Actor Rhea Chakraborty left Mumbai's Byculla prison this evening after being granted bail by the Bombay High Court, 28 days after her arrest on drugs-related charges in the Sushant Singh Rajput case. Her brother Showik has been denied bail.
The actor, hounded by the media in the past, left in a car with its windows covered with newspapers. It drove through a huge crowd of reporters, cameramen, policemen and others gathered outside the jail. The Mumbai Police had warned the media against "chasing celebrities and others" and "endangering lives" shortly after the actor's bail.
Rhea Chakraborty will "spend her night after a month in her own bed," Rhea Chakraborty's lawyer Satish Maneshinde said.
Rhea Chakraborty and her brother were among 15 people arrested in early September over allegations of arranging drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput, a 34-year-old movie star who was found dead in his Mumbai home on June 14.
While granting bail to Rhea Chakraborty, the Bombay High Court all but demolished the Narcotics Control Bureau's case against the 28-year-old actor, who was accused of being "an active member of a drug syndicate". The High Court said she was not a part of a chain of drug dealers.
The order also noted that the investigation had found Sushant Singh Rajput used to procure drugs and many others helped him.
"Since she has no criminal antecedents, there are reasonable grounds for believing that she is not likely to commit any offence while on bail," the order said.
Rhea Chakraborty is accused of buying drugs for her boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput. The High Court said "simply providing money for a particular transaction or other transactions will not be financing of that activity" and allegations of spending money in procuring drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput "do not mean that she had financed illicit traffic." The court also noted that the actor's charges did not involve commercial quantity of drugs.
The court also disagreed with the drugs agency's argument that celebrities and role models should be treated harshly to set an example. "I do not agree. Everybody is equal before law. No celebrity or role model enjoys any special privilege before the court of law. Similarly, such person also does not incur any special liability when he faces law in the courts. Each case will have to be decided on its own merits irrespective of the status of the accused," the judge said.
As riders for bail, Rhea Chakraborty has to submit 1 lakh as bond and mark her presence daily at the nearest police station for 10 days after her release. She also has to hand over her passport and cannot travel abroad without the court's permission.
In her bail petition, Rhea Chakraborty had said that she and her brother were sole targets of a witch-hunt by multiple agencies who had found no evidence incriminating her.
She had alleged that Sushant Singh Rajput "took advantage of those closest to him to sustain his drug habit" and that she had tried to rid him of it. She also said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and his family abandoned him at the peak of his depression. His mental health "deteriorated during the lockdown", she claimed, adding that the deaths of actors Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor also had a tremendous impact on him.
Investigations into Sushant Singh Rajput's death, which started with a suicide probe, have taken wild twists and turns over the past few months. The CBI took over the case after Sushant Singh Rajput's father accused Rhea Chakraborty of mentally harassing the actor, medicating him and stealing from him. The Enforcement Directorate is looking into financial allegations raised by the actor's father.
The Narcotics Control Bureau stepped in when WhatsApp chats retrieved from Rhea Chakraborty's phone revealed alleged conversations involving drugs.
Several top actors have been questioned by the anti-drugs bureau in a widening probe into drugs and the film industry.