Aryan Khan was wrongfully arrested though there was “no consumption or possession of drugs” and cases involving such small quantities of drug called for rehab rather than jail, former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi argued today in Bombay High Court.
Aryan Khan, the 23-year-old son of superstar Shah Rukh Khan, will spend one more night in jail as his bail plea hearing will resume tomorrow afternoon.
Labelled “Accused No 1” in the case, he has been in jail since October 8. He was arrested after drug raids on a cruise ship party on October 2 by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
Mukul Rohatgi argued that the case against Aryan Khan was based on old WhatsApp chats that were “irrelevant” and had nothing to do with the cruise. There was no recovery, no consumption and therefore “no need to arrest” him, said the senior lawyer.
“These are young boys. They can be sent to rehab and they need not undergo trial. It had come in some newspaper that the social ministry was mentioning about reform. If you possess and consume a small quantity and are willing to go to rehab, you are not liable for prosecution,” Mr Rohatgi said in court.
Aryan Khan is “23 years old” and has completed his studies in California, said the lawyer. “Accused 1 was not a customer. He did not buy a ticket. He was invited to the cruise as a special guest… There is no consumption, no possession… Why this boy has been sent to 20 days in jail?” – Mr Rohatgi questioned.
“Since there is no recovery and no consumption I submit I am wrongly arrested,” Mr Rohatgi said, adding that in the US and some parts of the world, cannabis is legal.
He also said the case had attracted the public and media gaze because of Aryan’s parents (Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan).
Aryan Khan has been denied bail twice before. The special anti-drugs court that denied him bail last week said he knew about charas hidden in his friend Arbaaz Merchant’s shoe, and this amounted to “conscious possession”. Arbaaz Merchant was also arrested along with Aryan and 18 others.
Mr Rohatgi questioned the court’s view, calling it far-fetched. “I have no control over what is found in Arbaaz’s shoe,” he said.
“There is no question of conscious possession. Arbaaz is not my servant, he is not in my control.”
He also referred to the special court saying Aryan Khan’s WhatsApp chats indicated “he is dealing in illicit drug activities” on a regular basis.
The NCB had alleged that these activities were revealed by WhatsApp chats between Aryan Khan and another accused, college student Aachit, who was arrested days after the ship raid. The chats were ostensibly on gaming but were code for drugs-related deals, the anti-drugs agency claimed.
The chats were on online poker, the lawyers for Aryan asserted. The “played online poker and this is being interpreted as a communication between the two about consumption. There was nothing beyond communication about poker,” said Mr Rohatgi.
The bail hearing in the High Court will continue at 2.30 pm tomorrow.