How the Bombay HC demolished NCB’s case against Aryan
Mumbai About seven months ago, the Bombay high court (HC) demolished the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) case made against Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan, who had been booked on October 3, 2021, for indirect possession of narcotics, consumption, sale, purchase, and conspiracy.
The court, which was hearing Aryan’s bail plea — after the special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) court as well as the metropolitan magistrate’s court had rejected previous applications — said, that there was no material on record to sustain the NCB’s argument.
“There is no material on record to infer that applicants have hatched conspiracy,” a single judge bench of justice Nitin Sambre had said on October 29, while granting bail to Aryan and two others, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha. “It is difficult to infer that Applicants are involved in an offence of commercial quantity,” the court said.
The court also refused to accept the NCB’s claim that Aryan’s WhatsApp chats indicated an international drug nexus. “After having gone through the WhatsApp chats extracted from Applicant/Accused no. 1’s phone, nothing objectionable could be noticed to suggest that Applicant nos. 1 & 2 or all three applicants along with other accused persons in agreement have meeting of minds and have hatched conspiracy committing the offence in question,” said the court.
The court said that the arrested persons were not even subjected to medical examination so as to determine whether at the relevant time, they had consumed drugs.
Acting on a specific tip off, a team of the NCB officials, headed by the agency’s Mumbai zonal director Sameer Wankhede, had on October 2, 2021 searched certain passengers slated to take Cordelia cruise to Goa from the International Cruise Terminal at Green Gate in Mumbai.
During search the agency claimed to have seized multiple drugs like 13 grams of Cocaine, 5 grams of Mephedrone, 21 grams of Charas, and 22 pills of MDMA (ecstasy) and Rs. 1.33 lakh in cash from the cruise. The NCB team intercepted in all 14 persons and after hours of interrogation placed 23-year-old Aryan, Merchant (26) and Dhamecha (28) under arrest in the afternoon of October 3.
The agency claimed that they had found 5 grams of Charas in possession of Merchant and he and Aryan had purportedly admitted that they both were going to consume the contraband material on the cruise. The agency officials also claimed that they had found 5 grams Charas in a packet found lying in Dhamecha’s room on the cruise.
Subsequently the agency arrested 20 persons, conducted raids in multiple locations in the city, including actor Shahrukh Khan’s house in Bandra. They opposed the bail pleas of all accused, claiming that the material collected by them proved conspiracy, and invoked stringent charges against all accused. The agency also relied on WhatsApp chats exchanged by Aryan with some co-accused in the case and some foreigner to support its claim of conspiracy to circulate drugs.
NCB also claimed that if cumulative quantity of seizure was appreciated, the agency was justified in invoking the provisions relating to possessing commercial quantity against all the accused.
The HC held that there was no positive evidence of conspiracy. “For inferring the act of hatching conspiracy on the part of the Applicants and other co-accused, there has to be positive evidence about an agreement to do an unlawful act or to do lawful act by unlawful means and such agreement must precede with meeting of minds,” justice Sambre had said. “Of course, such agreement can be express or implied or in parts.”
“As far as the case in hand is concerned, the fact remains that Applicant nos. 1 and 2 (Aryan and Merchant) were travelling together, whereas Applicant no. 3 (Dhamecha) had an independent travel plan, which has no connection or relation with the travel of Applicant nos. 1 and 2,” HC observed.
Box: Prabhakar Sail, NCB’s ‘hostile’ witness who claimed Wankhede was corrupt
Prabhakar Sail, a panch witness in the cruise ship drug raid case made startling revelations in his sworn affidavit of October 23. Sail claimed that he had overheard a phone conversation of his employer Kiran P Gosavi (another witness in the case) which proposed a “ ₹25 crore deal” which they settled to “ ₹18 crore”. “You put a bomb of 25 crores and let’s settle at 18 final, because we have to give 8 crores to Sameer Wankhede,” the affidavit stated, quoting the phone conversation.
The affidavit added that at about 9.45 am on October 3, Gosavi had met Shah Rukh Khan’s manager, Pooja Dadlani, along with a certain Sam D’Souza outside Big Bazaar at Lower Parel. They met Dadlani in her car and left the place after about 15 minutes. Later in the day, Gosavi asked Sail to collect some cash. Sail, who took Gosavi’s car, was handed two cash-filled bags at Tardeo signal, the affidavit stated. Sail then brought the money back to Vashi.
In the evening, Gosavi asked Sail to hand over the cash to Sam D’Souza, which the affidavit stated Sail did at a five star hotel in Mumbai.
In November, Sail was questioned by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by deputy director general, NCB, Sanjay Singh, who took over the probe from Sameer Wankhede, the agency’s Mumbai zone director. Sail had earlier claimed that his signature was taken on blank pages by NCB officials on Wankhede’s instructions.
In April 2022, Sail died of a heart attack. He was 36.
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