NCB's Latest Conquest: The Mumbai Cruise Drugs Case


On October 2nd, Sameer Wankhede, NCB's zonal director, along with a team of officers, carried out a raid on the Cordelia Cruise ship, which was to depart from the International Terminal of Mumbai Port Trust to Goa, based on a tip-off related to a rave party happening onboard. The NCB detained as many as eight people after they allegedly seized an intermediate quantity of cocaine, MDMA (a.k.a ecstasy), Charas, and ₹1,33,000 in cash.

Amongst others, Aryan Khan, Arbaz Seth Merchant, and Munmun Dhamecha were arrested first after 5, and 6 grams of Charas was seized from Dharmecha and Merchant, respectively. Albeit no drugs were found on Aryan Khan, he was charged with the consumption of drugs. They were booked under various sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

Relevant Legal Provisions

Garnering the negative limelight for the Mumbai cruise drugs case, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan's son, Aryan Khan's arrest made the headlines and has people fixated on it.

Aryan Khan has been arrested under Section 8(c), 20(b), 27, and 35 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Here is an overview of what these sections provide for:

  1. Section 8(c) prohibits the commercial or personal use of psychotropic substances or narcotic drugs. Simply put, one cannot produce, possess, manufacture, sell, transport, consume, or transfer any such substance unless the purpose is scientific or medical. Additionally, anyone indulging in such an act must possess a permit or license granted by requisite authorities.

  2. Section 20(b) states that the possession of any variant of cannabis is unlawful and a punishable offence under the Act. If a person is found guilty of cultivating, producing, manufacturing, selling, or transporting cannabis plants, they shall face rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years and may also be required to pay a fine of ₹1 lakh. If the accused possesses a minimal quantity, the imprisonment may be reduced to 6 months, with or without a fine of ₹10,000. If the possession is more than that but not as much as required to be termed commercial, there may be 6-month imprisonment along with a fine of ₹1 lakh. However, if the accused has a commercial quantity, they may be liable to pay a fine of up to ₹2 lakhs along with an imprisonment of up to 20 years.

  3. Section 27 prohibits the consumption of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances. If one is found guilty of consuming such a substance, they shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to one year with or without a fine of up to ₹20,000. Section 27(a) also states the names, i.e. cocaine, morphine, diacetyl-morphine, among other psychotropic substances. If the accused is found to have consumed a narcotic drug other than the ones specified, they may be liable to 6 months imprisonment along with a fine of up to ₹10,000.

  4. Section 35: Under this section, the law presumes mens rea. It is presumed that the one accused of one or more sections under the Act had sound knowledge of their actions and the repercussions. Thus, the accused will be considered guilty unless they are proven innocent.

The Mumbai Cruise Case

Series of Dates and Events as they occurred:

October 3rd: Formal arrest of Aryan Khan and seven others in connection with a drug raid conducted on a Mumbai-Goa cruise. Special Holiday Court of Additional Metropolitan Magistrate R K Rajebhosale directed one day remand of Aryan Khan at Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

On October 4th, the NCB remand extended for further questioning, sent Aryan Khan and others into custody until October 7th.

October 7th: The Court rejected NCB's request for further custody, sent Aryan Khan to Judicial Custody for 14 days, and listed a bail hearing for the next day.

October 8th: Bail denied due to non-maintainability of the petition, directed to approach Special NDPS Court for bail.

October 11th: Special NDPS Court heard bail application. NCB requested time to file a response. The matter was listed on October 13th.

October 13th: Special Judge VV Patil hears both parties as arguments continue for over an hour. Khan's bail hearing gets adjourned till October 14th.

October 14th: The Special Court reserves order on Khan's bail plea till October 20th. Aryan shall remain in custody at Arthur Road jail.

The Arrest:

On Sunday, Aryan Khan and seven other attendees of an alleged rave party on a cruise were detained by officials of the NCB. Later, Aryan Khan was booked under the NDPS Act since 13 grams of cocaine, 22 pills of MDMA (Ecstasy), 21 grams of Charas, 5 grams of MD, and ₹1.33 lakhs in cash were recovered from the cruise.

Arbaaz Merchant, one of the accused, was the only one in possession of a prohibited narcotic drug. While Aryan Khan's lawyer, Advocate Manshinde, filed a bail plea before the Court, the plea was denied, and Aryan was sent for interrogation.


Aryan Khan's lawyer stated that his client was arrested, but interrogations were delayed for two days.

Why No Bail for Aryan Khan

On October 8th, vide a relatively detailed order, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, RM Nerlikar, denied bail to Aryan Khan and sent him to jail for two weeks pending investigation of the case.

The gravamen of his order was that under Section 36A NDPS, the Magistrate's Court did not possess the jurisdiction to entertain a bail application for an offence with prescribed punishment exceeding three years under the NDPS act as it has to be tried by a Special Court. All three accused were booked for one crime under various provisions of the NDPS Act, which prescribed a punishment exceeding three years. Since the bail application was not maintainable, the Magistrate did not go into the merits and dismissed it accordingly.

Consequent to the aforementioned order, Aryan Khan approached the Sessions Court for bail. Amit Desai, Senior Advocate who got Salman Khan acquitted in the controversial hit and run case (2002), represented Aryan Khan in his bail plea on October 13th and 14th.

Final Notes

Aryan Khan's bail plea had been rejected thrice before Wednesday, October 13th, 2021. On the 13th, he appeared once again before the Court with a request for bail. Amit Desai, Khan's lawyer, argued before the Court and stated that the law must be reformative.

Subsequently, the Court reserved the order on Aryan's bail plea and posted the next hearing for October 20th. Thus, it will be intriguing to see the turn of events, if any, as the NCB summarises its investigation and offers an explanation for further detention of the accused if bail is set to be denied.

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