A special court under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances(NDPS) Act in Mumbai on Friday ordered the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to return all mobile phones and laptops seized from Bollywood actor Arjun Rampal and his partner Gabriella Demetriades while investigating a drug case.
NCB had started investigating a drug case in Bollywood last year post the demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Several Bollywood celebrities were questioned during the investigation. Rampal and his partner were also questioned by the agency and their devices were confiscated after a raid at their residence. The couple has stated that they use their devices for both professional personal reasons.
The couple’s advocate Ayaz Khan contented that NCB had seized the devices during a raid and that a charge sheet has now been filed. He claimed that the trial will take a long time and that the seizure of the devices has put the couple in a severe financial bind. He also said that the couple is willing to abide by conditions kept forth by the court in order to get access to their applications.
Meanwhile, Atul Sarpande, the agency’s special public prosecutor, strongly opposed it and said that investigation is still on. “There is every likelihood and possibility that the applicant will use the moveable items mentioned above in drug mafia and other related business transactions if the applications for releasing moveable items mentioned above are approved,” Sarpande said.
After hearing the argument, Judge VV Vidwans said, “Conducting the trial and adjudication of the case will take a significant amount of time. Although the financial investigation into the matter is still ongoing, the data on mobile phones and laptops, such as Macbooks and pen drives, has already been saved in digital form/soft copies and can be accessed at any time for the purposes of the investigation and trial.”
“Another aspect which needs to be taken into consideration while deciding these applications is the possibility of action to be taken in respect of liability and confiscation of illicit drugs, substances, plants, articles, and conveyances etc,” said the judge.
“In the present case, only the IO (investigating officer) has taken action to seize the applicants’ mobile phones, but the prescribed procedure as per provisions of Sec.68(B)(e) r/w. 68(F) of the Act is not followed as there is no formal seizure or confiscation of bank accounts as required by law by making an order of seizure of such property with due approval from/ prior permission from the competent authority within the period of 30 days u/s.68(F)(1)(2) of NDPS Act,”Judge VV Vidwans added.