We Don’t Remember Sanjay Dutt, Fardeen Khan Being Vilified for their Drug Habits Like Rhea Chakraborty

Social Commentary

We Don’t Remember Sanjay Dutt, Fardeen Khan Being Vilified for their Drug Habits Like Rhea Chakraborty

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Rhea Chakraborty’s arrest for drug use has become, for better or worse, the biggest news story in the country. And the most recent development has seen a sessions court in Mumbai deny the actor’s bail application on September 11. After her arrest by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Chakraborty had been sent to a jail until September 22 by a magistrate.

Her plea to the court was sought bail on the grounds that she had been “coerced into making self-incriminatory confessions”, and that she believed her safety was in jeopardy in judicial custody, as she has been regularly receiving threats of rape, violence, and even murder for the past few months. However, the NCB argued against Rhea Chakraborty being granted bail, claiming her confession was voluntary and admissible in court, and that she might “tamper with the evidence and also try to win over witnesses using her position in the society and money power” if released on bail.

The NCB has claimed that since the marijuana purchased by Chakraborty was intended for actor Sushant Singh Rajput and not herself, she can be charged as a supplier, which carries a 10-year jail term. The stringent punishment the NCB is seeking in Chakraborty’s case stands in stark contrast to the manner in which the same agency handled the arrest of actor Fardeen Khan in 2001. Khan was busted attempting to purchase nine grams of cocaine, and the NCB sought a one-year jail term under charges of possession. Similarly, another erstwhile Bollywood bad boy Sanjay Dutt’s drug use in ’80s has been an open secret for decades and was romanticised in his biopic released in 2018.

Both Khan and Dutt were able to bounce back from the charges brought against them and go on to have successful careers in the film industry. Rahul Mahajan, another public figure convicted for drug-related offences, was cast on the country’s most watched reality show, Bigg Boss, and went on to have a television show all about him finding his bride in a swayamvar.

It remains to be seen if the actor is able to come back from this conviction. The rejoicing seen on social media over Rhea Chakraborty being denied bail suggests that the public may be less forgiving. And given the misogynistic nature of discourse that has accompanied each new twist in the case, the reason for the differential treatment can be inferred.

Chakraborty’s lawyer has announced they will appeal the decision to deny bail in the Mumbai High Court.