October 22, 2021 12:59:45 am
A day after bail plea of Aryan Khan, son of actor Shah Rukh Khan, was rejected on grounds including alleged conspiracy, three other accused arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in the cruise drug bust case said on Thursday in their bail pleas before the special court that they were neither connected to each other nor the alleged recoveries of drugs were linked.
The court was hearing arguments made on behalf of Aachit Kumar, arrested allegedly based on the retracted statement of Aryan. It also heard the bail pleas of Odisha residents Manish Rajgaria and Avin Sahu.
“By adding the charge of conspiracy, the NCB is alleging that whatever drug recovery is made from one accused is liable on all others. But the agency has not shown any nexus between all the accused. The element of conspiracy under the NDPS Act is very narrow. These accused were traveling in the cruise independently. For convenience, the NCB has registered only one complaint. This had also been done in the case of Rhea Chakraborty. Though 33 people were arrested, not all of them were linked to each other. In this case too, different recoveries have been made independent of each other,” lawyer Taraq Sayed said on behalf of Rajgaria, from whom NCB allegedly recovered 2.4 gm of ganja.
Special Judge V V Patil, while rejecting bail to Aryan and two others on Wednesday, had said that the charge of conspiracy would be dealt with in detail during trial but prima facie all accused are connected “in the same thread”. So far, NCB has arrested 20 people, including two accused allegedly caught with commercial quantity and others like Aryan and Sahu, on whom no drugs were found.
Lawyer Ashwin Thool, representing Kumar, said that while the word “peddler” had been used for him by the NCB, it has massive ramifications to destroy the career of the 22-year-old. He added that Kumar is studying in London and was in the city due to the lockdown.
“He is studying in one of the most reputed colleges in the world. Why would he come back to peddling 2.6 gm of ganja? When they use the word peddler, there must be something to corroborate. Records will reflect that there is nothing, no international, no local link to drug trafficking. There are no transactions, no money, no clients, no witness claiming that he is part of a ganja trafficking network.”
The NCB, which allegedly seized the drug from Kumar’s home on October 5, has alleged that he was part of a “ganja trafficking network” in Mumbai. Thool argued that Kumar studied in an IB school and had interacted with Aryan and his friend Arbaaz Merchant, as they were part of the same circle but there was no material to show that he was in touch with them for more than a year.
Thool also produced screenshots of CCTV camera footage from Kumar’s residence to claim that he was detained on October 5 and kept in illegal custody till the next day, when he was shown arrested. He added that the footage also showed that the panchnama was fabricated as independent witnesses were not present when NCB officers entered Kumar’s home.
Sayed, representing Rajgaria, said there is no evidence that drugs were found on him. He added that the panchnama named two others along with Rajgaria and it is being claimed that the chief security officer of the cruise had handed over 2.4 gm of ganja to an NCB officer. “There is no mention of where the contraband was recovered from,” Sayed told the court.
Lawyer Sanaa Raees Khan, representing Sahu, said that the only allegation against him was that he smoked ganja twice on the cruise ship. Khan said that the maximum punishment for consumption was one year and there was no need to keep him incarcerated. “The recovery made from others cannot be foisted on him. The NCB has added the charge under Section 29 (conspiracy) of the NDPS Act mechanically. This charge requires an agreement between the accused and a physical manifestation of the agreement. Merely because he was present in the cruise cannot be a ground to claim that there is a conspiracy between all the accused.”
The court will hear the NCB’s response to the pleas on Friday.
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