A number of issues and similarities in the Narcotics Control Bureau’s (NCB) probe in two high profile cases — of Aryan Khan and actor Rhea Chakraborty — have emerged, especially that the agency relied heavily on WhatsApp chats.
The NCB, which arrested Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, on October 3, was not able to establish possession of drugs on the youth. A similar scenario is seen in the case of Rhea, who was arrested in connection with the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput last year.
Also, both Aryan and Rhea were not subjected to blood tests to determine if they had consumed drugs. Generally, a blood test is done immediately after the arrest, and if the accused is positive, they are charged with consumption.
The agency also got access to their mobile phones and used materials stored in the devices, including the deleted WhatsApp chats, to develop the case.
Rhea’s arrest in connection with Rajput’s death
Rhea Chakraborty was arrested last year based on the WhatsApp chats found on her phone. The NCB probed the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June 2020 along with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
According to the NCB, some of the chats on Chakraborty’s phone were related to the procurement of narcotics for Rajput with whom she was in a relationship. The agency also found evidence of monetary transactions Chakraborty made to purchase drugs. She was charged under Section 27A of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, for “financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders”.
Rhea was however, granted bail by the Bombay High Court in October 2020. The court noted that she was not part of the chain of drug dealers, and she had not “forwarded the drugs allegedly procured to somebody else for monetary or other benefits”.
Aryan’s arrest on a cruise case
When Aryan was detained during a raid on a cruise ship, the central agency claimed to have seized 6 grammes of charas on Arbaaz Merchant, who was with Aryan.
According to the NCB, Aryan’s WhatsApp chats indicated the consumption of narcotics. It also noted two voluntary statements acting as evidence.
When the Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh (ASG) mentioned that a chat discussed “bulk quantities of hard drugs”, it was argued that the said drugs were for personal consumption alone. The NCB submitted the chats before the court, which however has not been made public.
Representing Khan, senior counsel Amit Desai told the court that the chats did not discuss a rave party on the cruise.
Taraq Sayed, the lawyer of Merchant, said that the chats could not be relied on as there was no panchnama showing the seizure of Khan’s and Merchant’s mobile phones. Sayed also said that the chats alone proved nothing as sending chats were not the same as committing the act.
ASG Singh responded that the accused had handed over their phones to the agency.
Other NCB cases involving actors
In another case involving actor Dhruv Tahil who was arrested earlier this year by the Anti-Narcotic Cell of Mumbai Police, lawyer Shekhar Jagtap had noted, “A person may be boasting on a chat but may not follow up with the alleged offence.”
He said that without any other corroborative evidence, the offence cannot be proved.
The provisions of the NDPS Act also allows the accused to opt for de-addiction. Desai noted that the case of actor Fardeen Khan in 2001 for cocaine consumption was dealt with a “softer approach”.
In Rhea’s case, when the NCB argued that the bar is set higher for celebrities, the Bombay High Court ruled, “Everyone is equal before the law,” while granting her bail last year.