The Bollywood actress Rhea Chakraborty was arrested on Tuesday i.e., on 8th of September, 2020 by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act for allegedly procuring drugs for the actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who was found dead on 14th June 2020 in his residence in Mumbai. She was charged for the offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, after three days of questioning. She was remanded to a 14 days (i.e., till September 22nd, 2020) judicial custody by the court allowing the application filed by the NCB in the case registered against her and the court also rejected her bail application. The bail application which was filed on behalf of the actress Rhea before the Sessions Court in Mumbai was alleging that she is being framed in the case and she also made several serious allegations against the National Control Bureau. She was arrested by the NCB for allegedly procuring drugs for her boyfriend Late Sushant Singh Rajput.

In Rhea’s application after the questioning, she also stated that she was coerced into making self-incriminatory confessions and that there were multiple male officers of the NCB who interrogated her and there was not a single lady officer present or interrogated her.

After referring to the NCB’s remand copy where it is alleged that the actress procured drugs for her boyfriend (Sushant Singh Rajput) for the purpose of consumption and she managed finances for procurement of drugs for him, the applicant contended-

In the case of Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra (JT 1988 (3) 15), the Supreme Court held that interrogations of women or females are to be carried out only in the presence of a lady officer/constable.

What is the Law?

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, is meant to “make stringent provisions for the control and regulation of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances” along with the other things. Under this Act, a wide range of drugs and psychotropic substances, which includes cannabis, ganja, heroin and opium are considered illegal. On the other hand this law does not apply to bhang. The formation of the NDPS Act 1985 can be traced back to the Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs in New York 1961. This law is believed to have been enacted by the Government of Rajiv Gandhi among the pressure by the International countries, especially with the campaign ‘War on Drugs’ which was led by US President then, Richard Nixon. The Act of NDPS has been amended thrice i.e., in the years 1988, 2001 and 2014. Death penalty is the maximum punishment under this Act which is allowed under Section 31 A. This law was inserted through the amendment of 1988 and it states that such a punishment can be given only on the judge’s discretion for the repeated offenders.

It also states about the list of other sections under which a previous offender must be convicted and the minimum quantity of narcotic or psychotropic substance should be found in the offenders possession in order to give a death penalty.

The first state in India to legalize the growth of Cannabis in 2017 was Uttarakhand but only for industrial and medical purposes. 

What is the Narcotics Control Bureau?

Under Section 4(3) of the NDPS Act, the central government can form an authority to exercise its powers for preventing and combating abuse of and illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.

On 17th March 1986, The Narcotics Control Bureau was constituted by the Government subsequently. According to the website of NCB, the agency coordinates with the state governments and other authorities, under the NDPS Act, Customs Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act and any other law, for the enforcement of the provisions of the NDPS Act. The NCB also coordinates “actions taken by the other concerned ministries, departments and organizations in respect of matters related to drug abuse.”

What provisions is Rhea Chakraborty booked under?

The actress Rhea Chakraborty has been reportedly booked under Sections 8(c), 20 (b)(ii), 22, 27 A, 28, 29 of the NDPS Act.

Section 8 (c) of the NDPS Act includes production, manufacture, sale, purchase, transportation and consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substances. Section 20(b)(ii) of the Act allows punishment for production, sale, purchase, transportation etc of Cannabis. It states that anybody caught with a small quantity of the drug can be punished with rigorous imprisonment of up to 6 months and fine up to Rs. 10,000. 1 Kg or 1000 grams of ganja is considered as “small quantity” according to a notice issued by the central government.

No drugs have been found on the actress Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik. NCB’s case so far has reached the discovery of 59 grams of curated marijuana from two men named Abbas Lakhani and Karan Arora and about the links they had with the one’s close to Sushant Singh Rajput allegedly.

Section 22 of the Act states similar punishment for contravention of provisions on psychotropic substances. On the other hand Section 27 A allows punishment for “financing illicit traffic and harboring offenders”, and imprisonment of more than 10 years but less than 20 years along with a fine of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh. The Section 28 and 29 deals with the attempt to commit offence, abetment and criminal conspiracy and the punishment of abetment and criminal conspiracy.

Was the law been effective?

The criticism of the law was mainly that the state is being placed as “moral guardian vis-à-vis the citizens.

There were debates also made on the tough and stringent conditions of bail under the Act, which states that the person accused will not be released on bail or will not be granted bail unless the court has reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is not guilty and is not likely to commit an offence while on bail. Thus by this we can conclude by stating that getting a bail under this act is very difficult due to the stringent nature of the Act. It was also pointed out that the Act has stringent provisions through strict liability i.e., the intention of committing a crime is not required. The burden of proof under this Act is on the purported offenders.

There is a distinction between individual drug consumers and drug traffickers made under the Act. According to the Act individual drug consumers can be diverted to rehabilitation where as the drug traffickers are subjected to strict penal actions. The Section 39 of the NDPS Act allows the court to release an addict for the purpose of treatment if found guilty of drugs consumption under the Section 27 of the Act.

However, the consumption of drugs is still criminalized and this is one of the reasons why the law has been blamed for not achieving its goal of deterrence and rehabilitation.

This article has been written by Oorvi Agarwal,  4th year, BA-LLB student of Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.

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