INDIA. Mumbai: The recent decision by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to withdraw allegations of drug cartel involvement against Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan, reveals that certain BJP leaders are pressuring the Central authorities to browbeat the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Due to a lack of evidence, the NCB dismissed the names of Aryan Khan and five individuals from the Cordelia drug seizure case from last year.
The other five are Caneplus Trading personnel who organised a trip on the Cordelia Cruise Liner from Mumbai to Goa on October 2, 2021.
The trial will now be held against 14 defendants, most of whom are small-time peddlers. Except for Aryan and Mohak Jaiswal, all of the defendants were discovered to be in possession of drugs.
However, as observed by SIT (which was constituted after the case was taken over from NCB’s Mumbai Zone Director Sameer Wankhede on November 06, 2021), the entire case handled by Wankhede was riddled with flaws.
Wankhede relied on the accused’s WhatsApp communications, and the drugs collected from various individuals were grouped together as a single recovery.
When the quantity of narcotics confiscated was less than 10 gms and the panchanama was not carried out by the appointed officer following the seizure, the NDPS courts (established under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985) released several people.
NCB’s Panch witness in the Cordelia drug seizure case was one Kiran Gosavi, who had a long list of criminal offences on his resume.
Yet another eyewitness Prabhakar Sail said that Wankhede was involved in a Rs 25 million extortion scheme aimed at Khan, and that he was compelled to sign blank sheets of paper. On April 1, Sail died of a heart attack.
Furthermore, many outsiders, including BJP workers, were aware of the raid on Cordelia on October 2, 2021.
Then what type of secrecy NCB maintained is a mute question. Out of 14 accused, only 5 to 6 accused are involved in drug peddling and the rest are occasional drug consumers.
Rhea Chakraborty case
Similar lapses were observed in the case of actress Rhea Chakraborty, who was arrested on June 14, 2020, after Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was discovered dead at his Bandra home.
The actress was said to be in a live-in relationship with him. Wankhede began a probe based on her WhatsApp chats. Many Bollywood celebrities were also interrogated.
Rhea, her brother Showik and 31 others, including Sushant’s former manager, staff, and many drug peddlers, were named by the NCB in the 11,700-page charge sheet filed in the Special Court in June 2021.
Rhea was booked for alleged drug possession and consumption. She was charged under stringent Section 27-A which pertains to the offence of financing and harbouring illegal drug trafficking.
But while granting bail to Rhea, the Bombay High Court on October 07, 2020, demolished the NCB’s case against her saying she was not a part of a chain of drug dealers.
While some accused, are still in judicial custody, Rhea and her brother are out on bail since long.
Additionally, NCB’s internal report has pointed out that the lack of credible digital or scientific evidence has made the case weak. The report was submitted to NCB Director-General SN Pradhan, in the case (NCB/MZU/CR-15/2020).
Wankhede’s intention of dismantling the “Bollywood drug cartel” may be good but the way of handling was certainly wrong. In the Cordelia seizure case, most of the occasional drug consumers (except peddlers) are expected to be set free with minor punishment.
But what about Rhea (September 8,2020-October 07,2020), Aryan ( October 2- October 30, 2022) and others who had to languish in jail for long time?
Now Wankhede has been transferred as additional director general to the office of the director-general of taxpayers’ services in Chennai. He is likely to take charge of the post on June 10.
But Advocate Satish Maneshinde, who represented Aryan Khan and Rhea, has sought a fresh probe into all three cases registered by the NCB against Rhea.
ED and CBI’s investigation
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) which was looking out for a money laundering offence, could not prove any charge against Rhea. Similarly, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which took over the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case from the Mumbai police as per the Supreme Court directions on August 06, 2020, could not conclude whether it was a suicide or murder till June 2021.
In between, there had been many baseless comments by some BJP leaders alleging that the case was suppressed by the Mumbai police to shield a powerful Shiv Sena youth leader.
In the last few months, there have been several raids by the ED and Income Tax authorities on the premises of some MVA leaders. Now the ED in a writ petition, has urged the Bombay High Court to transfer the FIR filed by Mumbai Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) against one Jitendra Navlani, to the CBI “to ensure an impartial investigation”.
The ED has also sought court directions that no coercive action is taken against its officers performing their duties under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002.
The ACB filed the FIR against Navlani on May 05 to probe allegations that he and some ED officers extorted over Rs 100 crore from builders and corporate offices between 2015 and 2021. The plea will be heard by the Bombay High Court on June 2. The FIR was filed based on a letter to the prime minister by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
Also Read: ED Arrests Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain for Money Laundering