New Delhi: The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Friday gave a clean chit to Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan, eight months after he was arrested for the alleged procurement and consumption of drugs for a “rave party” onboard a cruise ship in Mumbai.
The reason? “Lack of evidence,” the anti-drug agency said.
Aryan, NCB sources said, was not found in possession of any drugs and his Whatsapp chats, which were initially treated as crucial evidence, were not indicative of him being part of any international drug trafficking racket.
The agency Friday filed a chargesheet against 14 people, who were arrested in the case, and cleared six others – including Aryan — as the Special Investigating Team (SIT) did not find sufficient evidence against them.
“We had arrested 20 people in connection with the case, out of which we have filed a chargesheet against 14 since we had solid physical and circumstantial evidence against them. For six out of these 20, we did not have sufficient evidence,” NCB chief S.N. Pradhan said.
“Here, the touchstone of the principle of proof beyond reasonable doubt has been applied. The Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) is strict but cannot be misused. The SIT carried out a probe in a very fair and professional way. This conclusion was drawn after investigating all the digital, physical and circumstantial evidence,” he said.
On 2 October last year, a team led by NCB’s former Mumbai Zonal Unit Director Sameer Wankhede, and multiple witnesses carried out a raid on the Cordelia cruise at the International Cruise Terminal at Green Gate, Mumbai.
The NCB seized 13 grams of cocaine, five grams of mephedrone, 21 grams of marijuana, 22 pills of MDMA (Ecstasy), and Rs 1.33 lakh in cash from the cruise vessel, following which 14 people were arrested.
Six more were arrested in subsequent raids. Apart from Aryan Khan, the others included Arbaz Merchant, Munmun Dhamecha, Nupur Satija, Ishmeet Singh Chadha, Mohak Jaiswal, Gomit Chopra and Vikrant Chhokar.
Initially, the case was investigated by NCB Mumbai but after certain “irregularities” surfaced, it was transferred to a Special Investigation Team (SIT) in NCB headquarters, Delhi. The SIT took over the probe on 6 November.
The NCB submitted its chargesheet before the registry on Friday. The special NDPS court will take cognizance after the verification of documents. In March this year, the special court had granted the probe agency a 60-day extension to file the chargesheet.
‘Can’t rely only on WhatsApp chats as evidence’
The first NCB team had ‘found’ sufficient evidence in the form of WhatsApp chats and calls to show that the accused were involved in the purchase and possession of drugs.
The anti-drug agency also said “incriminating material in the form of WhatsApp chats clearly show the nexus of the accused (Khan) with suppliers and peddlers on a regular basis”.
It said the WhatsApp chats and call records had enough evidence to show that Khan and seven others were a part of a drug-supply chain and had procured drugs in the past as well, apart from being in direct touch with peddlers.
But on Friday, NCB chief S.N. Pradhan said WhatsApp chats alone could not be treated as solid evidence to charge someone.
“Evidence cannot just be WhatsApp chats, unless it is corroborated by physical evidence… that is what the honourable Supreme Court has also pointed out. In this case too, we did not base our investigation only on recovered chats. Moreover, we did not get any physical evidence to substantiate anything,” Pradhan said.
The Bombay High Court, which granted bail to Khan on 28 October had also told the agency that “there was no positive evidence” against Khan that may suggest existence of any conspiracy.
There was no evidence to suggest any “international conspiracy” either, Pradhan said on Friday.
“The SIT did not find any evidence to suggest an international conspiracy or nexus between syndicates in this case,” Pradhan said. “The investigation, however, is still on and we will file a supplementary chargesheet if needed,” he added.
Pradhan also said irregularities in the earlier probe would be investigated and action taken against errant officials.
Also read: Aryan Khan drugs haul case: Govt orders action against NCB’s Sameer Wankhede for ‘shoddy investigation’