The Narcotics Control Bureau has issued summons to actors Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor as well as fashion designer Simone Khambatta after their names emerged in WhatsApp conversations about the use of banned drugs. The four were named during the questioning of talent manager Jaya Saha, who was interrogated by the agency in connection with the larger drugs probe that began with the case against actor Rhea Chakraborty.
However, what action can these actors face? Can they be implicated on the basis of these WhatsApp chats and will they face serious action? Hereâ€™s an explainer:
Why Deepika was summoned
Now, in the alleged WhatsApp chats that NCB has accessed, Deepika Padukone is allegedly seen asking for banned drugs from her manager Karishma Prakash. She reportedly asks Karishma if she â€śhas maalâ€ť and asks for â€śhash, not weed,â€ť and so on the basis of this chat, Deepika has been issued summons.
Advocate RC Paul Kanagaraj, a member of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu who deals with narcotics cases, tells TNM that the summons were immediately issued because any statement made before central agencies is valid and is admissible in court, unlike any statements made before the police.
â€śAny statement given before the NCB is valid and so if any person implicates any other person in statements made before the officers, that will have some weight in the initial stage,â€ť Kangaraj says.
Therefore, the summons to Deepika, Sara and the others have been issued based on the WhatsApp chats and any statement made by Jaya Saha or Rhea Chakraborty to the agency.
â€śThe person who is making statements before the officers may lie and implicate them for any reasons. But to clarify a personâ€™s role, the only way is by sending summons to the concerned party. On the appearance of the concerned party, officials of the agency will record their statements and then officers will come to know if they are involved in anyway. This is the purpose for summons,â€ť the lawyer says.
What will happen when Deepika appears before NCB
Deepika will be presented with the statements and documents that the NCB has against her, and the officers will seek an explanation from her about the same. If the explanation given by her is satisfactory, and her involvement is not established, then she will be let off. However, just a statement is not enough to implicate Deepika or prove the charges against her. The agencies will need material evidence against Deepika as well.
â€śIf we assume that the chats are genuine, then the contents of the chats have to be verified. The chats show her asking for the drug. Whether the drug was supplied to her or not, whether she has consumed this drug, or she has received this for the purpose of sale, or she has received it for somebody else â€” all these will be checked, clarified and verified. Merely because the chats discloses that there was a conversation, is not enough,â€ť says advocate Kanagaraj, who is also the chief of the BJPâ€™s advocates wing in Tamil Nadu.
Will Deepika face action?
Under the NDPS Act, manufacturing, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, importing and exporting inter-state or using the manufactured drug or any preparation containing any manufactured drug is illegal. However, the punishment also depends on the quantity of banned drugs that were purchased or sold. The agencies will have to prove a transaction and exchange of the banned goods.
Advocate Kanagaraj explains that there is different punishment for different quantities of drugs. If the quantity involved is meagre, the maximum punishment is six months imprisonment or fine or both, people can also be let off with just counseling. For a quantity not small but also not as large as commercial quantities, the maximum punishment is 10 years in jail. For commercial quantities, the punishment ranges from a minimum 10 years in jail to a maximum 20 years jail sentence. For cannabis and cannabis resin (charas and hashish), small quantities to commercial quantities is defined as 100 grams to one kilogram.
â€śIf the chat shows that the contraband that was involved comes in small quantities, then Deepika can just be fined and need not be arrested at all â€” and this even if it is proved that she has received a small quantity,â€ť the lawyer says.
Now, according to media reports, no contraband or drug seizures have been made in the case that Rhea Chakraborty was arrested in, as well as in the case that Deepika, Sara and the others have been named. Therefore, the NCB has to find the material evidence against these people who have been summoned to prove that there was indeed a transaction or consumption of banned drugs, without which the charges against them will not stand.