and she financed drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput.” Similar allegations were levelled against Showik Chakraborty and stringent conditions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 were slapped against the two.
Their bail applications were turned down by a special NDPS court on September 11, 2020. Following this, Chakraborty and her brother had moved the Bombay high court for bail and had refuted the allegation of “financing” narcotic drugs for the consumption of the deceased actor.
Arguing their bail applications before the Bombay high court, advocate Satish Maneshinde said Rajput was in no dearth of funds. His house manager Samuel Miranda used to take care of “all” household expenses, and there was no question of Chakraborty financing drug purchases for the deceased actor.
Responding to NCB’s accusation that Chakraborty was part of a drug syndicate, Maneshinde said the allegations was merely on the basis of a solitary incident of March 17, 2020 when she gave her credit card to Rajput’s house manager Samuel Miranda, who withdrew Rs 10,000 using the card and purchased some contraband material for the deceased actor.
He maintained that no amount was paid directly using Chakraborty’s card to any of the alleged peddlers for procuring drugs and therefore she can’t be said to be associated with any drug ring. It was an admitted fact that Rajput was consuming drugs even before Chakraborty became acquainted with him in April 2019, and two of Rajput’s co-stars, Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor, have reportedly told NCB that he was consuming drugs for quite a while.
Maneshinde said Showik Chakraborty too was accused of being part of a drug syndicate for allegedly paying petty amounts on three occasions in April 2020 to purchase minuscule amounts of hashish and marijuana.
The lawyer had added that stringent provisions contained in 27A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 for financing illicit trafficking of drugs or harbouring offenders were not at all applicable to Rhea Chakraborty or Showik Chakraborty, even if one went by the allegations levelled by NCB.
NCB also alleged that Rhea Chakraborty had harboured Rajput. Maneshinde had argued that during the relevant period, Chakraborty was residing with Rajput in his house and questioned how she could have harboured the late actor in his own house.
Advocate Taraq Sayed, who had argued the bail plea of another man accused in the case, Abdel Basit Parihar, submitted that NCB has been claiming to have busted a major drug ring by arresting 18/19 college students. He claimed that almost all the persons arrested by NCB in this case come from well-to-do families and cannot by any stretch of imagination be termed as drug peddlers or suppliers.
Sayed submitted that the arrests were made only on the basis of statements recorded under Section 67 of the NDPS Act, especially when there was hardly any recovery from most of them. He said the statements under Section 67 can at the most be used to corroborate recovery from an accused, and not otherwise.
Sayed said Parihar is a final-year student of architecture and had missed his examination as he had been arrested by NCB. He added that though a moralistic argument was being advanced by NCB as to how society, especially the younger generation, was affected by the menace of narcotic drugs, in India, more people die due to smoking than by drug abuse.
Maintaining that all alleged transactions involve small quantities of drugs and therefore were bailable, Sayed said all five applicants before the high court—Rhea Chakraborty, Showik Chakraborty, Miranda, other Rajput staffers Dipesh Sawant and Parihar—were entitled to bail as a matter of right.
In support of his submission that the offences alleged were bailable, he relied on a 2010 judgment of Bombay high court holding that all offences under NDPS Act involving small quantities were bailable.
Additional solicitor general Anil Singh, who opposed the bail applications on behalf of NCB, however submitted that the applicants were under a wrong assumption that all offences under the NDPS Act involving small quantity of drugs were bailable. Singh submitted that NDPS Act nowhere states that certain offences were bailable and claimed that all offences under the Act were non-bailable.
Justice Sarang Kotwal had agreed with his submission. The judge referred to a 1999 judgement of a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, observing that all offences under the NDPS Act were non-bailable, and no other court was therefore authorised to take a different view of the issue.
The judge had then reserved the order on September 29.
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