The curious case of Shah Rukh Khan’s son
Aryan Khan’s bail hearing this week was the fourth since his arrest on October 3. ‘Is the young man being targeted’, as eminent lawyer Harish Salve asked in a different context in the Supreme Court?
Tuesday night this week was the 10th night in a row that Aryan, all of 23 years old, spent inside the Narcotics Control Bureau lock up--a place reserved for hardened drug peddlers--or the Arthur Road prison. He had left home to board a cruise ship for what promised to be two days of fun over the weekend. For actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son, it actually turned out to be a nightmare.
The NCB’s website describes agency’s function is to “collect and analyse data related to seizures of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance, study trends, modus operandi, collect and disseminate intelligence and work in close cooperation with customs, state police and other law enforcement agencies”. Why, then, is a boy barely in his 20s, with no prior history of drug consumption, purchase or sale, arrested and remanded first to NCB’s custody and then to prison? The answer to that question is as ambiguous as the NCB’s charges against him.
Aryan was arrested on October 3 during an alleged rave party aboard a Goa-bound cruise liner, along with Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha. The NCB’s remand application filed in a special NDPS court stated that they seized 13 grams of cocaine, five grams of Mephedrone, 21 grams of cannabis and 22 pills of MDMA, popularly known as Ecstasy.
The cruise, called Cray’Ark, was organised by Fashion TV and was planned from Oct 2 to Oct 4. It was starting from Mumbai. Tickets were available from Rs. 80,000 onwards.
Since only 8 people were arrested, who among them was found in possession of the narcotics? And the quantity seized could have been consumed by how many of them? These and other questions remain unanswered.
Nowhere in the remand application or in documents filed in court by NCB subsequently, has the agency said that these drugs were specifically seized from Aryan Khan himself.
Even if Aryan had consumed drugs at the alleged rave party, the NDPS Act dictates that his blood should have been first tested to confirm this. In case his blood tested positive for drugs, he was to be given a choice between going to a drug rehabilitation centre for a short period of time, or, in case he refused, to prison.
In 2001, when actor Fardeen Khan, another star-kid, was caught with cocaine in his possession, he was given a similar choice and he took it, spending a stint in rehab before being released. But Aryan’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde told the court that Aryan’s blood and urine samples were not even collected.
The only indication of guilt, according to NCB’s first remand application, is discovery of certain ‘incriminating’ WhatsApp chats from his phone. The NCB has stated in its application that there is “incriminating material in the form of WhatsApp chats showing the nexus of these respondents with suppliers and peddlers on a regular basis”. Ten days down the line, however, no one seems to know exactly what these chats are and how they incriminate Aryan.
Meanwhile the issue has turned into a political slugfest, with sympathisers arguing that the young man is being targeted as part of the BJP government’s ongoing vendetta against Bollywood, which began with the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, and also because of his religion.
In a somewhat bizzare twist in the tale, a group of Sushant Singh Rajput’s fans gathered outside Shah Rukh Khan’s house in Bandra to show their support to him and his son.
The bigger bomb, however, was dropped by NCP leader and Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik. At a press conference in Mumbai, Malik claimed that two civilians, Manish Bhanushali and K.P. Gosavi were with the NCB during its raid on the ship. Bhanushali is a BJP member, while Gosavi is a self-proclaimed private detective with several cases registered against him in Mumbai and Pune. A selfie that Gosavi had taken with Aryan inside the NCB office had already gone viral. The NCB quickly issued a statement saying that Bhanushali and Gosavi had been taken along as “independent witnesses”. Speaking over the phone from Delhi, Bhanushali confirmed that he had been a BJP member for the past ‘10 to 15 years’.
“The raid was based on a tip off that I had provided, and I went along with them as I was getting constant updates about the rave party,” he added. Significantly, he also said that the main accused were yet to be arrested. “International drug peddlers might now come after me (after Malik’s disclosure of his role). I am in Delhi now and will soon be seeking police protection from the Maharashtra government,” he said.
In another press conference, Malik claimed that Aryan was invited to the party by Pratik Gaba and Amir Furniturewala. The duo, he disclosed, along with a third person identified as Rishabh Sachdeva, were detained in the raid and then let off. Rishabh Sachdeva is reportedly related to BJP leader Mohit Bhartiya.
Malik alleged that Aryan’s arrest was a set-up, with Gaba and Furniturewala inviting him to the party solely for the purpose of getting him arrested in a cooked-up case.