Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who argued on behalf of superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan, in an exclusive interview to India Today, said that there was no evidence against Aryan Khan and the case against him was stretched too far by the NCB.
He also said that prosecution agencies try to keep people in jail once they have been arrested. “Sensitizing law enforcement agencies will go a long way in decongesting prisons,” the former Attorney General for India said.
‘DISTINCTION BETWEEN SMALL AND COMMERCIAL QUANTITIES IGNORED’
Speaking on the Bombay High Court’s decision to grant bail to Aryan Khan, Rohatgi told India Today that there were two important aspects of the case — there was no recovery from Aryan Khan and, at best, he was associated with Arbaaz Merchantt.
“There was no proof of consumption, peddling, or carrying large amounts. Yet, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) tried to make it a case of commercial quantity, which was stretching it too far.”
He said that the law specifically makes a distinction and if one is a consumer of small quantities, s/he is treated differently. “The law enforcement agencies fail to make this distinction. They leapfrog to commercial quantity,” he said.
Commenting on the Sessions Court order, Rohatgi said: “The argument of conscious possession was stretched beyond a point to include those who were complete strangers to Aryan Khan. There is no material for the department to say that a ‘syndicate’ is being investigated.”
‘BAIL IS RULE, JAIL IS EXCEPTION’
The problem is that when most courts deny bail, they treat it like a quasi-trial. People forget that the Supreme Court in 1978 had said ‘bail is the rule and jail is the exception’.”
“If a small-quantity [drug] user acknowledges that he is consuming, he cannot be arrested. He cannot be prosecuted as long as he agrees to go to rehab. That’s what the law said in 2001. But unfortunately, it’s been lost sight of and everyone is now painted with the same brush.”
He said, “The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment itself reminds us not to forget the legislative intent of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances [NDPS] Act, 1985. We have to catch the big fish. A lot of these drugs are smuggled through India’s porous borders. Catch those people. Give them exemplary punishment. Here, they’ve arrested 5-7 young people. One month has gone by. What have you [NCB] found? Nothing.”
“The attention is being diverted from the proper track. All efforts are being spent on catching only certain people,” he added.
‘SENSITISATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES IS NEEDED’
He urged the government to sensitise law enforcement agencies by having regular conferences. “It is not fair to blame the government. The government and the Parliament are on the same page. It is the law enforcement agencies that need some introspection. The idea is not to put people in jail and be punished before trial. That has become the approach of the law enforcement agencies,” he said. “The government should ask law enforcement agencies if they were really following the mandate of the legislation,” he added.
He said that the moment law enforcement agencies realise what they have to do, jails will be decongested and courts will not be full of petty cases. “Courts have far better things to do than decide these petty issues,” he said.
‘IN-PERSON ARGUMENTS LIKE HOMECOMING’
Speaking about physically arguing before the court again, Rohatgi said that it felt like a homecoming. “I argued on three days and it felt really good to be before a court again. On the first day, there was a lot of ruckus, but the judge ensured decorum was maintained.”
On advising the government after resigning as the Attorney General, Rohatgi said: “I’m a private lawyer. I take cases for governments, individuals, PSUs everybody. It’s a lawyer’s job to advise his clients and I don’t make any distinction between Centre, state, individuals, rich or poor. I appear for everyone.”