No ‘positive evidence’ against Aryan Khan, others in drugs-on-cruise case: Bombay HC
There is no evidence of a conspiracy between Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha, arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) last month, to commit drug-related offences and nothing objectionable was found in the WhatsApp conversations between them, the Bombay high court said on Saturday.
The court granted bail to Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, Merchant and Dhamecha in connection with the cruise ship drugs case on October 28 and the order was only released on Saturday.
“Having regard to the material brought on record by the Respondent on the issue of conspiracy, this Court prima facie has not noticed any positive evidence against the Applicants on the said issue,” Justice Nitin Sambre said in the 14-page order, according to Bar and Bench.
“This Court is of the opinion that the claim put forth by the Respondent that Applicants should be considered to have intention to commit an offence under the NDPS Act (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act), having found in possession of commercial quantity, in the backdrop of case of hatching conspiracy is liable to be rejected," Sambre also said in the order made available on the Bombay HC’s website.
The judge said that just because the accused were travelling on the cruise cannot be a ground to invoke the offence of Section 29 against the accused. "This Court is required to be sensitive to fact that there has to be presence of basic material in the form of evidence so as to substantiate the case of conspiracy against the Applicants," the judge added.
No drug was found in Aryan Khan's possession while the quantity recovered from Merchant and Dhamecha were 'small' under the NDPS Act, the court noted. But there was no such material, the judge held. The NCB has alleged it seized 13 grams of cocaine, 5 grams of mephedrone MD, 21 grams of charas and 22 pills of MDMA ecstasy after its raid on the cruise ship.
The Bombay HC judge also observed that the WhatsApp chats of Aryan Khan did not have anything objectionable to suggest that he conspired to commit offences under the NDPS act.
"After having gone through the Whats-App chats extracted from Applicant/Accused no. 1’s (Khan) phone, nothing objectionable could be noticed to suggest that Applicant nos. 1 & 2 (Merchant) or all three applicants alongwith other Accused persons in agreement have meeting of minds and have hatched conspiracy committing the offence in question," the order said.
"Rather the investigation carried out till this date suggests that Applicant/Accused nos. 1 & 2 (Khan and Merchant) were travelling independent of Applicant/Accused no. 3 (Dhamecha) and there was no meeting of minds on the aforesaid issue.”
Aryan Khan was taken into custody by the NCB on October 2 after the central agency led by senior official Sameer Wankhede raided a cruise ship. He was arrested under Sections 8(c), 20(b), 27, 28, 29 and 35 of the NDPS act on October 3.
His bail application was rejected by additional chief metropolitan magistrate RM Nerlikar, saying that it was not maintainable as only the special court of sessions was entitled to hear the plea.
Khan then moved the special court under the NDPS act seeking bail, which was also rejected on October 20. He then moved the high court, which granted him bail on October 28 under several conditons. Khan and others were then released from jail on October 30.