An Indian court granted police three more days to interrogate Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s 23-year-old son Aryan Khan on Monday after his arrest during a cruise ship drug bust.
The country’s Federal Narcotics Control Bureau arrested Mr Khan and seven others on Sunday after banned substances were recovered in an undercover raid on the Cordelia cruise ship on Saturday as it sailed towards Goa.
The Mumbai court extended his remand until October 7, a day after a court had granted an initial remand of one day to the bureau.
The prosecution argued that Mr Khan’s further interrogation was necessary to establish his links with what they called an international “nexus” of peddlers and suppliers.
Mr Khan has denied the charges and claimed that he did not possess or consume the drugs and that he had been invited on the cruise ship by one of the accused.
“I am of the view that the investigation is of prime importance. Considering this aspect, the presence of the accused with NCB is necessary. Remanded till October 7,” the judge said at the end of the hearing.
The Bureau said it had recovered 13 grams of cocaine, 5 grams of MD (mephedrone), 21 grams of Charas and 22 pills of MDMA (ecstasy) during the raid.
Mr Khan’s lawyer, Satish Maneshinde, told the court that no banned substances were recovered from his client and the seizures of drugs from others could not be “foisted” on him.
But the prosecution contended that WhatsApp conversations found in Mr Khan’s mobile phone when he was aboard link him to an international drug ring, and it had asked for him to be held in custody until October 11.
“Aryan Khan is discussing modes of payment to be used for procurement,” Prosecutor Anil Singh told the court.
“WhatsApp chat clearly shows the nexus after which NCB conducted searches. Aryan Khan’s phone was seized. There are several suspected chats that show the connection with the dealers,” Mr Singh argued.
Mr Maneshinde said the alleged WhatsApp conversations do not “indicate any drug trafficking” and cannot be used against his client under several Supreme Court judgements.
“The drugs that have been seized as mentioned in the remand have not been seized from any one of us … I cannot be roped in with seizure … What was on others cannot be foisted on me,” Mr Maneshinde told the court. Indian lawyers commonly use the first person when referring to their clients.
“The entire period of my stay abroad, I have not been involved in any trafficking, supply or distribution … my chats, downloads, pictures, nothing indicates any involvement,” he said.
Tareq Sayed, representing Mr Khan’s friend and another accused, Arbaaz Seth Merchant, told the court there were some 1,300 people on the ship during the raid, but NCB only arrested the two youngsters because they were “high-profile persons.”
Mr Khan’s father Shah Rukh, 55, is one of the biggest film stars in India and has largely remained a uncontroversial figure in his three decades of public life.
He has not made any public statement on his son’s arrest, and he didn't attend Monday’s court hearing.
Several Bollywood actors and directors expressed solidarity with the actor as India’s social media space was rife with slanderous claims about his family.
“It gets compounded when people begin to arrive at judgements before the law takes its course. It is disrespectful and unfair to the parent and to the parent-child relationship,” film director Hansal Mehta said on Twitter.
In recent years, Bollywood has been in the headlines over allegations of widespread drug abuse and several top stars have come under the Bureau's scrutiny.
The industry was rocked by the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in 2020, who allegedly committed suicide following a history of drug abuse.
Police had arrested his girlfriend, actress Rhea Chakraborty, for drug possession.