Was Aryan Khan episode a conspiracy to divert attention from mammoth drug seizure at Adani-owned Mundra port?

‘We have no policing authority over millions of tonnes of cargo that pass through terminals in Mundra or any of our ports,’ Adani group had said after nearly 3000 kilogram heroin was discovered there

KP Gosavi in selfie with Aryan Khan at NCB office
KP Gosavi in selfie with Aryan Khan at NCB office
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Faraz Ahmad

Much to the chagrin of the Hindutva brigade, noted filmstar Juhi Chawla came forward today and signed the bail bond of Rs 1 lakh for the release of Aryan Khan, the son of well-known film star Shahrukh Khan to whom the Bombay High Court granted bail on Thursday. But Aryan may have to spend one more day in Arthur Road jail as the jail authorities maintained that even after the surety, certain formalities could not be completed by the jail deadline of 5.30 pm and therefore they won’t let Aryan out, at least today.

One wonders though how Juhi, Shahrukh’s old friend and fellow actor in several blockbusters, will be trolled by the bhakt army and what these elements will see in Juhi’s gesture.

Ironically, the high profile Mumbai zonal director of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Sameer Wankhede, who arrested Aryan Khan along with his close friend Arbaaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhameecha (Bombay High Court has granted bail to all three of them) on October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti), resulting in a big media blitz, is now running from pillar to post himself. He has petitioned the Bombay High Court fearing arrest on charges of corruption and mixing up with criminal elements like K P Gosavi.

Gosavi’s companion in this drama is one Manish Bhanushali from Ahmedabad whom NCP minister Nawab Malik called a BJP leader from Gujarat and he admitted to being ‘merely a BJP worker’. Gosavi has since been arrested in Pune for a cheating case while Bhanushali has been summoned to Mumbai to appear before an inquiry committee of the NCB verifying the plethora of allegations against Sameer Wankhede.

It may be recalled that Aryan was about to board a cruise ship on way to Goa along with his friend Arbaaz when an NCB team, accompanied by Gosavi and Bhanushali, descended upon the spot and dragged Aryan, Arbaaz, Munmun and five others, interring them first at the NCB office and then formally arresting them.

Even as the TV channels went berserk showing how Shahrukh’s son was being dragged away by the NCB team, allegedly while on way to a ship cruise rave party fuelled with narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, NCP minister in the Maharashtra government Nawab Malik, has from day one maintained that the whole exercise was ‘fake and forged’.

He also exposed the real identity of Gosavi and Bhanushali after which Gosavi did a disappearing act for several days.

But all this would have been to no avail had it not been for the notorised statement of Gosavi’s bodyguard Prabhakar Sail, witness number one in the NCB case against Aryan Khan. His statement alleged an extortion racket by BJP vigilantes in collusion with some NCB senior officials.

Curiously, though Bhanishali vehemently denied on camera that the whole episode was an attempt to divert attention from the seizure by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) of nearly 3000 kilogram of heroin worth Rs 21000 crore – passed off as talc stone powder smuggled from Afghanistan via Bandar Abbas port of Iran – stored at the Adani Ports and SEZ (APSEZ) at Mundra in Gujarat, such a possibility cannot be ruled out.

Initially there was some faint cry against Adani group over the discovery of this psychotropic substance in two huge containers found lying in the warehouse of the Mundra port. But Adani group immediately denied any connection, stating that they do not check the contents of the containers that land at their ports.

The company said that it is only the port operator and does not have the authority to check shipments arriving the port. "We thank and congratulate the DRI & Customs teams for seizing the illegal drugs and apprehending the accused. The law empowers the Government of India's competent authorities such as the Customs and the DRI to open, examine and seize unlawful cargo. No port operator across the country can examine a container. Their role is limited to running the port," Adani Group said in a statement on September 16.

"We sincerely hope that this statement will put to rest the motivated, malicious and false propaganda being run on social media against the Adani Group. APSEZ is a port operator providing services to shipping lines. We have no policing authority over the containers or the millions of tonnes of cargo that pass through the terminals in Mundra or any of our ports," it added.

The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act reads otherwise. Section 8 © of Chapter III of the 1985 Act states that: “No person shall produce, manufacture, possess, sell, purchase, transport, warehouse, use, consume, import inter-State, export inter-State, import into India or tranship or export from India any narcotic 'drug or psychotropic substance, except for medical or scientific purposes,” with the express permission of the Government in such a case.

