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Friday,22-October-2021

Crime

Were you a ghost in the room, M.J. Akbar’s lawyer asks witness

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A lawyer for senior scribe and former Union Minister M.J. Akbar on Friday asked journalist Priya Ramani’s friend, who was deposing in the defamation case against her, if she was a “ghost in the room” to remember the scene of an alleged sexual harassment so vividly.

“Were you the third ghost in the room? You must have seen the colour of the vodka,” senior advocate Geeta Luthra asked Niloufer Venkatraman, who had narrated the details of the incident when Akbar allegedly sexually misbehaved with Ramani in a Mumbai hotel room.

“The details she described were so bizarre and inappropriate that I have a picture of it in my mind till this day,” Venkatraman said.

Narrating the incident, Venkatraman said: “I was at Nariman Point when Priya requested me to meet one hour before the interview, so that I can prepare her for the interview. She came at around 6 (p.m.) and met at Promenade. I asked her current affairs questions which I imagined she could be asked during the interview. A few minutes before 7 p.m., we walked to Oberoi where I dropped her and came back.”

“Later that night, Priya called me on my landline. She sounded upset and distraught. I asked her why? She told me that the interview had not gone as we discussed. To begin with, the interview did not happen in the coffee shop or the restaurant but she was called to Akbar’s room,” Venkatraman said.

She said Ramani “described feeling extremely uncomfortable as he offered her an alcoholic drink and was himself drinking the same. She also described him singing old Hindi songs which was highly unprofessional.”

“At one point, she explained that how he patted a portion of the sofa and asked her to sit close to him,” she said.

The court was hearing a criminal defamation complaint filed by Akbar against the journalist for accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Following the allegations, the then Minister of State (MoS) for Foreign Affairs had to resign from his post.

Crime

NCB ‘visits’ SRK, Ananya Pandey’s homes; conducts raids in Andheri

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In a major development, teams of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) paid a formal ‘visit’ to the residences of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan in Bandra west, and actress Ananya Panday in Khar west, and raided a location in Andheri on Thursday as part of the ongoing probe into the October 2 luxury cruiser rave party.

“The NCB Mumbai Zonal Unit officials visited ‘Mannat’, the residence of Aryan Khan in connection with the (Cr.94/21 case) for seeking certain material related to the investigation of the case from Shah Rukh Khan, by following due procedure of notice, etc.,” said NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede in a statement later.

He also dismissed reports in sections of the media dubbing the NCB trip to the superstar’s sea-facing bungalow as a ‘raid’.

The development, which grabbed national attention, came shortly after the Bombay High Court this morning decided to take up his son Aryan Khan’s bail plea on next Tuesday, October 26.

Simultaneously, Ananya Panday — daughter of Bollywood actor Chunky Panday and granddaughter of the renowned heart surgeon, the late Dr. Sharad Panday — has been summoned to the NCB offices this day for the probe and the actress.

The NCB has claimed that her name apparently figures in some WhatsApp chats of Aryan Khan recovered by the agency, along with others.

As part of its probe into the cruise ship party raids, the NCB has arrested a total of 20 persons so far, and more arrests are not ruled out.

It may be recalled that Nationalist Congress Party National Spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik had last week claimed that among various Bollywood bigwigs targeted, Shah Rukh Khan was also on the radar of the central probe agency with sleuths keeping a watch on ‘Mannat’ in recent weeks.

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Crime

NCB drugs case: No bail for Aryan Khan, 2 others

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 Mumbai Special NDPS Court on Wednesday rejected the bail plea of Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

The court also declined the bail applications of Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha, the two accused in the same case.

Khan’s lawyer said that though the detailed order of Special Judge V.V. Patil is awaited, they plan to “appeal to the Bombay High Court today or tomorrow seeking bail”.

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Crime

All eyes on Mumbai special court, suspense over bail or jail for Aryan

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 The Special NDPS Court in Mumbai is the focus of national attention as the bail plea of Aryan Khan — son of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan — and 7 other youths come up for hearing later on Wednesday.

The arguments in the bail pleas of Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha were completed last week and Special NDPS Judge V.V. Patil had deferred the verdict till Wednesday, but the hearing of the remaining accused is pending.

The hearing comes under the backdrop of a senior Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari filing a plea before the Supreme Court Chief Justice N.V. Ramana demanding a high-level probe into the affairs of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the ‘violation of Aryan Khan’s fundamental rights’.

Meanwhile, the NCB has reportedly found the mention of a heroine in one of the WhatsApp chats of Aryan — who has been inside the lockup or custody for 19 nights continuously since his detention on October 2 and arrest on October 3.

The NCB has reportedly counselled him and other co-accused, offered them their religious holy books like Bhagwad Gita, Quran or Bible, Aryan reportedly is full of remorse and has promised to ‘reform’ himself after release.

However, Nationalist Congress Party National Spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik has challenged these claims and demanded the NCB should release videos of the purported counselling sessions instead of indulging in selective leaks.

In one of the most high-profile operations, Aryan Khan, along with 7 others was caught when the NCB team led by Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede swooped on an alleged rave party aboard a cruise ship on October 2 evening.

During subsequent investigations, another 12 persons, including a foreigner have been nabbed in the same case, while some others have been raided or questioned.

Simultaneously, fingers have been raised at the NCB’s style of working, the involvement of a fugitive and a politician, friends of the sleuths as ‘independent witnesses’, capped by the unprecedented plea to the CJI seeking a probe into the central narcotics agency’s alleged ‘mala fide doings’.

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