Take lessons from the botched Aryan probe

High-profile investigations require careful oversight, especially when the temptation to cut procedural corners to grab eyeballs or create sensational headlines is strong. This is the primary lesson that authorities should draw from the botched probe into an alleged drug bust on the cruise ship Cordelia last year, one that saw the arrest of actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan, only for him to be released a month later and all charges against him dropped in due course. That many charges against Aryan Khan were outlandish were known — earlier this year, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) found no proof that he was part of a larger drugs conspiracy or an international drug trafficking syndicate — but a new report by the NCB this week pointed to basic procedural lapses and irregularities in the raid. Though the report was not made public — as a government body, there is merit in throwing sunlight on the processes followed by investigators — people aware of developments told this newspaper that action was recommended against seven NCB officials. Worse, the officials found indications that the probe was directed with the intention to implicate Aryan Khan.

It is now clear that some officers in the agency were profligate in their exercise of power and sought to either garner more media attention or please political masters. In an atmosphere where institutions are struggling to deal with political pressures and structural weaknesses, such missteps must be publicly acknowledged, corrected and accountability fixed. NCB deserves praise for its internal probe, but it must fall on the body’s leadership and the government to ensure that the lessons learnt from this sordid episode are implemented across the board.

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