ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘Professionalism’ of the Narcotics Control Bureau?

The Aryan Khan saga has exposed the ills of the NDPS Act and the criminal justice system.

Between 2014 and 2018, Mumbai saw an average of about 14,000 cases a year under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. If we assume that this trend continued thereafter, even with a dip, Mumbai will see an average of 35 cases per day under the NDPS Act. Nearly 90% of these cases (or about 30 out of 35) were related to the possession or consumption of cannabis. Of these thousands of cases, one that occurred on 3 October 2021 attracted enormous attention of the media and the masses, largely because it involved the arrest of Aryan Khan—the son of one of India’s biggest film stars, Shah Rukh Khan. The events after his arrest and the twists and turns in the case were covered with almost breathless hysteria by large sections of the media until he was granted bail by the Bombay High Court on 28 October 2021. Sobriety and factual accuracy were thrown out of the window as endless speculations, fuelled by a barely concealed schadenfreude for the troubles of one of India’s most prominent Muslims, blanketed the airwaves and social media.

Now that Aryan Khan has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) itself in the charge sheet filed last month, it is tempting to conclude that all’s well that ends well. Yet, it is worth remembering all the failures and flaws in the criminal justice system as exposed by this case. Starting with the flimsy basis for arresting Aryan Khan (WhatsApp chats discussing possible cannabis consum­ption), to the leaks by the NCB to the press about the “facts” of the case, the involvement of “stock witnesses” providing messaged state­ments about his “guilt,” the possible extortion bid, the questionable antecedents of the investigator Sameer Wankhede, the pusillanimity of the NDPS Special Court in denying bail for trivial reasons, among other things, showed up the underlying ugliness of what passes for the criminal justice system in India.

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Updated On : 11th Jun, 2022
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