The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on 4 October claimed before a court in Mumbai that “shocking and incriminating” material had been recovered in WhatsApp chats of Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and two others who were among the nine people arrested in connection with the seizure of banned drugs from a cruise ship off the city coast showed international drug trafficking.
The NCB, which secured the remand of Aryan Khan and the other eight accused from the court till 7 October, claimed that in the WhatsApp chats, Shah Rukh Khan’s son discussed modes of payment to be done for procurement (of drugs) and that several code names are being used. Aryan Khan’s lawyer claimed no drugs were recovered from his client’s possession.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate RM Nerlikar, while extending till 7 October the NCB remand of Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha, observed that the accused must be grilled more for the investigation, which was of prime importance. The NCB had produced the three accused before the court after the end of their one-day custody given to the NCB on 3 October.
The NCB had arrested Aryan Khan (23), Dhamecha and Merchant on 3 October in the evening and produced before a special holiday court on 3 October that remanded them to NCB custody till 4 October. The NCB had arrested them after raiding the Goa-bound ship.
The judge remanded to the NCB custody till 7 October, the six other accused who were arrested in the case late Sunday night and produced in the court on 4 October.
The court, in its order, noted that the investigation in the case was of prime importance and considering this aspect, the further presence of the accused before the NCB was necessary.
The fact is that, the court said, the co-accused in the case were found in possession of intermediate drugs and the three accused (Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha) were accompanying them.
“Investigation is of prime importance and presence of the accused is needed for detailed investigation. It is useful for both the prosecution and the accused to prove their innocence, the court said.
The NCB arrested six others ― Nupur Satija, Ishmeet Chadha, Mohak Jaiswal, Gomit Chopra, Vikrant Chhokar and a drug supplier from suburban Juhu (name not disclosed) ― later.
The court, while remanding them to the NCB custody, noted that prima facie, a case has been made out against them and hence their interrogation is required.
The NCB on 4 October sought further custody of Aryan Khan, Merchant and Dhamecha till 11 October on the ground the central agency had to unearth the nexus between drug consumers and suppliers, and confront all the arrested accused with each other and apprehend other suppliers of narcotics substances. However, the court extended their custody only till 7 October.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the NCB, said before the court that incriminating material was found through WhatsApp chats of the arrested accused, including Aryan Khan, with drug peddlers and suppliers.
Raids are going on now. Shocking and incriminating material recovered in WhatsApp chats of the accused shows international drug trafficking, the NCB counsel said.
Accused Aryan Khan, in the WhatsApp chats, is found discussing modes of payment for procurement (of drugs), the NCB lawyer said. Singh said several code names were used in the chats and, therefore, asked for making them confront one another in the presence of the agency. The international transactions need to be investigated, he said. Singh said the NCB had arrested a supplier from suburban Juhu and had found a commercial quantity of drugs from him.
Opposing extension of custody sought by the NCB, Aryan Khan’s advocate Satish Maneshinde argued that his client had no criminal antecedents.
The defence lawyer said Aryan Khan had shown good conduct by not running away from NCB officers during the raid. He said Khan Jr allowed the sleuths to search him. Maneshinde claimed no drugs were recovered from Aryan Khan’s possession.
The magistrate on 4 October wanted to know from the NCB how much drug had been seized from each of the accused.
To this, ASG Singh said 6 grams of charas was seized from Merchant while 5 grams of cannabis was recovered from Dhamecha.
All these are considered a “small quantity” under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS).
From the other accused, we recovered five grams of MDMA (a stimulant drug). Ten grams of cocaine were recovered from Vikrant Chhokar, 14 MDMA pills from Ishmeet Singh, four pills of MDMA and 3 grams of cocaine from Gomit Chopra and four MDMA pills from Nupur Satija. No recovery was made from Mohak Jaiswal, but he had provided the MDMA pills to Nupur Satija, Singh told the court.
Singh said while the sections under which the accused had been booked were bailable, the court had to consider the purpose of the NDPS Act, which is to remove the drug menace from society, while hearing remand applications or granting bail.
One cannot say, Singh argued, that just because he or she is found with a small quantity, they are entitled to bail. Consuming drugs has nowadays become very common with even college-going kids consuming them, the prosecution said. The accused here are high profile persons who are considered as role models by regular persons, the NCB counsel contended.
Maneshinde argued that his client Aryan Khan had been invited to the cruise along with his friend Merchant and that he had not paid any money to get on the ship.
Nothing incriminating was recovered from Aryan Khan except his mobile phone, the defence lawyer said, adding that his friend (Merchant) had been arrested because he had 6 g of charas, but that had “nothing to do with my client (Aryan Khan)”, Maneshinde argued.
The defence refuted the NCB claims that Aryan Khan had consumed drugs even when he was abroad. During the entire period of his (Aryan) stay abroad, he has not been involved in any trafficking, supply or distribution of drugs, Maneshinde said.
Aryan Khan, Dhamecha and Merchant have been booked under Sections 8(c) (produce, manufacture, possess, sell or purchase of drugs), 20(b) (punishment for contravention of cannabis), 27 (punishment for consumption of any narcotics or drugs) read with section 35 of the NDPS.
Under the law, the defence argued, possession of up to 1 kg is termed as a “small quantity” of cannabis while a seizure of over 20 kg is considered as ‘commercial quantity’. For charas/hashish, the Act says small quantity is up to 100 g while commercial quantity is 1 kg or more.
According to the arrest memo of the NCB, a seizure of 13 gram of cocaine, five grams of MDMA, 21 gram of charas and 22 pills of ecstasy and Rs 1.33 lakh in cash was made after the raid on the ship.
Advocate Taraq Sayed, appearing for accused Merchant, argued there was no clarity on the quantity of drugs allegedly recovered from each of the accused and that the NCB was seeking custody only on the basis of some chats retrieved from WhatsApp.
The remand note of the NCB is misleading, Sayed claimed. If only 6 g of charas was recovered from Merchant, “why is he being charged for the other drugs seized? The two boys (Aryan Khan and Merchant) have been arrested only because they are high-profile persons?” Sayed contended.
The NCB, in its remand note against the five others arrested on Sunday night, said it had seized 2.5 g of ecstasy, 54.3 g of mephedrone (MD) and two grams of charas from them.
The court was informed that five of the arrested accused Ishmeet Chadha, Mohak Jaiswal, Gomit Chopra and Vikrant Chhokar were also booked under Section 27A of the NDPS Act. This section pertains to punishment for financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders.