Cruise drugs case: Mere presence cannot prove role in conspiracy, says court

Avin Sahu and Manish Rajgaria were arrested along with actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan and others after the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) raided the cruise ship off the Mumbai coast and allegedly seized drugs.
Sahu and Rajgaria’s case also figured in the bail hearings of Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha in the Bombay high court on Wednesday. (HT PHOTO)
Sahu and Rajgaria’s case also figured in the bail hearings of Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha in the Bombay high court on Wednesday. (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Oct 28, 2021 04:46 AM IST
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ByVinay Dalvi, Mumbai

The mere presence of a person on a cruise ship from where drugs were allegedly recovered cannot be proof of them acting in conspiracy with other accused, a special Mumbai court said while granting bail to two Odisha residents arrested during a raid on October 2.

Avin Sahu and Manish Rajgaria were arrested along with actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan and others after the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) raided the cruise ship off the Mumbai coast and allegedly seized drugs. The two were granted bail on Tuesday — the first such order for any of the 20 accused in the case — but the detailed judgment was made public on Wednesday.

Sahu and Rajgaria’s case also figured in the bail hearings of Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha in the Bombay high court on Wednesday. Amit Desai, the counsel for Merchant, pointed out that a special NDPS court had granted bail to Sahu and Rajgaria and claimed that the charges against his client were the same.

But in its judgment, the special NDPS court said the case involving Sahu and Rajgaria was different because no case of prima facie conspiracy and abetment was made out against them. The court has said there was no prima-facie material that they were part of any larger network and their case could be distinguished from that of others, against whom there were charges of conspiracy.

“The respondent failed to produce on record any evidence to show that he was either in contact with any of the accused or that in anyway that he is connected with co-accused. The prosecution failed to show nexus of the applicant with co-accused to prima facie make a case of conspiracy. Merely because applicant was present on the cruise, he cannot be said to be acted in conspiracy with the co-accused,” ruled special NDPS judge Vaibhav Patil.

During the bail hearing, special public prosecutor Advait Sethna contended that all the arrested accused (20 ) were connected to each other, and offences under sections 28 and 29 (punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy) of the NDPS Act were clearly made out.

But Sahu’s lawyer Sana Raees Khanthe argued that her client had been “falsely implicated”. But the court said there was no prima-facie material that the present applicant was part of larger network and his case could be distinguished from the case of others accused against whom there is evidence of conspiracy. “He has not disclosed the name of any accused or peddlers, he has no connection with drug peddlers,” the judge said.

“The role’s attributed to the present accused is different from the role attributed accused Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha and that no case of prima-facie conspiracy and abetment is made out against the applicant as alleged by the prosecution. Hence section 29 of NDPS Act [(punishment for abetment and criminal conspiracy]is not applicable,” the court held.

Judge Patil further said, “...In respect of recovery is concerned, panchnama states contraband was handed over to the NCB officers by security officer. Thus, there is no cogent evidence on record regarding recovery of contraband from the applicant.”

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