Mumbai: Within hours of a special court rejecting the bail pleas of Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, his friend Arbaaz Merchantt and Munmun Dhamecha in the Cordelia Cruise drug case, the trio has knocked on the doors of the Bombay high court.
Judge V V Patil, presiding over the special court hearing cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, rejected Aryan’s bail application on Wednesday, saying that incriminating material was found in his WhatsApp chats that showed his nexus with suppliers and peddlers.
Advocates for Aryan, Merchantt and Dhamecha filed appeals before the HC on Wednesday evening and will mention it today before Justice Nitin Sambre seeking urgent hearing.
Aryan’s counsel Satish Maneshinde told the FPJ that they had filed an appeal challenging the order of Special Judge V V Patil rejecting his bail plea. “We will mention it tomorrow (Thursday) at 10.30 am for urgent hearing,” said Maneshinde.
Ali Kaashif Khan Deshmukh, advocate for Dhamecha, too confirmed that they had approached the HC seeking bail.
The trio, who were arrested on October 3 following the seizure of 13 grams of cocaine, 5gms of MD (mephedrone), 21 grams of charas, 22 pills of MDMA (ecstasy) and Rs 1,33,000 at the International Cruise Terminal, Mumbai, failed to get relief from the special court on Wednesday.
While rejecting Aryan’s bail application, Judge Patil said that perusal of his WhatsApp chats showed chats about drugs with unknown persons. Further, he said there was also reference to bulk quantities and hard drugs in the chats. There was prima facie material showing that he was in contact with persons dealing in prohibited narcotic substances as alleged by the prosecution.
The court has further said that the chats prime facie revealed that Aryan was involved in illicit drug activities on a regular basis. Therefore, it could not be said that he would not commit such an offence while out on bail.
Relying on the NCB’s arguments that although there were no criminal antecedents, the court noted that some “WhatsApp chats of accused no. 1 (Aryan) shows he was indulging in illicit drug activities”. The investigating agency had contended that Aryan was in touch with a foreign national who appeared to be a part of international drug trafficking, that the probe was ongoing and that the agency was tracing the criminal antecedents of the said person. Opposing bail, the NCB had said that if any of the accused were released, it would hamper their probe.
The special judge said that during the probe, Aryan did not disclose the name of such persons “which was in his exclusive knowledge”. In such circumstances, it said, that if he were to be released on bail, “there was every chance of his tampering with evidence as argued by the Learned ASG (additional solicitor general for NCB),” observed the court.
Aryan’s lawyer had argued that no drugs had been found in Aryan’s possession. To this, the court observed that though nothing had been found in his possession, six grams of charas had been found in Arbaaz’s possession and that admittedly both had been friends since long, they travelled together and were apprehended together. It further stated that in their voluntary statements they had said they possessed the substance for their consumption and enjoyment. All this, it said, showed that Aryan had knowledge of the contraband concealed by Arbaaz in his shoes. Citing a judgment, the court said that hence it could be said that the contraband was in the conscious possession of both of them.
Regarding the charge of conspiracy, the court mentioned the WhatsApp chats of Aryan with suppliers and peddlers which showed a nexus and said accused nos. 1 to 8 came to be arrested on the cruise where they were found with a certain amount of contraband. It noted that the NCB raid was in response to specific information. Further, during interrogation they had revealed the names of persons who supplied contraband to them. These facts, it said, prima facie went to show that the accused had acted in conspiracy with each other and were connected by the same thread.
Further, the court said that prima facie there was a case of conspiracy and abetment as alleged by the NCB, hence that the rigours of Section 37 of the NDPS Act would apply. As per the provision, to release a person on bail, the court had to be satisfied that there were reasonable grounds for believing that the person was not guilty of the offence.
It said that evidence on record showed that there was material to indicate that the accused were part of a larger network. Referring to the Showik Chakraborty judgment, the court said that since they were part of a conspiracy, each of them was liable to the entire quantity of seized drugs and that their cases could not be considered separately or in isolation.
Considering the prima facie involvement of the Aryan, Arbaaz and Munmun in grave and serious offence, the court said it was not a fit case to grant bail.
Details of Munmun’s bail plea
In her bail plea before the HC, Dhamecha has stated that the NCB had filed the FIR on false and baseless allegations and that the agency has concocted a bogus case against her. She has further stated that she had no idea about who all were boarding the ship and that the NCB had unnecessarily connected her with Khan and Merchantt despite the fact that she was nowhere connected with them.
The bail plea further states that the Central agency has been deliberately targeting Bollywood and that she was being framed in this case along with Khan just to highlight the case both nationally and internationally. She has denied having any links with the other accused arrested by the agency after her arrest and said that she had never purchased any psychotropic substance or drugs.
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