November 22, 2023

Bollywood drugs case: Post SC ruling, 20 statements of accused now not admissible as evidence before court

In the current case, most of the accused, including Chakraborty, have submitted to the court that they wanted to retract any statement made before the NCB, as they were “coerced” to make them.

Following the Supreme Court on Thursday ruling that statements recorded by officers under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act cannot be treated as confessions, around 20 statements of accused, including actor Rhea Chakraborty, recorded by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in the alleged drugs case linked with Bollywood, will now not be admissible as evidence before the court.

NCB officers, however, said they have corroborative evidence to back each arrest they have made in addition to the statements, and that the ruling will not have an impact on the outcome of the case. “In addition to the statements, we have corroborative evidence like the money trail… how an accused has paid a particular drug dealer using UPI app or credit card. Digital evidence and money trail, along with the statements, should be enough to prove the case,” said an officer. The officer added that usually, they do not rely completely on statements recorded under Section 67 of the NDPS Act since they know the accused could retract them later. The section gives the officers the power to call for information from any person or examine the person during an inquiry.

In the current case, most of the accused, including Chakraborty, have submitted to the court that they wanted to retract any statement made before the NCB, as they were “coerced” to make them. In its remand applications before the court, the NCB had said that certain statements led it to some of the accused, resulting in searches and raids.

“The order makes it clear that the statements recorded by NCB officers will not be admissible as evidence. In absence of any other evidence like possession or seizure, the agency now cannot rely only on statements to prove the guilt of the accused,” said Ayaz Khan, a lawyer representing some of the accused in the case.

When contacted, NCB spokesperson and Deputy Director K P S Malhotra said, “The NCB, during investigation, supplements the statements with various primary and corroborative evidence.”

An Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) officer from the state police added, “Since both ANC and NCB were working on NDPS cases, we had on several occasions said that either both agencies be allowed to use the statements recorded as evidence or neither should be allowed to do so.”

So far, the NCB has recorded statements of accused under Section 67 of the NDPS Act. The statements recorded during such an inquiry were till now treated as confessional statements, sufficient to be relied on as primary evidence during trial against an accused.

However, Thursday’s ruling by the SC stated that as per the NDPS Act, officers – from the departments of central excise, narcotics, customs or revenue intelligence – would be considered as police officers and hence, statements recorded by them would not be admissible like in case of other police matters. This is to prevent statements given by accused under inducement, threat and coercion by the police being used as evidence in court and as a safeguard from self-incrimination.

Lawyer Satish Maneshinde representing Chakraborty and others said that many accused in the case are “languishing in custody on the basis of inadmissible statements” calling the judgement “landmark”.

Preetika Chauhan gets bail

TV actor Preetika Chauhan, arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in the city on Sunday for alleged possession of ganja, was granted bail by a local court on Thursday. The actor had received 99 grams of ganja from a supplier, Faisal (20), following which the duo were arrested, police said. After Faisal’s interrogation, one more person had been arrested in the case.

The court order read, “Accused prayed for grant of bail on the ground that she is innocent and possession is of small quantity. She is a resident of Mumbai and will not abscond.” Chauhan has worked in several TV serials, like Maa Vaishnodevi.

The prosecution argued that the accused could tamper with evidence and repeat the offence so she should not be granted bail.

“It transpires that offences against the accused are regarding small quantity of drugs…the accused is a resident of Mumbai so there is no possibility of absconding. The investigation is almost complete…the accused need not be kept behind bars for so long,” the court observed.

Chauhan was released on provisional cash bail of Rs 15,000 and asked to appear before an NCB officer for four Saturdays after her release to aid investigation.


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