The Narcotics Control Bureau has used the same witness in at least five other cases since last year, besides the Mumbai drugs case in which actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was arrested, reported The Indian Express.

The man, Adil Fazal Usmani, is among the 10 witnesses in Aryan Khan drugs case. Aryan Khan walked out of jail on Saturday, two days after getting a bail.

Questions have been raised on two other witnesses as well as the role of the central agency in the Aryan Khan drugs case. Private investigator Kiran Goasvi was arrested on Thursday by the Pune Police in a fraud case. Witness Manish Bhanushali allegedly has links with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Prabhakar Sail, another witness in the case, has claimed that a Narcotics Control Bureau official had asked him to sign on 10 blank papers.

In addition to this, Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik had claimed that agency’s zonal director Sameer Wankehde used forged documents to get his job under the Scheduled Caste quota and that he has been illegally tapping phones. He has also accused the Narcotics Control Bureau zonal director of being part of an extortion racket linked to drug-related cases against Bollywood actors.

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Records accessed by The Indian Express showed that Usmani had been cited a witness in five cases – 36/2020 (seizure of commercial quantity of Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD), 38/2020 (seizure of non-commercial quantity of mephedrone or MD, and commercial quantity of LSD); 27/2021 (seizure of commercial quantity of MD); 35/2021 (seizure of commercial quantity of LSD and ganja, or cannabis); and 38/2021 (seizure of LSD and ganja).

The panch (testimony) witnesses affirm to searches and seizures conducted, ruling out planting of evidence by agencies. They also testify during trials.

Their testimony holds significance in cases such as that of Aryan Khan in which seizures of drugs is the main basis for prosecution.

Usmani’s name also crops in an anonymous letter shared by Malik and purportedly written by an Narcotics Control Bureau official. The letter had referred to Usmani as a “drug peddler” and alleged that the agency got 60 grams of mephedrone from him to plant it in another case.

However, police and court records do not show any criminal records of Usmani, according to the newspaper.

Besides Usmani, the central agency has used at least four witnesses multiple times. A person identified as Shehbaz Mansuri has been a witness in four cases. Fletcher Patel, who was also mentioned by Malik, has been a witness in three cases.

Patel had told the media that he was an Army veteran who was happy to help helped government agencies.

Sayyad Zubair Ahmed and Abdul Rehman Ibrahim have been cited as witnesses in two cases each this year.

Narcotics Control Bureau officials, however, say that they rely on same witnesses as most people are afraid to get involved or accompany a drug raid. Unidentified officials also told The Indian Express that most raids take place in night and it is difficult for them to find new witnesses.

“Honestly tell us if anyone will be willing to accompany us as panch witnesses if we are conducting a raid against notorious drug lords?” an official asked.

He added: “In addition to panch witnesses, we present other corroborative evidence before the court. Please check with any other force and you will find them using repeat panch witnesses. Why is only the NCB under scrutiny?”

Other agencies also tend to use the same witnesses. Police officers say that getting independent witnesses for each case is “not practical”.