The riveting soap opera with its twists and turns has finally come to its most expected conclusion. The Bombay High Court has granted bail to Aryan Khan, the 23-year-old son of cine megastar Shah Rukh Khan, in the Cordelia cruise drug bust case.
Aryan’s co-accused Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhameecha have also been granted bail. Shah Rukh Khan and his entire family along with the entire film fraternity have heaved a sigh of relief at this news. Juhi Chawla has signed the surety bond needed as one of the 13 conditions laid down by Bombay High Court for Aryan Khan’s release from jail. Following this, Aryan Khan was released from Arthur Road jail on October 30.
Shah Rukh Khan’s birthday falls on November 2. He could not have asked for a better birthday gift than Aryan returning home and spending Diwali with the family. As they say, all is well that ends well.
But the entire episode raises several important questions which will impact the way our society shapes up in the future. Is Aryan Khan a victim of injustice? Are the lower courts consistently failing to defend the fundamentals rights of the citizens of India? Is this the beginning of end of the fabled independence of Indian judiciary? If so, it would be a death knell to Indian society as we know it as individual liberty would be at a premium and not universal as it should be in a democratic country.
These issues have been raised in the past as well when celebrities have had to bear the brunt of the excruciatingly slow pace of Indian judiciary. The process becomes the punishment. There are many examples of this – Rhea Chakraborty being a very recent one. This has brought to notice the complete breakdown of the criminal justice system in India.
The manner in which the lower judiciary has handled the Aryan Khan case indicates a complete lack of understanding of law on the part of the subordinate magistrates. They have consistently failed to follow the law as declared by the Supreme Court. By denying bail to Aryan Khan the lower judiciary has made a mockery of the Supreme Court injunction that bail is the norm and jail is the exception.
Given the modalities of the case where no drug was found on him and there was no consumption of drugs at the moment of arrest, the law is crystal clear. At the most Aryan could have been sentenced for one year and in such cases he is entitled to bail.
The quantity of drug seizure is miniscule at 6 gm and does not fall under the category of commercial use. The NDPS Act is very clear that in such cases bail can be granted. Then why this obstinacy on the part of the lower judiciary to deny bail.
The legal fraternity has been unequivocal in condemning the approach of the lower judiciary in this case. Many feel the subordinate magistrates are not well conversant with the application of law and need better training. Others feel that this is a clear case of insubordination by the subordinate magistrate to the High Court and Supreme Court where they are not willing to apply the law.
There are still others who feel that the magistrates get intimidated in such high profile cases and deliberately play ball to the executive and higher authorities at whose behest the arrest has been done. They tend to act on the side of caution and not risk their reputation by giving a judgment that the executive will not like.
This episode also raises the question whether the subordinate magistrates are intellectually capable of performing the duty bestowed on them. There is something seriously ailing the subordinate judiciary. There have been many instances in the recent past like that of Disha Ravi and of many Muslim boys and girls who were denied bail by lower judiciary.
Many social commentators are furious and worried at the same time that this is the beginning of police state taking over. This phenomenon of denying bail by the lower judiciary did exist before but it was few and far between. Over the last 5 years, this has become a rather common phenomena and can be attributed to the machinations of the totalitarian approach of the new government in place.
Innocent people who are vulnerable are targeted and are made to undergo this emotional trauma for not toeing the government line on issues. The subordinate magistrates fail to see through the malicious and false prosecution of the government in such cases.
Moreover, this has also brought to sharp focus the functioning of central investigating agencies which are behaving like henchmen for the government. The arrest of Aryan Khan, demand for his remand and the obdurate consistency in trying to deny him bail shows that the NCB has taken law into their own hands and have become law unto themselves and can do whatever they want.
If one goes by the letter of law, Aryan Khan should have never been arrested; and if at all arrested, should not have been detained and should have been released on bail.
This is a wake-up call for the whole country as we could be the next victim of this inefficient judiciary. If things do not change now, then we will have only ourselves to blame when we face the brunt and are at the receiving end.
Edited by Anupama Roy