A classic tale of crime and punishment involves the American gangster Al ‘Scarface’ Capone who evaded the long arm of the law in connection with several serious charges but was brought to book for tax evasion and eventually incarcerated for several years.

Of course, by the time this happened,Capone had already been dubbed Public Enemy No. 1 in Chicago, where he ran his criminal empire, and his crimes had caused investigators to petition President Herbert Hoover for federal intervention.

Such circumstances however do not exist in the case relating to the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, which has mysteriously meandered its way from an inquiry into the circumstances of his death into a mammoth fishing expedition to determine who of his colleagues in the film industry had at any point of time consumed narcotics.

Quite incredibly, the Narcotics Control Bureau, an apex investigating agency tasked with coordinating activities of Central and state investigators in enforcement of drug laws, and of liaising with international enforcement agencies, has decided to channel its not inconsiderable energies into decoding text messages to determine which film star consumed what drug at a given point of time.

Had the exercise not involved the time, energy and resources of an elite investigative agency, and considerable cost to the exchequer, it might even have been laughable. For if the intention is to determine how the drug supply chain operates, there are easier and less expensive ways of obtaining this information; investigators could far more easily visit any of the several dozen de-addiction centres that dot Mumbai and find out from inmates just how they procure drugs.

An apex agency ought to be coordinating activities of state enforcement bodies to get to the roots of the drug problem and not bring itself down to the level of a Sub-Inspector. Where the NCB’s essay will lead is open to question, but the odds are that it will garner more headlines than drugs.

It would not have escaped the attention of a bemused citizenry that in the past few weeks, the death of Rajput has served many purposes and spawned many more theories, not all of which were outlined in the First Information Report filed with the Bihar Police. It was a suicide, then a murder, then a murder provoked by another murder, a suicide again until finally degenerating into a tawdry inquisition involving the drug-use habits of some famous people.

This could not have been the closure the actor’s family sought when it decided to petition the police in Patna, and then pinned its faith in an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, of which very little is now heard.

This sordid saga has helped fuel election hopes in Bihar, fed the sickening prurience of some television anchors and, now, propelled a senior policeman to seek voluntary retirement presumably to seek a career in politics.

There is only one way out of this morass ~ for people to switch channels if this matter is discussed on the idiot box and for investigators to hold their horses until they have a case fit to prosecute.