Charges against Aryan Khan, 5 others dropped
A Special Investigation Team of India's Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has dropped Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, and five others from its chargesheet filed on Friday in connection with a drugs bust onboard a cruise ship off the Mumbai coast last October. Aryan and 19 others were arrested by the NCB’s Mumbai zonal unit on October 3, 2021 on charges that they were all “’intrinsically connected” to a conspiracy involving drugs.
In a statement Friday, the NCB said, “SIT carried out its investigation in an objective manner. The touchstone of the principle of proof beyond reasonable doubt has been applied. Based on the investigation carried out by SIT, a complaint against 14 persons under various sections of NDPS Act is being filed. Complaint against rest 6 persons is not being filed due to lack of sufficient evidence.”
While nothing was seized from Aryan when the search was conducted on October 2 last year, the NCB had arrested him on the basis of chats claimed to have been found on his phone seized from him. The NCB had claimed that it was also relying on “’voluntary statements” given by some of the accused – which were later retracted – to show that they had consumed contraband. No tests were however conducted to prove consumption.
Aryan was arrested and produced before a magistrate’s court on October 3, which had sent him to the NCB’s custody for a day.
On October 4, the NCB again sought Aryan’s custody, stating that though no drugs were found on him, they were seeking his further custody for one week to probe his role “pointing towards international drug trafficking” based on the chats procured from his phone. The court had then sent Aryan to NCB custody till October 7. On that day, the NCB again sought his custody but the agency’s plea was rejected by the court, which sent Aryan and seven others to judicial custody.
Aryan had then moved for bail before the magistrate’s court, which rejected it on October 8 on grounds of non-maintainability, since the sections added by the NCB were triable before the special NDPS court.
A bail plea was then filed before the special court, which was rejected on grounds that since Aryan’s friend who was traveling with him to the cruise was found with contraband and he knew about this, it amounted to “conscious possession”.
An appeal against this order was filed before the Bombay High Court, which granted Aryan bail on October 28.
The High Court in its order had said that there is “hardly any positive evidence” to show conspiracy between the accused including Aryan, Aryan Merchant and model Munmun Dhamecha, as alleged by the NCB. The court had also said that “nothing objectionable” was noticed in the WhatsApp chats allegedly recovered from Aryan’s phone to suggest that there was a conspiracy.
The case has been mired in controversy since the beginning, when a selfie with Aryan by one of the men accompanying the accused went viral. The man was later identified as Kiran Gosavi, who the NCB said was an independent panch witness. It later came to light that Gosavi had a criminal background with multiple cases pending against him with the Maharashtra police. Another panch witness had also come forward stating that he was forced to sign blank papers.
Within a month, even as the investigation was on in the case by the Mumbai NCB zonal unit led by its head Sameer Wankhede, an SIT was constituted and the case was transferred to it.
In March, the SIT sought an extension to file the chargesheet and said that forensic reports prove that all 17 samples are narcotics and psychotropic drugs. The court granted the SIT 60 days to file its chargesheet, which was to end on May 30.
Source: The Indian Express