India’s federal anti-drugs agency has dropped all charges against Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, in a high-profile drug bust case on a cruise ship in Mumbai that had gripped the nation.
Mr Khan, 24, was arrested and spent 26 days in jail in October 2021 for allegedly doing recreational drugs at a cruise ship party.
The Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB) on Friday exonerated Mr Khan and five others, citing a “lack of sufficient evidence” after no drugs were found on him.
The agency probing the case charged 14 people in connection to the case but dropped the names of six people, including Mr Khan after the months-long investigation yielded no proof of wrongdoing.
Shah Rukh Khan is “very relieved”, senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, who represented Mr Khan said.
“I am very relieved and so must be my clients, including Shah Rukh Khan. Ultimately, truth has prevailed,” he told NDTV.
In a case that sent shockwaves across the country’s multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry, Bollywood’s one of the biggest stars kids was arrested along with seven others from the yacht Cordelia after NCB officials disguised as customers raided a party.
After the raid, the NCB sought custody of Mr Khan, saying his role pointed “towards international drug trafficking” after what they called the recovery of assorted illicit substances and Rs 130,000 (£1,260) from the luxury liner.
It charged Aryan with “involvement in consumption, sale and purchase” of illicit substances.
But the case which dominated the headlines and social media divided the public opinion as several right-ring people demanded a boycott of Shah Rukh Khan from the industry and his of his films while his hundreds of fans called came out in support of the family, calling it a witch hunt.
After the latest development in the case and closure for Mr Khan, several prominent people on social media demanded an apology from the agency and news channels, which were accused of carrying a media trial.
“The media trial that Aryan Khan was subjected to was as shameful and partisan as the Narcotic Bureau’s fraudulent case. Those ‘journalists’ who participated owe an explanation,” Tavleen Singh an author and columnist said.
“Why these officers are not being booked for wrongful action?…ED, CBI, Income tax authorities have become a puppet of BJP government to arrest people, and then they defame the Maharashtra government,” a lawmaker of Mumbai’s ruling Shiv Sena party , Arvind Sawant, asked.
The case has remained mired in controversy and saw several twists and turns since the beginning when a selfie of supposedly a private detective and an independent witness of NCB in the case with Mr Khan went viral raising doubts of conspiracy.
Later, a key witness in the case alleged that he was forced to sign “blank papers” at the NCB’s office and the death of another witness, Prabhakar Sail, — who alleged a millions pound deal inside the NCB to arrest Mr Khan — from a heart attack.
Former NCB officer Sameer Wankhede, an officer who led the investigations, was also removed from the case and transferred after allegations of blackmail emerged.
Mr Khan’s lawyer, Satish Maneshinde, said his client’s arrest and 26-day custody was unjustified particularly because no drugs were found in his possession.
“…there was no evidence of any kind. There was no material of any nature of the violation of any law much less the NDPS Act. We are happy that [the SIT]…investigated the case in an objective manner and decided not to file a complaint against Aryan Khan for lack of sufficient evidence,” he said referring to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
During the investigation, several questions were also raised about the discrepancies in the way the raid was conducted on the luxury cruise. The raid was reportedly not video-recorded as mandated under the law and the drugs recovered from different people on the yacht were shown as single recovery.
Mr Wankhende might face legal action for allegedly submitting a fake caste certificate and “shoddy investigation” into the drugs case, NDTV reported citing people familiar with the matter in Home Ministry.
“The competent authority has been asked by the government to act against Sameer Wankhede for shoddy investigation. Action will be taken against him for his fake caste certificate,” the source said.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.