NEW DELHI – A Bollywood actress who was arrested by India's narcotics agency, setting off a media frenzy that has gripped the nation, walked out of jail on Wednesday after being granted bail.
Rhea Chakraborty was released from Bycula District Prison in Mumbai a month after being arrested for allegedly buying drugs for her boyfriend, popular movie actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who was found dead in a suspected suicide in June.
India’s freewheeling TV news channels speculated that Chakraborty drove him to take his life and was part of a drug-dealing mafia in Bollywood, India's Mumbai-based film industry.
The court in Mumbai on Wednesday said the actress was not part of any drug syndicate and had no criminal record. It said Chakraborty could not have financed or supported illegal drug trafficking as alleged by the narcotics agency.
The 28-year-old actress' lawyer, Satish Maneshinde, said her arrest was “totally unwarranted and beyond the reach of law.”
Chakraborty’s brother, who was arrested in the same case and has also denied the charges, however, remains in custody.
Rajput’s suspected suicide in June initially triggered a debate over mental health. But his family disputed Indian media reports that he suffered from mental illness and lodged a police complaint accusing Chakraborty of abetment of suicide. She has denied the allegation.
Many Indian television news channels then declared Chakraborty guilty of Rajput’s death and claimed she had overdosed him on drugs. The TV channels have since spent months obsessing over the case, at the expense of other issues such as India’s stalling economy, the government’s virus response and growing hostilities with China over a border dispute.
Earlier this week, a panel of doctors examining Rajput’s autopsy reports at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a leading public hospital in New Delhi, submitted a report to the Central Bureau of Investigation that ruled out murder as a cause of the actor's death.
Rajput, 34, was found dead in his Mumbai apartment on June 14. Police listed the cause of death as asphyxia by hanging and said he appeared to have taken his own life. The case is still being investigated.
Rajput, an engineering student who grew up in Bihar, India’s poorest state, was the quintessential outsider who managed to open the doors of Bollywood and craft a brief but successful acting career.
After Chakraborty’s arrest in September, the federal narcotics agency also questioned other actresses in a parallel investigation into claims of widespread drug use and trafficking in Bollywood.
No date has been set for Chakraborty's trial.