Mumbai cruise case | Action ordered against Sameer Wankhede

Under Mr. Wankhede’s supervision, an NCB team arrested Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan along with others in October 2021

May 27, 2022 07:40 pm | Updated May 28, 2022 08:16 am IST - NEW DELHI

Former Zonal Director of NCB Mumbai Sameer Wankhede. File

Former Zonal Director of NCB Mumbai Sameer Wankhede. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Appropriate action against the former Mumbai zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Sameer Wankhede, has been recommended to the competent authority for a “shoddy” initial probe into the cruise case in which the agency has not found any prosecutable evidence against Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan, according to government sources.

Under Mr. Wankhede’s supervision, an NCB team arrested Mr. Aryan Khan along with others on October 3 last. Accused of offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, he spent 22 days in judicial custody before being released from jail on bail.

It is learnt that the government has now recommended to the Finance Ministry that appropriate action be initiated against the officer, who was sent back to his parent organisation after his extended tenure with the NCB ended in December last.

Alleged extortion

An independent witness in the case, Prabhakar Sail, had alleged extortion in the case. The then Maharashtra government Minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader, Nawab Malik, had also accused Mr. Wankhede of using a forged a caste certificate claiming himself to be from the Scheduled Caste category to get the job. The official had denied the charges.

However, taking cognisance of various allegations and prima facie evidence of some irregularities during the probe, NCB Director General S.N. Pradhan ordered a vigilance inquiry. Action was also taken against some officials. The case was transferred to the agency headquarters’ Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by Deputy Director General (Ops) Sanjay Kumar Singh.

Serious procedural lapses

According to NCB officials, the SIT detected serious procedural lapses on the part of the first team. No drugs was found on Mr. Aryan Khan. Consumption charge was invoked, but his medical examination had not been done in this regard. In his statement, his friend told the team that drugs he carried was not for Mr. Aryan Khan.

There was no material available warranting the action of opening Mr. Aryan Khan’s mobile or WhatsApp chat. The mobile phone had not been seized formally. The SIT went through the impugned chat messages but did not find any evidence establishing his alleged role. An official pointed out that, as per court directive, WhatsApp chats could not by themselves be treated as primary evidence.

The NCB chief has recently directed the officials not to take up small cases and focus on unearthing the cases which have national security implications and those with international links. “Stringent action will be taken against those who do not adhere to the orders,” said a senior official.

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