After spending nearly a month in Byculla women's jail, actor Rhea Chakraborty was finally released on Wednesday evening after the Bombay High Court granted her bail.
The High Court, while ordering Rhea's release, said she could not be booked for 'financing' drugs consumed by her boyfriend, the late actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The act of simply paying for a particular drug cannot be construed as financing drug trafficking.
The NCB has charged Rhea under the stringent Section
27-A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act which pertains to "financing and harbouring illegal drug trafficking". It entails imprisonment up to 10 years in prison.
Apart from Rhea, the court also granted bail to Samuel Miranda, Rajput's manager and his cook Deepak Sawant. The court, however, denied bail to Rhea's brother Showik and drug peddler Abdul Basit.
A bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal, while trashing the Narcotics Control Bureau's contention, said that all people, be they celebrities or commoners, are to be treated equally.
"Everybody is equal before law. No celebrity or role model enjoys special privilege before the court. Similarly, such person also does not incur any special liability when he faces the law. Each case will have to be decided on its merits," Justice Kotwal said while dismissing the arguments of the NCB, which had said that celebrities accused of drugs dealings or consumption must be punished harshly.
The judge, having perused the material on record, noted that Rhea could not be booked for any offences under the NDPS law. "She cannot be booked for any offence involving commercial quantity. She hasn't given drugs allegedly procured by her to somebody else to earn money. There is no material to prove that she was an active member of an illicit drug trafficking syndicate," Justice Kotwal said in his orders.
The bench further dismissed the argument advanced by additional solicitor general Anil Singh on behalf of the NCB, who had said that the one procuring drugs must be given stern punishment. "As per the NCB, if someone else pays for drugs consumption, then the person who actually consumes the drug can be punished only for one year, but the one giving money for purchasing drug faces the prospect of spending 20 years in jail. This is extremely unreasonable," the court held.
The bench further ruled that Rhea could not be booked for "financing" drugs for Sushant, since she had not funded the manufacture of the drugs.
The bench has ordered Rhea to surrender her passport to the NCB and also mark her presence at the local police station any time between 11am and 5pm during the week.