New Delhi: No medical examination of Aryan Khan to check for consumption of drugs, no seizure memo to show that his phone had been seized and him “telling” his friend that carrying hash to the cruise might land them in “trouble”— these are among reasons for actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son getting a clean chit in the Mumbai cruise drugs case, ThePrint has learnt. The case is being probed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
According to sources in the NCB, Khan’s statements during the investigation revealed that he had bought and consumed weed as a student in Los Angeles, for “recreational purpose”. There are also WhatsApp chats that indicate that he has consumed hash and weed in the past, but nothing concrete was found on the consumption of the drug that was recovered in the raid carried out at the cruise ship in Mumbai last year, sources said.
Khan was on one of those aboard the Cordelia cruise ship at the time of the raid in October last year. He had been arrested with 19 others in the case and spent over 20 days in jail, before being released on bail on 30 October, 2021.
NCB had 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.
On Friday, NCB gave Khan a clean chit, nearly eight months after his arrest, for alleged procurement and consumption of drugs at a “rave party” onboard the cruise ship, owing to “lack of evidence”.
Senior officials associated with the probe also observed that Mumbai Zonal Unit Director, Sameer Wankhede, who was probing the case initially and was later removed, appeared to have been “motivated to somehow implicate Aryan”.
While the NCB has filed a chargesheet against 14 people, six — including Khan — were given a clean chit.
ThePrint looks back at the case and its investigation.
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‘Aryan told Arbaaz that carrying drugs to cruise means trouble’
According to NCB sources, when Khan and his friend Arbaaz Merchant (who had been on the ship with Khan) were searched by the NCB, six grams of charas was recovered from the latter’s possession. Khan, however, was not in possession of any drug and it could not be established if the drug found on Merchant was for Khan’s consumption.
In a statement to the NCB on 2 October last year, Merchant accepted that he had kept charas in his shoes. He, however, did not reveal whether the drug recovered from him was meant for Aryan’s or any other person’s consumption. Merchant also told investigators that Aryan had told him to “not carry any hash to the cruise as the NCB was very active and that it would land him in trouble”, said sources.
According to the sources, no statement, either by an accused or a witness, had revealed that the drugs founds on the cruise ship was meant for Khan’s consumption or that he was in any way involved in its procurement.
‘Aryan Khan’s phone not formally seized’
According to a source in the NCB, the then investigating officer of the case (Wankhede) had started looking at Khan’s Whatsapp chats without “formally seizing the mobile phone”.
Sources in the NCB also said that the punchnama that was drawn up after the search and seizure at the cruise ship mentioned that Khan’s mobile phone had been “voluntarily handed over by him” to the IO. But this handing over was not followed by a formal seizure procedure, as laid down in law.
“After the phone was seized, data and chats from Khan’s phone were accessed. The phone contained various chats with different people on consumption of weed and hashish,” an NCB source said. “Based on these conversations on WhatsApp, people were asked to join the investigation. These conversations were used as a primary source of evidence, which would not have been admissible as evidence in court,” the source said.
The source further added that the Supreme Court has time and again questioned the evidentiary value of WhatsApp chats, and excessive reliance on WhatsApp messages would prove to be counterproductive during trial.
“This considering the fact that the integrity of data extracted from Aryan’s phone is questionable as there is no seizure memo for his phone to show how and when the phone was seized,” the source said.
‘No medical examination to show consumption’
Khan had been arrested on 3 October and charged with possession, as well as consumption of drugs. However, nothing was put on record by the then investigating officer (Wankhede) to show that he was examined medically to ascertain if he had consumed drugs, a requirement in such cases, sources claimed.
“No medical examination was done to find out whether Khan had consumed drugs before he was charged with the offence of consumption,” the source said. This has also been mentioned in the chargesheet.
“There are chats which indicate that Khan had consumed weed and hash in the past, but if one is being booked for consumption in a particular case, then a medical examination is a requirement, which was never done” the source added.
The other five who have been let off
Among the other five who have been given a clean chit in the case are Gopal Ji Anand, Sameer Sehgal, Bhaskar Arora, Manav Singhal — all partners in Caneplus Trading Private Ltd, a company which provided management services to organise events on the Cordelia cruise ship and a person identified by the NCB as Avin Sahu, who had been on the ship at the time.
According to sources, Caneplus had an agreement with Cordellia Cruises to provide only onboard entertainment services, such as DJs, light, sound and décor and had nothing to do with the management on the cruise, especially in terms of security.
Sources said that the statements of the four men from the company revealed that rolling papers, used for the consumption of drugs, recovered from a cabin on the cruise ship had been kept there for “marketing and promotions” and that there is no material evidence to suggest any commission of offence on part of the organisers.
“There is no material or evidence on record to show that there was an overt action on the part of organisers with regard to the conspiracy for allowing its premises to be used for commission of an offence, attempt to commit offence,” the source said.
Avin Sahu, also booked for consumption and procurement, was given a clean chit as NCB could not make any recovery from him, the source said.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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