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HC grants bail to Rhea in drugs case, rejects Showik’s plea

By PTI Updated: Oct 07, 2020 4:42 pm
In this Sep. 7, 2020 file photo, Bollywood actress Rhea Chakraborty leaves Bandra police station after being questioned in connection with late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide case, in Mumbai. (PTI Photo)

Mumbai, Oct. 7 (PTI): The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted bail to actress Rhea Chakraborty in a drugs case in actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, but with strict conditions including to appear before Mumbai Police for 10 days and before the NCB once in a month for next six months.

It also directed her to submit a personal bond of INR 1 lakh and not to tamper with evidence while out on bail.

A bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal also granted bail to Rajput’s aides Dipesh Sawant and Samuel Miranda, but rejected the bail plea of Rhea’ brother Showik Chakraborty, who is also an accused in the case being probed by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

The court also rejected the bail plea of alleged drug peddler Abdel Basit Parihar.

All these accused were arrested by the NCB last month.

The court said Rhea Chakraborty could not be said to have financed or harboured illicit drug trafficking as alleged by the central agency.

The court also observed that she did not have any criminal antecedents, and it was unlikely that she could affect the probe or tamper with evidence while out on bail.

The HC, however, said it was imposing “sufficient stringent conditions” on her bail.

It directed her not to tamper evidence or interfere with the NCB’s probe. It said Rhea will have to visit the nearest police station everyday at 11 am for the first 10 days after her release from judicial custody.

The court also directed her to appear before the NCB on the first day of every month for the next six months.

Rhea also can’t leave Mumbai without the NCB’s permission and without giving her itinerary for such travel to the central agency.

For travelling outside the country, she will need permission from special judge of the NDPS court here, it said.

The NCB has charged Rhea under the stringent Section 27-A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act that pertains to the offence of financing andd harbouring illegal drug trafficking.

The section entails imprisonment up to 10 years and also has a bar on the grant of bail.

The HC said simply paying for a particular drug transaction does not qualify as financing (illicit drug traffic), as described under the Act.

“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,” the court said.

It also noted that harbouring an offender as described under the Act would mean providing money for that person’s drug consumption, while also giving him shelter and food.

Rajput, however, had no apprehension of his arrest and therefore, the charge of harbouring too could not be applied in the present case, it said.

The court also dismissed the NCB’s argument that Rhea’s bail be rejected to send out a strong message to the society.

The NCB, through Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh, had told the HC that a strong message needed to be sent out to the society, particularly youngsters, to ensure they did not consume drugs.

“The learned ASG had argued that celebrities and role models should be treated harshly so that it sets an example for the young generation and they do not get encouraged to commit such offences. I do not agree,” Justice Kotwal said.

“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,” he said.

“Each case will have to be decided on its own merits irrespective of the status of the accused,” the judge said.

The HC, however, rejected the bail plea of Rhea’s brother Showik, noting that he “appears to be a part of the chain” and his case would have to be distinguished from that of a consumer or an end purchaser.

“The applicant (Showik) was facilitating procurement of drugs from one party for supplying them to Sushant Singh Rajput. He was clearly involved in illicit trafficking or illegal trade of drugs,” the court said in its order.

It noted that the investigation in the case is at a preliminary stage.

“The applicant appears to be an important link in the chain of drug dealers. He was in touch with different dealers.

He had monetary transactions with the,” the court said.

Justice Kotwal refused to accept Showiks advocate Satish Maneshindes contention that the NCB does not have the jurisdiction to probe the matter as the case pertains to the death of Rajput and hence, the probe needs to be carried out by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Justice Kotwal also dealt with certain aspects of the NDPS Act that were contested during the bail hearings in the case.

He held that a detailed interpretation of the Act and previous jugdements of the Supreme Court showed that all offences under the Act were non-bailable.

He also held that a prosecuting agency could apply Section 27-A of the NDPS Act in a case even if commercial quantity of drugs were not involved.

However, in Rhea’s case, since there was no financing or harbouring (of drugs or its consumers), Section 27-A could not be applied, the HC said.

The court also granted bail to Rajput’s aides Samuel Miranda and Dipesh Sawant, saying they had simply procured or collected the delivery of drugs on directions of Rajput or Rhea.

Rhea’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde said they were are delighted by the high court order.

“Truth and justice have prevailed and ultimately the submissions on facts and law have been accepted by Justice Sarang V Kotwal,” he said.

The arrest and custody of Rhea was “totally unwarranted and beyond the reach of law”, Maneshinde said.

“The hounding and witch-hunt by three central agencies–the CBI, ED and NCB –of Rhea should come to an end.

We remain committed to truth,” he said.

Rajput, 34, was found hanging at his apartment in suburban Bandra on June 14 this year.

Meanwhile, Mumbai Police asked mediapersons not to chase, intervene or stop the vehicle of Rhea Chakraborty or any other person after their release from jail.

“It is a danger to the safety and security of the person himself, the person whom he or she is following and people who are driving vehicles on road,” an official said.

DCP (Zone-I) Sangramsingh Nishandar told reporters that stern action will be taken against those who instigate their drivers to chase or stop the vehicles of the accused.

Rhea was lodged in the Byculla women’s jail here following her arrest.

By PTI Updated: Oct 07, 2020 4:42:10 pm