More than eight months after he was arrested along with some others, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Friday gave a clean chit to Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan, due to lack of ‘sufficient evidence’ against him in the drugs-on-cruise case.
The NCB also informed a Mumbai court that the agency has not named Aryan, Avin Shahu, Gopal Anand, Samir Saighan, Bhaskar Aroda, and Manav Singhal in the nearly 6,000-page chargesheet owing to insufficient evidence. But 14 others have been named in the chargesheet and the trial against them would continue.
NCB chief SN Pradhan told reporters in Delhi that WhatsApp chats unless corroborated by physical evidence have "no value", making it clear that Aryan Khan's leaked drug hinting conversation on the social media platform had no significance to the NDPS case the agency was pursuing.
"There should be physical corroboration of WhatsApp chat. Courts have clarified that WhatsApp chat in itself holds no value. You can talk about anything on WhatsApp, but if not corroborated with physical evidence, it's not complete evidence," the NCB chief told media at a press conference held at the agency headquarters.
The principle of preponderance and probability, clarified Pradhan, is not applicable to the NDPS Act.
Pradhan acknowledged "shortcomings" in the initial investigation. The Centre is believed to have initiated an inquiry against the former Mumbai-based NCB officer Sameer Wankhede for conducting a "shoddy" probe and arrested Aryan and others in the case.
Later, on November 6, last year the NCB top brass handed over the case to a Special Investigation Team, which was headed by Deputy Director General (Ops) Sanjay Kumar Singh. The decision was taken after reports emerged against Wankhede questioning his integrity, including that he was demanding bribe to settle the matter against some of the accused.
"SIT carried out its investigation in objective manner. The touchstone of the principle of proof beyond reasonable doubt has been applied. Based on the investigation carried out by the SIT, a complaint against 14 persons under various sections of the NDPS Act is being filed. Complaints against rest 6 persons (including Aryan) is not being filed due to lack of sufficient evidence," DDG Singh said.
Based on an input, the NCB unit of Mumbai intercepted Aryan, Vikrant, Ishmeet, Arbaaz and Gomit at the international port terminal of Mumbai port trust, while Nupur, Mohak and Munmum were picked up from the Cordella Cruise which was sailing towards Goa on the night of October 2, 2021. But for Aryan and Mohak, all the six others were found in the possession of narcotics, said the NCB.
Overall 20 persons were arrested. Among them, Aryan, Arbaaz and Munmum, however, were granted bail by the Mumbai High Court on October 28. The court had then observed in the bail order that on the face of it there was hardly any evidence to suggest Aryan, Arbaaz and Munmun conspired to commit offences under the NDPS Act.