Aryan Khan
Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, reaches Narcotics Control Bureau's (NCB) office for his weekly attendance Image Credit: ANI

The order of the Bombay High Court in the Aryan Khan cruise ship drug case — that caused frenzied headlines and led Shah Rukh Khan’s son to spend nearly a month in police custody — is striking.

The judgement is unequivocal: “Aryan Khan is innocent. The court prima facie has not noticed any positive evidence against Aryan Khan and two others.”

The Justice who granted bail to the 23 year old went on to tear the Narcotics Control Bureau's (NCB) claim of “evidence of a conspiracy” to shreds.

The order says, “the evidence on record to convince this Court that all the accused persons with common intention agreed to commit unlawful act. There is no material evidence to connect all these three applicants with other co-accused on the issue of conspiracy”.

Finally the Justice adds, “this Court is of the opinion that the claim put forth by the NCB under the drug act of having commercial quantities in the backdrop of a case of hatching a conspiracy is liable to be rejected”.

The court also pointed out that Khan and the others were not subjected to any medical test to determine whether they had consumed drugs at the relevant time.

Khan’s leaked WhatsApp chats were found to be no evidence against him.

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This Bombay High Court order on Khan has a striking similarity with actor Rhea Chakraborty case. She was also freed by the High Court over a dodgy but high profile case (causing the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who apparently committed suicide). 

Dear readers, if you recall at that time the same officer Sameer Wankhede, now mired in controversy (fake Dalit certificate to qualify for the service and alleged extortion charges) had summoned actors Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan and Rakul Preet for interrogation under a blaze of publicity.

Two innocent young people — Khan and Chakraborty spent days in jail while their reputations were turned to mud by India’s muck racking “news channels”.

Their private WhatsApps chats were read out on national television and slang such as “imma bounce” (I am leaving) was turned in to sinister drug code. Shah Rukh Khan was humiliated and attacked. Gauri Khan and Shah Rukh were declared bad parents and all sorts of imaginary sins were attached to Aryan.

The court of social media passed its normal toxic judgement and obnoxious paid trends were used to attack the Khan family. I don’t want to even cite them here — in a quality newspaper.

What was all this for?

Young people punished by the process despite, being innocent?

More importantly who will be held to account for the fraud cases and allegations of extortion? Will the NCB be punished for a string of fake and fraud cases involving very high profile celebrities just to hunt media headlines?

The common thread — Wankhede — who has trashed the reputation of the NCB, addicted to publicity, is facing an inquiry. I, for one, am dismal about the outcome. Officials like Wankhede always have political godfathers who shield them from disciplinary action.

Shah Rukh Khan, who maintained a dignified silence throughout as he fought for his son’s innocence, has the means to hire India’s best lawyers. Khan had a dream legal team, yet his son spent nearly a month in jail.

I want to make a more fundamental point how many innocents are languishing in jail as undertrials for years because they don’t have billionaire resources.

Clearly India’s legal system needs to be fixed. Why, despite the lack of evidence against both Chakraborty and Khan did the lower courts not release them on bail? Why did it take the intervention of the High Court in both the cases. Is this our legal reality where the accused remain in jail without any basis?

The rule of law and India’s justice system also means — innocent till proven guilty. Our lower courts appear to have upended the principle. We need to fix this on an emergency basis. Perhaps the Supreme Court, which keeps emphasising ‘bail is the norm, jail the exception’ needs to intervene.

And, finally as declared Shahrukh Khan fan, I am glad his fairy tale continues its run. That is what makes the bigots hate him.