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Indian drug agency faces heat over arrest of Aryan


NEW DELHI: The arrest of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan in a drug case following a raid on a luxury cruise ship earlier this month has been making headlines in India for nearly two weeks now.

Aryan, 23, and seven others were detained on October 2 when officials from India’s Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) – tasked with combatting drug trafficking and the use of illegal substances – raided the party and reportedly seized drugs on the cruise ship off the Mumbai coast. The eight accused were formally arrested a day later.

Since then, a total of 20 people have been arrested in the case after the NCB claimed to have made a seizure of 13 grams of cocaine, five grams of MD (mephedrone), 21 grams of charas, 22 pills of MDMA (ecstasy), and 133,000 Indian rupees ($1,766) in cash from the cruise ship bound for Goa.

Aryan was present on the ship but his lawyers said no drugs were recovered from him.

On Thursday, a special Mumbai court reserved its order on his bail plea until October 20 and sent him to a common cell of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail.

The case has triggered allegations that the right-wing Indian government was “harassing” the son of the country’s biggest Muslim actor only because of their religion.

What are the charges against Aryan Khan?

The NCB has charged Aryan with offences under various sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), a law related to the possession, consumption and purchase of drugs.

Appearing for the NCB, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh on Thursday claimed there was evidence to show that Aryan was a regular consumer of drugs for the last few years.

On Wednesday the NCB, in its statement filed before the court, alleged that Aryan’s WhatsApp chats revealed he was in touch with some people who appear to be a “part of an international drug network for illicit procurement of drugs”.

“WhatsApp chats reveal the accused was in touch with a foreign national for a bulk quantity of hard drugs,” the statement said, adding that the probe so far has revealed Aryan’s role in the conspiracy.

The agency opposed his bail plea, saying it would affect their investigation as he could “tamper with evidence and influence witnesses”.

Aryan’s lawyers reject the charges and term the NCB allegations as “absurd” and “false”.

Satish Maneshinde last week told the court that the narcotics agency did not find any drugs on him and allegations that he was in contact with drug dealers were untrue.

Amit Desai, another counsel for Aryan, on Wednesday said there was a “very frightening and serious term” which they are dumping on Khan of “illicit drug trafficking”.

“There is nothing even remotely suggesting that this boy is involved in illicit drug trafficking,” he said, according to Indian media reports.

Desai later told the court that it needs to bear in mind that “by no stretch of the imagination is this boy involved in international drug trafficking”.

NCB faces heat over arrest

The NCB has faced heat from several quarters on Aryan’s arrest, including the ruling coalition made up of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Shiv Sena and the Congress in Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located.

Senior NCP leader and minister Nawab Malik last week alleged that the agency’s raid on the cruise ship was “fake” and no narcotics were found during the action.

Malik also questioned the presence of two people who participated in the raid despite not being the members of the NCB. The politician alleged that one of them was a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

On Wednesday, Malik alleged the “NCB has malafide intentions and is involved in only selective leaks to frame people”.

The NCB’s zonal director, Sameer Wankhede, who is heading the probe into the case, denied the allegations, saying the agency works impartially.

“We are an impartial and a very competent agency. We don’t believe whatever they are saying. We are 100 percent committed to fighting the crime and we will fight it,” he told Al Jazeera.

Wankhede claimed there are people “who are trying to put obstacles in our way” but that will not stop them from “doing their duty”.

‘King of Bollywood’

Aryan Khan’s father, 55-year-old Shah Rukh Khan, is one of the world’s most famous actors and is popularly referred to as the “King of Bollywood” or “King Khan”.

In his career spanning more than 30 years, Shah Rukh has starred in nearly 105 films, some of them mega blockbusters and global successes.

The actor, who has a stable marriage with his childhood sweetheart, a Hindu named Gauri Khan, enjoys a large fan following across South Asia, and has more than 42 million followers on Twitter, an equal number on Facebook, and nearly 27 million on Instagram.

He also owns the Kolkata Knight Riders team, which plays for the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world’s richest cricket competition. (Al Jazeera)

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