“The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the 1989 Amendment of the NDPS Act of 1985 mentions that India was facing a problem of transit traffic in illicit drugs,” said Justice Sarang Kotwal in the important finding on the scope of Section 27A of the NDPS Act, while granting bail on 7 October to actress Rhea Chakraborty, late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s girlfriend. “The spillover from such traffic was causing problems of abuse and addiction. Therefore, a need was felt to amend the Law to further strengthen it.”
The Bombay High Court held that an offence of “financing illicit traffic and harbouring” under the country’s drug law had been introduced two decades ago to tackle and curb these activities which formed the “root cause” of illicit trafficking.
The offence, under section 27A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, which attracts 10-20 years’ imprisonment, was introduced as a separate offence in 1989 soon after the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. India ratified the UN convention that “recognises illicit traffic is an international criminal activity, the suppression of which demands urgent attention and the highest priority”.
There already was existing in the NDPS Act at the time prohibitory provisions against dealing in drugs under Section 8, which says that no person shall produce, possess, sell, buy (or do a host of things including transporting and warehousing) any NDPS except for medical or scientific purposes.
“(It) wanted to attack the basic cause of illicit traffic of drugs,” said the judge. The financing of a drug enterprise and sustaining it and hence the term ‘financing’ in the section had to be interpreted as something beyond mere buying and selling of drugs. “The prohibitory section 8 was already existing… Therefore, a separate section 27A was introduced to check these activities which were the root cause of illicit traffic,” he said, adding that hence, “financing” and “harbouring” were specifically mentioned. The “financing” in the section denotes “financial support which directly or indirectly is cause of existence of such illicit traffic” the judge said. “It refers to activities involving illegal trade or business.”
“The allegations against Rhea Chakraborty of spending money in procuring drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput will not, therefore, mean that she had financed illicit traffic,” the high court held.
On the other key term, “harbouring”, the high court held that it “means there has to be another offender who has committed the offence.” “The person who is charged with harbouring that main offender should have supplied him with shelter, food” and the requirement is that the harbouring “should have done this to prevent the main offender’s apprehension (arrest)”. But in the NCB case against Rhea, the HC noted, “no criminal case or FIR was pending against Sushant Singh Rajput”. Meanwhile, Samuel Miranda and Dipesh Sawant, who got bail along with Rhea, were released from Taloja, Navi Mumbai, yesterday.