A Mumbai Court on Monday granted the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) custody of Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan till October 7 in relation to the cruise ship drug case.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate RM Nerlikar noted in the order,
"For the circumstances presented to me, it seems that the co-accused possess intermediate contraband and the present accused (Khan) accompanied them. Investigation is of prime importance. It will be essential for prosecution and accused to prove is innocent."
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh sought custody of the accused till October 11. He said,
"There is incriminating material found through WhatsApp chats with drug peddlers. Raids are going on now. Shocking incriminating material in WhatsApp shows international drug trafficking."
He then cited three Bombay High Court judgments that held that all offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, under which Khan and other accused are booked, are non-bailable.
He went on to argue,
"Ultimately, the person may not be found with commercial quantity but then custody is required to find out the chain or links...Where is the financing made, who is the source, all this needs to be found out. So we are only asking for a few more days of custody."
"Taking drugs has become very common. College going kids are taking...Regular students may get influenced due to the high profile persons taking drugs. Hence, we are trying to curb the menace. All three should be sent to NCB custody," he added.
Advocate Satish Maneshinde, appearing for Khan, argued that his client was a special invitee on the cruise ship. He said,
"The panchnama does not indicate anything seized from me except my mobile. My friend was arrested because he had 6 gms of charas, with which even I was not connected."
"Upon further interrogation, they have downloaded my WhatsApp chats. While I was abroad, they claim that my chats indicate international drug trafficking. The entire period of my stay abroad, I have not been involved in any trafficking, supply or distribution."
Maneshinde cited judgments to show how the commercial quantity found with one accused cannot be used for incriminating another accused, and how WhatsApp chats cannot be used for incriminating an accused.
"As of now, in 48 hours, nothing has been found against me. Any prayer for further custody may be rejected. Whatever they had to interrogate with me, they have. I have co-operated, and they also were nice to me. I showed my good conduct. Did not delete anything."
Advocate Taraq Sayed, appearing for Arbaaz Merchant argued,
"Has NCB come to this? Interrogating two boys...They have arrested one (Khan) and two (Merchant) because they are high profile persons."
His contention was that out of the 1300-1400 people on the ship, NCB had narrowed down to 8 persons which included Khan and Merchant.
That NCB implicated Khan and Merchant was on the basis of WhatsApp chats was unfair as the chats could have been older than what was presumed.
When the magistrate asked ASG Singh what he wanted to prove by disclosing the WhatsApp chats of the accused, he replied,
"This shows that there was some connection, there was regular contact with the person. That may show the supplier and it may show someone totally innocent."
When the judge who the seizure was made from, the ASG replied,
"6 gms of charas from Merchant. Small quantity. Dhamecha was found with 5 gms charas. Small quantity again. Only these two recoveries. Vikrant had 5 gms MDMA."
A police officer present in court informed the magistrate that various other quantities were recovered from other accused.
The ASG concluded,
"We are at preliminary stage of investigation. Hence bail need not be considered now. Please consider extension of time for custody."
Khan and 8 others were detained by the NCB on Saturday for interrogation after drugs were found on Cordelia Cruises' Empress ship, on which a rave party allegedly took place.
On the basis of specific information, officials of NCB Mumbai conducted a raid on the cruise which was bound from Mumbai to Goa on October 2.
During the operation, NCB claimed to have recovered 13 grams of Cocaine, 5 grams of Mephedrone, 21 grams of charas, 22 pills of MDMA ecstasy and ₹1.33 lakh in cash.
The accused were booked for offences under Sections 8(c), 20(b), 27, 28, 29 and 35 of the NDPS Act.
The holiday Magistrate on October 3 had remanded the three persons arrested in relation to the case to NCB custody till October 4.
Besides Khan, NCB also arrested Arbaaz Merchant, Munmun Dhamecha, Nupur Sarika, Ismeet Singh, Mohak Jaswal, Vikrant Chhoker and Gomit Chopra who were all remanded to NCB custody till October 7, 2021.