The CBI on Monday informed the Bombay High Court that former NCB zonal director Sameer Wankhede is trying to show the alleged messages exchanged with Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan as “certificate of integrity”.
The High Court was hearing a petition of the official who is accused of seeking Rs 25 crore as bribe from the actor for not implicating his son Aryan in the Cordelia cruise ‘drug bust’ case.
A vacation bench of Justices Abhay Ahuja and MM Sathaye on Monday extended till June 8 the interim protection granted to Wankhede in the case. Last Friday, the court had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation not to take any coercive against him till May 22.
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Citing the messages exchanged with Khan, Wankhede, in his petition, has claimed the film superstar had no grievance against him and had requested that he be kind to his son Aryan Khan.
Wankhede further claimed the actor had not only praised his integrity “but has also expressed his anguish over the political involvement in the matter”.
Referring to the chats, Wankhede, in his plea, claimed the tone of Khan’s messages would have been completely contrary had he (Wankhede) raised demands for money for releasing Aryan Khan.
During the hearing on Monday, the CBI, represented by advocate Kuldeep Patil, submitted that those requests (referring to the messages exchanged between Shah Rukh Khan and Wankhede) were made by a father (Khan) whose young son (Aryan) was in his (Wankhede) custody.
Wankede is trying to show them (messages from Khan) as a “certificate of integrity”, CBI advocate Patil told court.
Opposing continuation of interim protection to Wankhede, advocate Patil said the order may come in the way of arrest or any action that the CBI may want to take, adding the order (interim protection) cannot be indefinite when the probe is underway.
Patil also sought time to file the CBI’s response to Wankhede’s plea.
Advocate Abad Ponda, appearing for Wankhede, argued the officer was investigating a “very serious case” and was trying to clean the system. Ponda was referring to the Cordelia cruise ‘drug bust’ case of October 2021 in which Aryan Khan was arrested.
Ponda told the court then NCB Deputy Director Gyaneshwar Singh had been apprised of every step of the probe. Ponda said the “backbone” of the CBI’s FIR against Wankhede “is flawed” as it didn’t follow the provisions mandated by law.
The case was “illegal and bad in law” and the idea was to ground an “honest officer who stood against the tall and mighty”, Ponda said.
The court, after hearing both the sides, extended Wankhede’s interim protection subject to the condition that he shall not publish any material through Whatsapp or any other mode related to the case or investigation or give press statements or tamper with evidence. The court asked Wankhede to give an undertaking to this effect.
Wankhede was also directed to appear at the investigation agency as and when he is called by the concerned officer.
The HC directed the CBI to file its response by June 3. The matter will be next heard on June 8.
The CBI recently filed an FIR against Wankhede for allegedly seeking Rs 25 crore bribe for not framing the Bollywood star’s son Aryan Khan in the drugs-on-cruise case.
On a complaint by the NCB. the CBI booked Wankhede and four others for alleged criminal conspiracy and extortion threat as well as under the Prevention of Corruption Act for alleged bribery.
As per the CBI, the NCB’s Mumbai Zone received information in October 2021 related to the consumption and possession of narcotics substances by various individuals on the private cruise ship Cordelia, after which some of its (NCB) officers conspired and obtained undue advantage in the form of bribes from the alleged accused.
Aryan Khan was arrested by the NCB on October 3, 2021 after a raid on the cruise ship. He was granted bail by the Bombay High Court after three weeks as the NCB failed to substantiate its charges against him.
(With inputs from PTI)
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