Rajat Sharma

Aryan Khan: Who will compensate him for spending 26 days in jail?

rajat-sirThe Narcotics Control Bureau on Friday gave a clean chit to superstar Shahrukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan in the drugs case, saying no drugs were recovered from him, and there was no concrete evidence to show his role in the conspiracy with Arbaaz Merchant or any other accused.

In the chargesheet filed in the court of special judge for NDPS cases, Greater Mumbai, two days before the 60-day extension was due to expire, the NCB did not name Aryan and five others as accused. Fourteen others were made accused in the chargesheet.

At a press conference, NCB director general S N Pradhan admitted that there were irregularities in the initial probe conducted by former NCB zonal director Sameer Wankhede. He said, “there should be physical corroboration of WhatsApp chats (found on phone). Courts have clarified that a WhatsApp chat in itself has no value. You can talk about anything on WhatsApp, but if not corroborated by physical evidence,it cannot be considered a complete evidence.”

The 6000-page NCB chargesheet filed on Friday has only relied on oral testimonies of witnesses, drugs recovery, related documents and proof of monetary transactions. Aryan Khan, 24, was arrested alongwith 19 others by NCB team during a raid during a rave party organized on Cordellia cruise off Mumbai in October last year. Aryan had to spend 27 days in jail, though no narcotic substance was found from his possession.

The Special Investigation Team in its internal report said, “it appears that the investigating officer was somehow motivated in implicating Aryan Khan in the drug case. The SIT said, in none of the statements made by Aryan or Arbaaz Merchant, had the latter claimed that the six gram of charas seized from him was meant for Aryan.

All these disclosures go completely against what the NCB had in its press releases in October and its counsel in court had said about Aryan Khan. The prosecutor had, at that time, told the sessions court that Aryan and Arbaaz travelled together “with common intent” and that Aryan procured drugs from Arbaaz.

In its remand application dated October 4, the NCB had alleged that Aryan had links with “international drug trafficking chain” through mobile chats, pictures, etc. NCB had also told the court that both Aryan and Arbaaz had in their statements admitted that they were carrying drugs.

People still remember the visuals of dozens of policemen holding Aryan by his hand and taking him to court as if he was a dreaded criminal. A young man was kept in jail for 26 days, and eight months later the NCB admitted that no evidence was found from him.

How did this turnaround come about in the stance of NCB? The Bureau chief says there were irregularities in the initial probe, and action could be initiated against the investigating officer. But will Aryan get those 26 days of his life, which he spent behind bars, back? NCB will have to bear responsibility for this major goof-up.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Friday night, I showed what the then zonal director Sameer Wankhede said about Aryan Khan, and how he leaked false allegations about Aryan to the media through his junior Gyaneshwar Singh. Because of Wankhede’s allegations, abuses like ‘nashedi’, ‘ganjedi’ (drug addicts) were made against Aryan. Funny memes about him were circulated, but on Friday, Aryan was given a clean chit. He was defamed for no rhyme or reason.

Listening to what the NCB chief Pradhan said on Friday, one thing is clear. Sameer Wankhede committed excesses against Aryan, and tried to false implicate him in the NDPS case. NCB rectified its mistake by giving Aryan Khan a clean chit now, but the question arises: What will happen to the NCB officer who put a young man behind bars for 26 days, gave a false narrative to the court? Will Sameer Wankhede and his juniors be punished?

Wankhede is already facing Vigilance probe for submitting false caste certificate and other bribery charges. The competent authority has been asked by the Centre to “initiate appropriate action” for conducting this shoddy probe. Wankhede is an officer of Indian Revenue Service, which comes under the Finance Ministry.

On Friday, NCB director general S N Pradhan said, action will be taken against officers who conducted the initial probe. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi said, “the only regret is that Aryan was arrested in a hurry. His arrest was not required. No drug was found from his clothes, his body or from his pockets. The arrest was llegal, arbitrary and completely incorrect. It should not have happened. A young man had to spend 25 days in jail with criminals, and this could affect his mental state. Overall, the matter is now closed. The young man has a bright future in front of him. There is no blemish on his reputation now. His honour is now intact.”

I had said in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ in October and am repeating this now. Aryan had to sped 26 nights in jail only because he is the son of superstar Shahrukh Khan. It is now proved beyond doubt that Aryan is innocent. Neither did he consume drugs, nor was drugs found on him. It needs to be probed what Sameer Wankhede and his team of officers expected from Shahrukh Khan after falsely implicating. I am saying this because there were reports in media that a huge bribe was sought from the superstar. This matter needs to be deeply investigated.

Also, the “independent” witnesses produced by Wankhede and his team at the time of Aryan’s arrest, should also be probed because they have suspicious background. Because of such witnesses thousands of young people are sent to jail and their parents run from pillar to post to secure their release.

I am worried how somebody from a common man’s family would have fared if he had been wrongly implicated like Aryan. I feel sad, Aryan had to spend 26 days in jail for no fault of his, and I feel angry because some NCB officers even described him as an international drugs peddler. What was Aryan Khan’s crime? Was it a crime to be the son of a superstar? Was it his crime that his father has huge assets and is famous?

The one who is really guilty is the officer who tried to project himself as a hero by painting Aryan Khan as a villain. The guilt lies in the hearts of those NCB officers, who knowingly remained silent despite realizing the truth, when a young man was incarcerated. Who will compensate for sending Aryan in jail for 26 days? For tormenting his family and making Shahrukh Khan weep for 26 days? There can be no compensation, nor fixing of accountability.

Aryan’s case raise serious questions about our entire criminal justice system. Will something be done so that no arrogant officer can send any innocent to jail? Will the courts give punishment to those who implicate people in false cases?

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