In the explanatory comment, the Act states that, “There need be no physical connection between the goods and the person charged. A man may be miles and miles away from the goods and yet if proof is available that he had an interest in or was concerned in illegal importation of goods he would be guilty of the offence.”

Under this law, it was incumbent upon the investigative agency to first and foremost question the Adanis. But the case was almost immediately transferred to a “caged parrot” of this Government – the National Investigations Agency (NIA) – whose record in many cases is not without blemish. It is going all around the country, from Andhra Pradesh to Delhi to J&K, but won’t dare ask a single question from Gautam Adani who is answerable under the law, leaving the establishment of any guilt to the courts.

Section 25 of the NDPS Act prescribes thus the punishment for the offence: “‘Whoever, being the owner or occupier or having the control or use of any house, room, enclosure, space, place, animal or conveyance, knowingly permits it to be used for the commission by any other person of an offence punishable under any provision of this Act, shall be punishable with the punishment provided for that offence.”

Section 24 of the Act prescribes the punishment: “Whoever engages in or controls any trade whereby a narcotic drug or a psychotropic substance is obtained outside India and supplied to any person outside India without the previous authorisation of the Central Government or otherwise than in accordance with the conditions (if any) of such authorisation granted under section 12, shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which mav extend to twentv vears and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupee but may extend to two lakh rupees: Provided that the court may, for reasons to be recorded in the judgement, impose a fine exceeding two lakh rupees.”

There are 33 countries the world over including Iran and China which prescribe death sentence for drug related crimes, of which China is the most strict. India too, after a 2017 amendment, meaning under the Narendra Modi regime, prescribes a maximum death sentence but only for repeat offenders dealing in drug trade and drug related commercial activity.

On the face of it, Adanis perhaps do not fall in the category of repeat offenders yet, but all that can only be established through a thorough probe, which shall perhaps never be held considering Adanis’ clout.

Contrast this with the Aryan Khan case. A so-called ‘whistle blower’ from Bhopal Neeraj Yadav calls up another ‘whistle blower’, K P Gosavi, a ‘private detective’ with a criminal record, in Mumbai, informing him of an impending ‘rave party’. Gosavi immediately drives off all the way to Ahmedabad and brings along with him a BJP member Manish Bhanushali.

With NCB officials following them, they ‘raid’ the spot where Aryan, Arbaaz, Munmun and others are standing in a queue waiting to board the cruise ship. Inexplicably, it is these BJP vigilantes who drag the two in their cars and not the official vehicles of the NCB, to the NCB office near Chhatrapati Shivaji (VT) Terminus (CST), showing the BJP’s determination to send Aryan to jail, come what may.

That’s also the apparent determination of Sameer Wankhede, setting aside all norms and even the various clauses of the NDPS Act which distinguishes, for one, between those found with “small quantity” and those dealing trading and involved in commercial activity pertaining to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

The NDPS Act prescribes different punishments to those who are mere consumers of drugs and other substances like heroin in this case. And in this case, as is now widely known, neither was any drug found on Aryan’s person, nor was he medically examined to prove that he was under the influence of any drug as accepted by the prosecuting team as well.

Nawab Malik, questioning the integrity and objectivity of Sameer Wankhede, claimed that “Not even a single gram drug was seized on the cruise or at the terminal.” His allegation stands to reason, since otherwise it was incumbent upon the NCB to impound the vessel too.

But after taking away a couple of individuals they were apparently gunning for like Aryan Khan, the ship was allowed to sail off for its onward journey and partying to Goa. Malik said that “Aryan Khan’s arrest is a forgery”.

“For the last one month, information was being circulated to crime reporters that the next target is Shahrukh Khan,” Malik alleged, adding, “The drug was not even found with any of the accused. Whatever video of the sample has been shared by the NCB, it has been made in the Zonal Director’s office which is against the procedure of seizure.”

But Sail’s contentions, wherein he said he was made to sign on ten blank papers in the NCB office as a witness, and had overheard Gosavi’s conversation with one Sam D’Souza for a ‘deal’ of Rs 18 crore, of which Rs 8 crore were allegedly to be given to Wankhede, strengthened Malik’s allegation of a huge corruption scam going on in the NCB under BJP govt’s patronage to target the rich but vulnerable film stars.

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