Film executive Kshitij Prasad, who was arrested last week by the Narcotics Control Bureau in a widening drugs probe linked to Sushant Singh Rajput death, was "harassed and blackmailed" by the officers of the anti-drugs probe agency, his lawyer Satish Maneshinde told a Mumbai court on Sunday. Mr Prasad was "forced to falsely implicate" filmmaker Karan Johar and his other top executives, the lawyer underlined.
"NCB officers said they would let me off if I implicated either Karan Johar, Somel Mishra, Rakhi, Apoorva, Neeraj or Rahil," the lawyer quoted him as saying in the court. The investigating officers "asked me to falsely allege that they consumed drugs," he said. "I refused to comply with this despite the pressure being mounted on me as I did not know any of these people personally... and I did not wish to falsely implicate anyone," Mr Prasad was quoted as saying.
One of the investigating officers - Sameer Wankhede - has been named in the lawyer's statement. "Sameer Wankhede told him (Kshitij Prasad) that since he did not want to cooperate, he would teach him a lesson and made him sit on the floor next to his chair. Sameer Wankhede then put the shoe of his foot near Kshitij's face and proclaimed that this was his true aukad (status)," the lawyer told the court, adding that other officers around "laughed at this plight".
The incident "severely traumatised Kshitij, who had never been in this kind of situation before. After over 48 hours in such custody, he was extremely fatigued and shaken. He requested to speak with Sameer Wankhede alone and enquired if he had offended him," Mr Maneshinde told the court, stressing that Mr Prasad "also reiterated that he would very much like to speak with his lawyer or family".
"Sameer Wankhede informed him that if he wished to be granted a call, he should sign the statement they prepared, which he could retract later. Kshitij was unaware of the legalities involved and had never even come across this term of 'retraction of statement'. At the end of nearly 50 hours of interrogation, humiliation and torment, Kshitij is his desperation to speak to his lawyer or family, unwillingly and under threats signed the statement," Mr Maneshinde said.
Last week, Karan Johar had denied claims that Kshitij Prasad was associated with his firm - the Dharma Productions. Mr Prasad joined Dharmatic Entertainment, a company linked to Dharma Productions, in November 2019 as one of the executive producers on contract basis for a project which eventually did not materialise, Mr Johar had said.
"Neither l, nor Dharma Productions can be made responsible for what people do in their personal lives. These allegations do not pertain to Dharma Productions," Karan Johar said in a statement. "I would like to unequivocally once again state that I do not consume narcotics and I do not promote or encourage consumption of any such substance," he said.
On Sunday, Satish Maneshinde said: "Kshitij Prasad was produced today (Sunday) for remand before the Ld Addl Chief Metropolitan Magistrate through video conference. Before the proceedings began, I informed the Magistrate that Kshitij was harassed and blackmailed to make a statement apart from third degree and ill treatment."
Kshitij Prasad was called up by the NCB officials on Thursday (September 24), when he was in Delhi; they wanted to search his Mumbai home. He returned to Mumbai the next day.
The NCB team "found nothing in the house apart from the end bit of a stale and dry cigarette butt in the balcony", and the team "began insisting it was a ganja joint", his lawyer has said. "Upon his wife's insistence , the word 'believed' to be a ganja joint was inserted in the panchnama (probe record)," his lawyer said.
He was taken to the probe agency's office with two other friends on Friday.