Bollywood actress Rhea Chakraborty was granted bail on Wednesday, nearly a month after being arrested for allegedly buying drugs for her ex-boyfriend, actor Sushant Singh Rajput, whose suicide sparked a media storm in India.
Rajput, 34, was found dead in June in his Mumbai apartment, triggering a national frenzy with television news channels speculating that Chakraborty drove him to take his own life with cannabis and black magic.
A star with many hits to his name, Rajput’s suicide initially triggered a debate over mental health in India’s multibillion-dollar movie industry.
But Rajput’s family disputed reports that he suffered from depression and accused Chakraborty, 28, of stealing his money and harassing him. She has strongly denied the allegations.
On Wednesday, a court in Mumbai ordered that the actress be released on bail, her lawyer Satish Maneshinde said, calling it a victory for “truth and justice”.
“The arrest and custody of Rhea was totally unwarranted and beyond the reach of law,” he said in a statement.
Her brother Showik, who was also arrested last month, remains in custody.
Chakraborty and her family have been hounded by Indian media who spent months obsessing over the case. Some celebrities, including actresses Vidya Balan and Sonam Kapoor, have accused TV channels of subjecting her to a “witch-hunt”.
The country’s top anti-crime agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has been probing Rajput’s death since August, while the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has been looking into his consumption of cannabis. CBI is the federal agency that handles high-profile investigations in India.
The Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences completed its forensic examination earlier this month and reportedly ruled that the actor had died by suicide, not murder, dismissing speculative claims made by some TV channels.
The saga has now morphed into a probe of drug use in Bollywood, with police and the NCB hauling in superstar Deepika Padukone and other actresses for questioning last month.
Rajput was unusual among Bollywood stars in that he did not come from one of the industry’s many powerful families, hailing instead from Bihar, India’s poorest state.
Abandoning his engineering studies in Delhi for Mumbai, he got his big break in 2013 and won acclaim for his portrayal of Indian cricket hero Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a hit 2016 biopic.
In an interview with AFP that year, he spoke of the emotional rollercoaster he experienced while filming the movie, which portrayed the heartbreak suffered by Dhoni when his girlfriend died.
“After we did the preparation, in my head I was him and everything that was happening was actually affecting me,” he said.