Celebrity drug use in India raises privacy, civil rights questions

It was grim news in India when Aryan Khan – the son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and a full-fledged celebrity – was arrested by the country’s equivalent of the DEA while on a luxury cruise ship from Mumbai to the party city of Goa.

During the October 2 raid, officers seized 21 grams of charas (hashish), 13 grams of cocaine, five grams of mephedrone, and 22 MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) pills. Eight of Khan’s other high-class revelers were also arrested.

Lease refused for 27 days

The nine were locked up in Mumbai and formally charged the next day with violating several provisions of the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act. This despite the fact that no drugs were found on Khan.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (BCN) said they listened to his WhatsApp conversations and found evidence that Khan was a “regular smuggler” and may even be involved in international drug trafficking. On this basis, he was refused release on bail.

Khan’s powerful father lined up former Indian attorney general Mukul Rohatgi for his defense team, but the special anti-drug chamber of the Bombay High Court preserved refusal to grant the deposit until October 30. Khan and his fellow arrests each had to post a bond of 100,000 rupees (approximately $ 1,350) and surrender their passports.

Khan could face 10 years in prison if convicted.

And the case prompted a secondary investigation by Mumbai prosecutors into allegations that BCN agents tried to shake Pooja Dadlani, manager of Shah Rukh Khan, for a bribe to free the young Khan without laying charges. Dadlani was called to testify in this case but twice failed to appear.

Other high level busts

This is just one of the several cases on the front page of the newspapers shaking the Indian elite. Another concerns the son-in-law of none other than NCB chief Nawab Malik, who is also government minister of Maharashtra state, India’s second most populous state. The son-in-law, Sameer Khan, was arrested in January in a raid on a private home in an upscale suburb of Mumbai that revealed nearly 200 kilograms of dried cannabis.

Sameer Khan was not present in the house searched, but was nonetheless quickly loaded with traffic plot based on its WhatsApp chats. He was finally released on bail of 50,000 rupees on September 27 and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted.

Interestingly, authorities said the 200 kilograms had been imported into the country. Although India is a major producer of cannabis, with a millennial tradition of spiritual use of the plant, Canadian hydroponics are said to be all the rage among the country’s fashionable classes, with the authorities time recent large seizures Things.

And in even more water for India’s yellow press mill, actor Armaan Kohli, the son of legendary Bollywood producer Rajkumar Kohli, was arrested by BCN agents in August for possession of 1.2 grams of cocaine. He is being deposit refused by a Mumbai court while the BCN investigates the trafficking charges against him – again based on his discussions on WhatsApp.

Privacy and civil rights concerns

While these cases have attracted attention because they have ensnared descendants of India’s elite, they raise issues of concern to the people in a country where political space has closed under seven years of rule. of right.

He was speculated that Aryan Khan was targeted because he belongs to an important Muslim family that has failed to align with the fundamentalist Hindu government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Bollywood was very criticized by the “Hindutva” right-wing for supposedly eroding traditional values ​​in much the same terms that Christian fundamentalists castigate Hollywood in the United States.

Aryan Khan’s case has also drawn public attention to how a citizen can stay locked up for a long time without any conviction – even a citizen of a wealthy family who can afford to post bail. In India, 70% of people behind bars are in pre-trial detention. At the end of 2019, more than one lakh (100,000) had been in prison awaiting trial for over a year, The Hindu the newspaper reported last year.

And then there is the issue of police surveillance in the digital age, where every communication leaves an indelible mark. Two Indian jurists, in a commentary on the Aryan Khan case for Lawyer website, write: “The case is also a good example of the ease with which a breach of privacy can be committed by authorities under the guise of national security by examining our private discussions on forums like WhatsApp… We cannot than to hope that the Aryan Khan saga would bring much more to the fore than just an episode of Bollywood gossip. “



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