A city magistrate court on Friday rejected the bail pleas of actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan, his friend Arbaaz Merchantt and their co-accused Munmun Dhamecha in the Cordelia cruise drugs case, stating that the pleas are not maintainable before it.
The trio will now have to approach the sessions court for relief. Aryan, arrested on Sunday, had been in the Narcotics Control Bureau’s (NCB) custody till Thursday and had been remanded in judicial custody by the court on Thursday, though the agency had sought his further custody. He was, however, sent to Arthur Road Jail only on Friday, after a negative Covid-19 report, as per prison procedure.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Friday, opposed the bail pleas of the three on the grounds of maintainability and said that they would have to be heard by a special court designated under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. He further told the court that 17 persons have been arrested in the case and from some of them, a commercial quantity of drugs was seized and the charge of conspiracy applied. He pointed out that the same court had passed an order in another case where there were 10 accused persons and stated that even if some of them have been found with small quantities, the charges against individual accused could not be segregated.
Arguing for Aryan, his advocate Satish Maneshinde told the court that he was not found in possession of drugs. He argued that a co-accused in Sushant Singh Rajput drugs case Faizan Khan had been granted bail by the court on the very day he was produced before it. On maintainability before the magistrate, Maneshinde argued that a special court is for offences punishable with over three years’ imprisonment and in Aryan’s case, since he had not been charged with serious offences like his co-accused were, the court had the power to grant bail. He contended that no material had been disclosed by the NCB to show that there was a conspiracy between the accused as charged. “How can I be part of a conspiracy when I did not know anyone except Arbaaz,” he argued.
“I have been found with nothing. Not even 1 gm. Not even one ounce...I am a 23-year-old with no prior antecedents and only happen to be part of Bollywood,” advocate Maneshinde said for Aryan. He said further, “I am from a respectable family. I have parents, a sister and a brother. I hold an Indian passport and I am not likely to abscond. There is no connection between me and any co-accused. All the electronic evidence is taken and there is no question of tampering with it.”
The NCB had claimed that there was a possibility of influencing witnesses as the accused were influential. Advocate Mandeshinde said in this regard, “Merely because a person belongs to an influential family, you cannot say I will influence. What influence have I used till now? I have been suffering for the past six to seven days while people with serious offences are roaming free,” he said.
For Arbaaz Merchantt, his advocate Taraq Sayed argued that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the charge. Only six grams of charas was allegedly recovered from Arbaaz and that there was nothing to connect him with the others in the case, he said.
Advocate Kaashif Ali Khan Deshmukh argued for Madhya Pradesh resident Munmun Dhamecha, stating that she was not even a resident of Mumbai and had last visited the city 10 years ago. She was on the cruise only because she was invited, he reasoned.
On Thursday, opposing further custody of Aryan with the NCB to be confronted with co-accused Aachit, whom the NCB claimed was a supplier to Aryan and Arbaaz, Maneshinde had said the two only had chats on football, that too a year ago. ASG Singh told the court on Friday that the conversation referred to bulk buying of drugs. Maneshinde had also said on Thursday that Aryan had gone independently for the cruise and had met Arbaaz at the terminal. The NCB claims to have recovered six grams of charas from Arbaaz. ASG Singh on Friday denied Maneshinde’s claim and said that the two had met outside Aryan’s residence and gone by car together. “It cannot be a coincidence that all accused were found with drugs at the same place...communication shows they are not new to contraband and are regular users of it,” Singh argued.
The sessions court where the accused are expected to approach for relief is not working today as it is the second Saturday of the month. The bail applications are therefore expected to be heard only next week.