THE BAIL hearing of Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, will continue on Wednesday before the Bombay High Court. Senior advocate and former attorney general of India Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of Aryan, called his arrest “arbitrary”, as the court began its bail hearing on Tuesday.
Rohatgi, who has joined Aryan’s defence team, told the single-judge Bench of Justice Nitin W Sambre that the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) had made no recovery from the 23-year-old, nor conducted a medical examination to show consumption of any narcotic.
Senior advocate Amit Desai, also appearing for Aryan, said that WhatsApp chats between him and a friend over online poker were being “misinterpreted” by the NCB as about drugs.
Aryan has been in custody since October 2, when he was detained ahead of an alleged rave party on a cruise ship.
In a written submission to the High Court Tuesday, Aryan distanced himself from the allegations made by Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik against NCB Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, including regarding witnesses in the case. The defence said Aryan had nothing to do with the “unsavoury” political controversy.
Aryan approached the High Court after the special NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act court rejected his bail plea last Wednesday. The NDPS court ruled that though no drugs were found on Aryan, he was aware of the fact that his friend Arbaaz Merchant was carrying them, and this amounted to “conscious possession”.
Rohatgi argued that even in a case of “conscious possession”, there is provision of one-year imprisonment. “These are young boys. Even if you admit ‘conscious possession’ of 6 grams, the idea is that the law provides for young boys with no antecedents (to be treated) as victims, rather than (as) hardened criminals. They are entitled (to) rehab and there is immunity (from) prosecution in rehab. It is a fit case for bail,” Rohatgi said.
He submitted a report by The Indian Express on a recommendation by the Social Justice Ministry that drug users be sent for rehabilitation rather than imprisoned, and said the same was important to understand the “legislative intent”. He cited past judgments, including an order by the Bombay High Court in August this year, suggesting “opportunity of reforms” for youth accused in NDPS cases.
Rohatgi argued that the WhatsApp chats recovered from Aryan’s phone did not relate to the cruise party and were from the year 2018. “This is very important. There is no case that any of those chats had anything to do with the onset of this saga,” the defence said, adding that the NCB was “misinterpreting” the chats to incriminate Aryan.
On the allegations levelled by Malik against Wankhede, the defence made a written submission without naming the NCP leader, saying: “The applicant does not make any allegations against any individual in prosecution.” It also said that it had no connection with either witness K P Gosavi, who is wanted in a cheating case and has now gone missing, or his employee, Prabhakar Sail, who has alleged that an attempt was made to extort money from Shah Rukh Khan in the Aryan case.
“That controversy did spill over to me and rebound on me. Kindly keep my client away from it. I have a good case and I don’t want to sully it due to this. I do not have any grievances,” said Rohatgi on Aryan’s behalf.
Senior advocate Desai said that chats between two friends who play poker online were used by the NCB to allege consumption of drugs. “Aryan Khan had a connection with the two people, including Arbaaz Merchant and Aachit Kumar. Kumar was not on the cruise and was later arrested from his house with ganja of 2.6 grams.”
Saying Aryan and Kumar were friends, Desai said: “He was a person with whom Aryan Khan was playing online poker… That was used to say there was consumption of drugs. There is no conspiracy. There was chit chat between two friends… and it is from 18 months ago.”
Desai will also continue his arguments for co-accused Arbaaz Merchant on Wednesday.
In its affidavit opposing Aryan’s bail plea, the NCB said he was an influential person and likely to tamper with evidence or flee if released. According to the central agency, the evidence shows “a part of the illicit drug trafficking”, and that Aryan was in touch with persons abroad who are part of an international drug network. The NCB claimed that investigations primarily revealed that Aryan had played a role in illicit procurement and distribution of contraband, and that he did so through Merchant.
The NCB also mentioned Sail’s claims, saying these were part of attempts to derail its investigation and that there was no truth to the extortion claims. Sail had mentioned Pooja Dadlani, “the manager connected to the applicant (Dadlani is Shah Rukh Khan’s manager)”, the NCB said. “It so appears that the said lady appears to have influenced a panch witness when the investigation is ongoing.”