The Bombay High Court on Monday refused bail to actor Armaan Kohli, arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) for alleged possession and consumption of drugs.
A single bench of Justice N W Sambre rejected Kohli’s application seeking bail. The court will pass a detailed order giving its reasons later.
In August, Armaan Kohli was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) for possessing 1.2 grams of cocaine, a quantity falling under the small category meant for consumption. This was after a drug peddler was arrested, and later, the NCB also arrested another drug peddler from whom a commercial quantity was recovered.
The NCB said that two accused were main suppliers who supplied narcotic substances regularly. It alleged that the roles of the accused were connected and intertwined with each other and cannot be dealt with separately.
Senior Advocate Aabad Ponda argued that Kohli ought to be granted bail because the offences against him were bailable considering he had been allegedly found with a small quantity of drugs, and hence, the rigours of Section 37 do not apply.
Ponda argued that the only evidence seemed to be statements of the accused under Section 67 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. He further stated that except for the statements and panchnamas, there was nothing to justify why Section 27A (illicit trafficking) and 29 (conspiracy) of the NDPS Act were invoked.
He even pointed out that the panchas were purportedly used in 13 other cases.
Ponda argued that mere collection of bank statements and WhatsApp chats was not sufficient to invoke the stringent provisions of the NDPS Act. “We all know the veracity of WhatsApp messages. If I get some messages, will those messages from them, without any response from me, be admissible evidence? If someone messages me ‘I killed someone’ and ‘I say good’ will that amount to abetment? Of course not!”
“The drug is not found in any cabinet or anything but in the open. Then they show some WhatsApp messages to show transactions and it is the same Aryan Khan argument,” said Ponda. Relying on Aryan Khan’s judgment to further his arguments on conspiracy, Ponda stated that he was compelled to refer to Khan’s case because it was similar to Kohli’s case.
Incidentally, when Khan’s bail application was rejected by the Metropolitan Magistrate, the Magistrate had relied upon Kohli’s order.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the NCB, along with advocates Shreeram Shirsat, Akshay Thakker and Amandeep Sra, informed the court that the actor had been accused of supplying contraband to third parties and not for free. These were part of his commercial dealings, Singh said.
To substantiate the accusation of illicit drug trafficking, Singh submitted that several links had been recovered between Kohli and foreign nationals during the investigation, indicating illicit procurements.
Singh contended that WhatsApp chats and statements were required to be relied upon during the investigation and the charge sheet had not been filed. “If WhatsApp chats and statements cannot be seen, what happens to them? How do we investigate?” Singh asked.
Singh also showed the court the WhatsApp chats and the financial transactions from Kohli’s bank accounts to point out that Kohli had committed a grave offence.
After hearing submissions of both parties, Justice Nitin Sambre rejected Kohli’s bail application.
Justice Sambre granted bail to co-accused Kareem Dhanani and Imran Ansari. Advocate Ayaz Khan appeared for Dhanani and argued that the only charge made against his client was of consumption and that there were no bank statements to show any transactions.
“The maximum punishment is six months to one year, while the accused has been behind in jail since August.” Advocate Sonali Parab appeared for Ansari and argued, “He was given a notice under 67 and was arrested on the same day. He has been a consumer since their remand application days. Except for some WhatsApp messages, there is nothing cogent brought on record. There is nothing recovered from his instance in the last many months.”
Upon a specific query, Justice Sambre was informed by the NCB officials that there were no bank statements found against these two.
Noting this, Dhanani and Ansari were granted bail.