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Cruise drugs case: Aryan Khan denied bail again, court says ‘conscious possession’

Relies on WhatsApp chats, says show ‘nexus’, drug activity ‘on regular basis’.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: October 21, 2021 1:26:50 am
Aryan Khan, NCB, NCB on Aryan khan, Mumbai news, Bombay HC, Aryan khan links, Aryan khan bail, India news, Indian expressAryan Khan was arrested on October 3 by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) for alleged conspiracy, possession, consumption, purchase and trafficking of drugs. (FIle)

THE BAIL pleas of Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, and two others were rejected by a special court here Wednesday. Denying bail to Aryan, who has been in custody now since October 3, a special NDPS court said that since Arbaaz Merchant, who was with Aryan, was found with contraband and Aryan knew about it, this amounted to “conscious possession”.

Aryan’s lawyers have moved a plea in the Bombay High Court against the rejection of the bail application. While Senior Counsel Amit Desai and Advocate Satish Maneshinde could not mention his plea before a single-judge Bench of Justice Nitin W Sambre Wednesday due to paucity of time, it is likely to be mentioned for urgent listing on Thursday morning. Dhamecha has also approached the High Court.

Aryan had been apprehended with his friend Merchant at the international cruise terminal in Mumbai on October 2, ahead of boarding a luxury liner that was allegedly to hold a rave party. While no drugs were found on Aryan, 6 grams of charas were allegedly seized from Merchant.

The court relied on their “voluntary” statements — since retracted — that they were to consume the contraband together on the cruise. “In the present case, although no possession is found from accused number 1 (Aryan), six grams of charas (were) found from accused number 2 (Merchant) of which Aryan had the knowledge and thus it can be said that it was in conscious possession of both the accused,” the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) court said.

On October 8, a magistrate court had rejected the bail applications of Aryan, Merchant and Dhamecha stating that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the pleas. The plea was decided only on the ground of maintainability and not on merits. This is the first plea by Aryan rejected on merits.

“Admittedly, accused number 1 and 2 are friends since long. They travelled together and they were apprehended together. Further in their voluntary statements, both of them disclosed that they were possessing the said substance for their consumption and for enjoyment. Thus, all these things go to show that accused number 1 was having knowledge of contraband concealed by accused number 2 in his shoes,” the court said.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has said the two left together to catch the cruise in Aryan’s car, after Merchant met him at his residence on October 2. Aryan’s lawyers argue that he had nothing to do with the alleged seizure from Merchant.

The court relied on an order of the Bombay High Court in the case of Showik Chakraborty, who was arrested last year in connection with a drugs case filed following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, along with his sister Rhea Chakraborty, which said that each of the accused is liable for “entire quantity of drugs seized” as the charge of conspiracy is added. The NCB claims it seized “commercial” quantities of drugs from two other accused in the case, including a Nigerian national — who incidentally were not present on the cruise — even as no drugs were found on some of the 20 arrested.

The court also relied on WhatsApp chats of Aryan submitted to it. “Perusal of (the) WhatsApp chats reveals that there are chats of accused number 1 (Aryan) about drugs with unknown persons. There is also reference to bulk quantity and hard drug in the chats. There is prima facie material showing that accused number 1 was in contact with persons dealing in prohibited narcotic substances alleged by the prosecution,” the court said, adding that the “incriminating” material in the form of chats showed Aryan’s “nexus” with “suppliers and peddlers”.

While Aryan had no previous antecedents, the court said, his chats showed he was indulging in “illicit drug activities of narcotic substances on a regular basis”.

While it was argued by Merchant’s lawyer Taraq Sayed that there was no panchanama to show that the phones were seized and hence the chats could not be relied upon, the court said that a certificate under the Indian Evidence Act was not necessary at this stage of the investigation. It also agreed with the NCB’s contention that Merchant and Aryan had surrendered their phones “voluntarily”.

“WhatsApp chats prima facie reveal that accused number 1 (Aryan) is dealing in illicit drug activities of narcotic substances on (a) regular basis. Therefore it cannot be said that accused no 1 is not likely to commit (a) similar offence while on bail,” Special Judge V V Patil said.

It also took into consideration submissions made by Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh (the senior most law officer of the Union government in the state) that there were chats showing Aryan was in touch with a “foreign national who appears to be part of international drug trafficking” and investigation on this was ongoing. ASG Singh told the court that it had written to the Ministry of External Affairs for probing the location of the foreign national.

The NCB told the court that Aryan had not revealed the name of this person, which is in his “exclusive knowledge”, and that if he was granted bail, there was every chance of evidence being tampered with.

The court also said that there was prima facie evidence of “conspiracy” and it would be dealt with in-depth during the stage of the trial. While the defence lawyers said there was nothing to connect Aryan with the others arrested in the case, the court said all the accused are “connected in the same thread”. It said that at this stage the role of the accused cannot be isolated from one another.

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