The special Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) court in Mumbai rejected the bail application of Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, on Wednesday, 20 October. The bail applications of Khan's friend Arbaaz Merchant, and Munmun Dhamecha, both of whom were arrested at the same time by the Narcotics Control Bureau, were also rejected by special judge VV Patil.
The rejection of their bail applications, even after they have spent nearly two weeks in judicial custody (after nearly a week in the NCB's custody), is surprising, and has been challenged by Khan in the Bombay High Court.
From the quantity of drugs seized from the trio (none from Khan) to the lack of a basis (till now) for the NCB's claims of a conspiracy, here are the issues that will be argued in the Bombay High Court in the coming days.
1. What evidence or material is there that links Khan, Merchant and Dhamecha with the alleged conspiracy with an international drug-smuggling ring? Given the NCB has itself said it is still working out the conspiracy, and has only read out WhatsApp chats about 'having a blast', how is this serious charge being justified?
2. While the NCB has booked them under Section 29 of the NDPS Act (conspiracy), why were they not booked under the stringent Section 27A of the NDPS Act, which deals with drug trafficking? If there isn't enough material to book them under this, why is bail being opposed when custodial interrogation is over?
3. Given the other offences the trio have been booked under are for possession of a small quantity of charas/cannabis (maximum punishment 1 year imprisonment) and consumption of charas (maximum punishment 6 months imprisonment), shouldn't the regular test for granting bail apply to the trio? How are they being considered at risk of absconding, or tampering with evidence or threatening witnesses?
The Bombay High Court granted bail to Rhea Chakraborty in October 2020 and her brother Showik in December 2020, as the NCB had failed to provide any material connecting them with commercial quantities of drugs/drug trafficking, despite slapping these allegations against the two of them.
That the NCB is indulging in similar allegations once again based on scant material, and the NDPS court is once again rejecting bail even when it seems merited, raises serious questions about whether these drug cases are being misused to keep high-profile accused behind bars.
Over to the high court now.
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