Sushant Would Get 6 Months for Consuming Drugs. The NCB Charge Against Rhea Attracts 10 to 20 Yrs Punishment

Social Commentary

Sushant Would Get 6 Months for Consuming Drugs. The NCB Charge Against Rhea Attracts 10 to 20 Yrs Punishment

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The accusations in the Sushant Singh Rajput case has gone from murder to assisted suicide, to financial fraud, and now, drug abuse. Actress Rhea Chakraborty, who has been vilified by TV journalists and social media alike, has been booked under the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act).

The invoking of section 27A has led to much controversy and debate in the legal sphere. Chakraborty’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde has argued that if Rajput were alive, he would be punished under Section 27 for consumption, which attracts a punishment of six months to one year. If the main beneficiary gets only that punishment, how can Rhea and her brother Showik, also arrested in the case, be charged under section 27A which attracts a punishment of 10 to 20 years?

What is Section 27A of the NDPS Act? Section 27A of the NDPS Act deals with “financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders”. It attracts a punishment of 10 to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment. The submission by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh of the Narcotics Control Bureau was as follows: “If somebody known to me is consuming drugs… consumption is illegal… and I am not telling this to anyone… not disclosing it to police…then it can be brought under the definition of ‘harbouring.’”

When Justice Sarang Kotwal asked if alleged procurement of drugs can qualify as harbouring under Section 27A, Anil Singh responded by saying, “Such an act is giving protection or shelter to the drug consumer from arrest.”

The claim was strongly refuted by the lawyers representing Rhea Chakraborty and the other accused. Advocate Satish Maneshinde and Taraq Sayed submitted that they cannot be said to have “harboured” Rajput since he was living in his own apartment. “NCB alleges Rhea harboured Sushant to invoke Section 27A. How does Rhea ‘harbour’ Sushant when he himself is his own house?” Maneshinde asked.

Responding to ASG Anil Singh’s point, the advocates said that Rajput was not under the apprehension of being arrested at any point of time.

“Had Sushant Singh Rajput been alive today, he would have been punished under Section 20. Sushant would have then claimed the immunity of rehabilitation and got away with punishment for small quantities. If the beneficiary can only get smaller punishment, how can Rhea and Showik be punished under Section 27A?” asked Satish Maneshinde.

Singh on the behalf of the NCB submitted that both Rhea and Showik have admitted to making payments for the purchase of drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput, an activity that falls within the purchase, sale, and shipment of drugs. Singh stated that Section 27A applies since direct and indirect financing illicit trade is included in the section.

Members associated with the legal fraternity have questioned the wisdom of invoking Section 27A in the case. Lawyer Anirban Roy described it as the most “wild” and “absurd” application of the section.

“Weren’t we calling her gold digger? But she was paying for his drugs!” pointed out journalist Arvind Gunasekar.

Advocate Hitendra Thakur stated that the actual drug peddlers who were apprehended and from whom foreign currency was seized have been charged with lesser offences. “The NCB says various drugs have been seized from one accused Anuj Keswani and therefore says that the matter involves commercial quantity. But Rhea or Showik have no direct relation with Keswani. Keswani’s only relation is with Kaizan Ebrahim who was released on bail on the first day on the consent of the NCB,” Maneshinde submitted.

The Bombay High Court has reserved order on the bail pleas of Rhea Chakraborty, Showik Chakraborty and others. The legal battle and this witch-hunt are far from over.