|Troubled dads: Azmi (top) and Chhabria
Mumbai, Oct. 28: Celebrity families of the four men held in Dubai for drug use and possession have begun the legal fight, but are up against a system where life imprisonment is the punishment for such an offence.
Farhan, the son of Samajwadi Party MP and Maharashtra unit president Abu Asim Azmi, and Bonny Chhabria, the son of car designer Dilip Chhabria, were caught in a Dubai hotel on October 21 and charged with drug abuse. Uttam Singh, said to have a British passport, and Prashant Dandekar — both from families with links to Bollywood — were caught with them.
Although the arrests were made a week ago, the news had been carefully kept under wraps by the families until a Mumbai police source revealed it yesterday.
One, perhaps two, of the four men tested positive for banned substances, according to sources in Mumbai police.
That they were caught using drugs at Dubai’s Imperial Palace Hotel, reportedly owned by underworld don Iqbal Mirchi, has complicated the case.
In more revelations today, Mumbai crime branch officials said that in the raid by the anti-drug cell of Dubai police, one of the four persons was found with a banned substance in his wallet.
The quantity of the contraband found on him is not known, but police sources said the substance — said to be cocaine — was possibly meant for personal use and not sale. Drug suppliers are given the death penalty in the emirate.
Chhabria, the owner of DC Designs, which recently made a handcrafted car for a James Bond movie, has said that his son was not one of those caught with drugs. He was unavailable for comment today, but yesterday Chhabria had declared that he would be “bringing Bonny home on Tuesday”. He had also claimed that Bonny had tested negative for drugs.
Azmi, a Rajya Sabha MP from Azamgarh, seems to be in a bigger fix than the others because as a father he must protect his son, a duty that comes into conflict with his politician’s avatar in which he cannot be seen to be caught in a messy affair such as this.
Yesterday, Azmi had said he would not do anything to save his son and had disowned him. Today, he said his son was innocent and was merely “unfortunate” to be in a group of men, some of whom were caught taking drugs.
Samajwadi Party sources said lawyers had been engaged to bail out Farhan. “We will do our best to get Farhan out,” a source said.
“Just like the families of the other three who were caught with Farhan, we have also deputed good lawyers to fight the case. But, unfortunately, we are also aware that people are using this incident to throw dirt on Azmi. Farhan doesn’t even smoke, though he has a thing for the high-society types,” the source said.
The Samajwadi has a base in some Muslim-dominated areas like Bhindi Bazaar, Nagpada, Kurla and Kandivli. The charges against Azmi’s son have come at a bad time for the party as it goes into Lok Sabha elections next year.
Earlier, Azmi had been arrested under the now-defunct anti-terrorism law, Tada, for his alleged role in the Mumbai riots of 1993 and kept in jail for a year and 10 days.
But the Supreme Court had exonerated him, saying the evidence against him could not stand the scrutiny of law.
Azmi has also filed a defamation case against Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray for calling him a Dawood Ibrahim mole.
“But it’s (the Dubai case) not going to make a dent in his vote bank,” Syed Hussain, a Samajwadi leader said. “The charges almost never stick.”
Azmi has said his son had gone to Dubai to look for a cook for his Italian restaurant in Colaba, Basilico. Farhan also owns another restaurant in the city called Koyla.
“But I don’t know what happened after that,” the Samajwadi leader said. “The case will be a little clearer in the next two days.”