The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted bail to actress Rhea Chakraborty, arrested over drug-related charges in actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death, and directed her to deposit a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh.
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 Chakraborty's brother Showik Chakraborty, who is also an accused in the case.
The court also rejected the bail plea of alleged drug peddler Abdel Basit Parihar.
Rhea Chakraborty, her brother and the other accused were arrested last month by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in connection with its probe into the drugs angle related to the case of Rajput's death.
Justice Sarang Kotwal said in his judgement that he had dealt with extensive questions on law vis-a-vis the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act during the arguments.
He also refused to accept the NCB's request for a stay on his order to allow the agency to challenge the order.
"I have already imposed very stringent conditions in the bail. If your appeal is accepted and the bail order is stayed then what prejudice will be caused to you?" the judge asked the NCB.
The NCB, through Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, had opposed the bail pleas in the HC.
Singh had told the high court that a strong message needed to be sent out to the society, particularly youngsters, to ensure they did not consume drugs.
The NCB had said there existed ample material to show that Rhea Chakraborty, her brother and others arrested in the case represented a "chain," and an "active syndicate" that was involved in procuring, financing, harbouring and abetting drugs and its consumption.
Singh said Rhea had knowingly paid for Rajput’s drugs, and concealed the information regarding his drug habit. These qualified as stringent charges of financing and harbouring drug consumption, as defined under the NDPS Act.
The court had posed a query to all parties on the application of the stringent section 27-A of the NDPS Act in the case.
The section deals with financing and harbouring drugs and its consumers, and entails a punishment of up to 20 years. It also carries a bar on grant of bail.
Commenting on the same, the court said, "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 up to 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.”
All the accused had opposed the application of the above section in the present case.
Rhea Chakraborty's counsel Maneshinde argued that the actress had only occasionally paid for Rajput’s drugs and this did not amount to financing.
All accused had also argued that the drugs seized by NCB in the case were in small quantity, and did not qualify as commercial quantity that could attract stringent sections under the NDPS Act.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Police asked media persons 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.
The HC, while granting bail to Rhea Chakraborty and two others, directed them to deposit their passports with the NCB and not to leave the country without permission of the special NDPS court.
The HC asked Rhea to deposit a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and said she must visit the nearest police station at 11 am for the first 10 days after being released from judicial custody.
It directed her not to leave Mumbai without the NCB's permission and to not tamper with evidence while out on bail.
The HC also directed Rhea to visit the NCB office at 11 am on the first day of every month for next six months.
All those who have been granted bail, including Rhea, will also have to seek permission of the NCB's investigating officer to go out of Mumbai, the court said.
Rhea and her brother had approached the HC after their bail pleas were rejected by a special NDPS court here last month.
Rhea Chakraborty's lawyer Satish Maneshinde said they were 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.
With inputs from IANS