With the exit of Sameer Wankhede, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) will see sweeping operational changes from seeking legal advice to using WhatsApp chats as evidence to shifting focus from petty buyers to large suppliers. Few steps have already been taken to salvage the agency from further ignominy during the last high-profile case involving Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan.
NCB’s top brass was not “happy” with the “approach” adopted by former Mumbai zonal director Wankhede. In a recent meeting with deputy director generals, director general SN Pradhan made it clear that “no unprofessional approach will be tolerated”. The agency will focus on larger consignments and suppliers instead of wasting resources on the “small quantity” of drugs, a top official told News18.
The focus would be more on collecting primary witnesses instead of corroborating evidence and the agency will avoid doing any shoddy job that would further dent its image.
Wankhede was repatriated to its cadre on Monday after he did not receive an extension to serve in the NCB. He was in the spot last year after the arrest of Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan in the drugs-on-cruise case and was attached as NCB’s Mumbai zonal director in August 2020 on a ‘loan basis’.
According to sources, the NCB is not now keen on deputing officers on a ‘loan basis’ as had been done in two ‘rare’ cases including Wankhede.
“We want officers who can dedicatedly serve the agency for a longer period and devote time towards the purpose of the agency. The home ministry is also keen to send officers on deputation from all agencies,” a senior NCB officer told News18.
The officer further said a former DG had earlier deputed two officers, including Sameer Wankhede, on a ‘loan basis’ without following formalities. Both of them now do not work with NCB. “The tenure of such officers remains very limited. It would be better for the agency to get officers on deputation in future as we have expansion plans of the agency as well.”
Besides, the NCB has decided to take legal advice on cases where WhatsApp chats can be the evidence. It will seek legal advice from its team before filing charge sheets in cases such as Rhea Chakraborty and Aryan Khan’s where WhatsApp chats play an important role in court.
“Cases based on WhatsApp chats have been under question and before filing the charge sheet in cases where these chats play an important role and there is no other primary evidence, we will seek legal advice,” the officer said. He also said cases based solely on WhatsApp chats will not be entertained anymore, primary evidence and raids following SOPs would be appreciated.
The NCB will also trace drug suppliers in different markets instead of going the other way around and chasing buyers and then looking for its supplier.
“In the Aryan Khan case, there was no focus on suppliers and the probe shifted to buyers having petty amounts. We will focus our investigation on suppliers who will take us to the buyer through proper evidence, witnesses. We will keep digging out names no matter how famous they are if they are linked with illegal drugs,” a senior NCB official said.
The Wankhede was in the eye of a political storm after NCP leader and Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik accused him of forging documents to get a government job, lying about his religion and arresting people in “bogus” drugs cases. Wankhede has denied all allegations.