Rebutting the argument of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) that the 23-year-old Aryan Khan’s chats pointed to illicit drug trafficking, his lawyer said that the chats could have been youthful banter and the context was important. The court is likely to decide on Aryan’s bail plea on October 20.
The bail pleas of his friend and co-accused Arbaaz Merchantt and Munmun Dhamecha are also expected to be decided the same day. Senior counsel Amit Desai argued for Aryan that the court must “bear in mind whether it is youthful banter, chatter, general friendly gossip, what is it? The context is important.” He added that by “no stretch of imagination” could it be said that he (Aryan) was involved in any communication that pointed to illegal drug trafficking.
WhatsApp chats, which are supposed to be private chats, get misused, he told the court. “In the movies, we hear people talking about drugs, books are written about it, does it mean everyone is involved in drug trafficking?” he argued.
Desai further said that there was nothing about the alleged rave party in the ship in the WhatsApp chats the agency was citing. He argued that Aryan was overseas for a few months and in some countries where the substances are legal and said, “I don’t know if others are involved and there was some chat going on.”
Referring to an argument that Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the NCB, had made in another case before the Bombay High Court, that celebrities and role models should be treated harshly so that it sets an example for others, he pointed out that the HC had not agreed with this argument. Desai said, “Therefore, I stand before this court. Everybody is equal before the law. No celebrity enjoys privilege, nor should there be any liability irrespective of the status of the accused.” He added that with respect to Aryan, the NCB “may have crossed a legal line in its endeavour to persuade court to reject his application”.
Referring to the NCB’s case against Aryan that he was a consumer, Desai said, “You are a person at the bottom of the chain, a person affected by the drug menace. Instead of reforming, you (NCB) pick and put him in jail. You say the consumer is in conspiracy with the supplier. This is far-stretched.”
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh had told the court, continuing his arguments against bail for Aryan that the records showed Aryan was not a consumer for the first time and had been a regular consumer of drugs for the past few years, the contraband found with his friend was for their joint consumption. He said Aryan had admitted to this in his statement that the drug was with his friend for both to use. The ASG said further that NCB officers put their lives in danger to fight drug menace and that some days ago, four or five officers had been attacked by drug peddlers and were hospitalised. Opposing Desai’s argument on the previous day that the applicants were young men and the court should take a reformative approach as they had already suffered and knew the consequences, Singh said, “Youth are the future generation. This will not be the expectation of freedom fighters. This is the land of Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha and Mahaveer. We should stop this drug menace.”
At this, Desai said it had to be remembered that “when we fought for freedom, we also fought for constitutional values and fundamental rights”. He said a 2007 national policy on how to deal with the narcotics menace had categorised those involved into traffickers, peddlers and consumers. The policy states that peddlers are the link and it is wiser to contain them, he said. On the sale of drugs to school and college students, the approach suggested was sensitisation, he said.