WhatsApp chats of Aryan Khan, 2 others showed international drug trafficking: NCB to court
The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has got the custody of Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, and two other accused arrested for alleged drug abuse onboard a cruise ship till Thursday. Additional chief metropolitan magistrate RM Nerlikar extended the NCB custody of the three keeping in view the fact that the agency recovered an intermediate quantity of drugs from one of them, and Aryan Khan was accompanying them. Nerlikar also took into consideration that the investigation was at a preliminary and crucial stage.
The NCB arrested Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha on Sunday and produced them before a special holiday court later that day. That court remanded them to NCB custody till Monday. The NCB on Monday sought further custody of Aryan Khan, Merchant and Dhamecha till October 11, saying it had to unearth the nexus between drug consumers and suppliers and confront all the arrested accused with each other and apprehend other suppliers of narcotics substances. However, the court extended their custody only till October 7.
NCB points to Aryan Khan's WhatsApp chat
The NCB claimed before the city court that "shocking and incriminating" material has been recovered in the WhatsApp chats of Aryan Khan, Merchant and Dhamecha showed international drug trafficking. The NCB also claimed that Aryan Khan discussed modes of payment for procurement of drugs and that several code names were used. “Raids are going on now. Shocking and incriminating material recovered in WhatsApp chats of the accused shows international drug trafficking,” additional solicitor general Anil Singh, appearing for the NCB, argued. “All the accused persons have to be confronted with each other. The international transactions need to be investigated,” he adding that the NCB has arrested a supplier from Juhu and found a commercial quantity of drugs from him.
Singh said while the sections under which the accused have been booked are bailable, the court has to consider the purpose of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) which is to remove the drug menace from the society, while hearing remand applications or granting bail. “One cannot say that just because he or she is found with a small quantity, they are entitled to bail. Consuming drugs has nowadays become very common with even college-going kids consuming them. The accused here are high profile persons who are considered as role models by regular persons,” the NCB counsel said.
‘No criminal antecedents’: Aryan Khan's lawyer
Aryan Khan's advocate Satish Maneshinde opposed the extension of custody sought by the NCB and argued that his client had no criminal antecedents. Maneshinde also claimed no drugs were recovered from his client's possession, who had shown good conduct by not running away from NCB officers when the raid was being conducted and allowed them to search him.
Maneshinde argued Aryan Khan was invited to the cruise along with his friend Merchant and that he had not paid any money to get on the ship. “Nothing incriminating was recovered from Aryan Khan except his mobile phone. His friend (Merchant) was arrested because he had six grams of charas, but that has nothing to do with my client,” Maneshinde said.
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He also refuted the NCB’s claims that Aryan Khan consumed drugs even when he was abroad. “During the entire period of his (Aryan) stay abroad, he has not been involved in any trafficking, supply or distribution of drugs,” Maneshinde said.
Aryan Khan, Dhamecha and Merchant have been booked under sections 8(c) (produce, manufacture, possess, sell or purchase of drugs), 20(b) (punishment for contravention of cannabis), 27 (punishment for consumption of any narcotics or drugs) read with section 35 of the NDPS act. Possession of up to one kg is termed as a 'small quantity' of cannabis and a seizure of over 20kg is considered as a 'commercial quantity' under the act. For charas or hashish, a small quantity is up to 100gm while commercial quantity is 1kg or more under the act. The NCB has said it seized 13gm of cocaine, five grams of MDMA, 21gm of charas and 22 pills of ecstasy and ₹133,000 in cash after it raided the Goa-bound cruise ship. The NCB said in its remand note against the five others arrested on Sunday night that it seized 2.5gm of ecstasy, 54.3gm of mephedrone (MD) and two grams of charas from them.
Taraq Sayed, the lawyer who represented Merchant, said that there is no clarity of how much quantity of drugs was allegedly recovered from each of the accused and that the NCB was seeking custody only on the basis of some chats recovered from WhatsApp.
“The remand note of the NCB is misleading. If only six grams of charas was recovered from Merchant, why is he being charged for the other drugs seized? The two boys (Aryan Khan and Merchant) have been arrested only because they are high-profile persons,” Sayed said.
The court was informed that five of the arrested accused – Ishmeet Chadha, Mohak Jaiswal, Gomit Chopra and Vikrant Chhokar – were also booked under section 27A of the NDPS Act. This section pertains to punishment for financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders.
(With PTI inputs)