IN ORDER to satisfy British authorities, the Maharashtra Prisons department attached photographs of the barrack at Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail where wanted liquor baron Vijay Mallya could be lodged if extradited to India to face prosecution in the alleged Rs 900 crore loan default case. The Prison authority also suggested that it would be more than happy to host a delegation from the Britain Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) if they wanted to pay a visit to the Arthur Road jail.
“The delegation could inspect for themselves the conditions of the Indian jails and satisfy if it meets the security and other requirements as per the extradition treaty in the event Mallya is sent back to India,” revealed a senior Home Department official. The CPS presented the case in a London court on behalf of the Indian authorities. Last month, the State Home Department had received a query from its counterpart in the Central Government on the contention raised by Mallya in his application against his extradition. In his plea, Mallya had raised the “poor conditions” of Indian prisons as one of the grounds. The reply has been sent to the Central Government. His extradition plea is being heard in London’s Westminster Court.
“We had also attached over a dozen of photographs of the cell, along with the details of the barrack number 12 at the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai where he could be lodged.” “There are four cells which are still unoccupied in the barrack and are meant for VIP prisoners. In our reply, we have stated that one of these cells could house Mallya. The cells are spacious with a few facilities and would meet the condition laid down in the treaty,” explained a senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ”In our reply, we have stated that lodging Mallya won’t be a problem. There are cells in Arthur Road that have been built for housing high-profile prisoners. Other than Arthur Road jail, Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai is also very well equipped to lodge a special prisoner and could meet with the conditions raised in the treaty,” said an official who didn’t wish to be named.
The Maharashtra government had built a bomb-proof barrack inside Arthur Road jail to house 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab. After Kasab was executed, the barrack now houses another 26/11 alleged mastermind Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal. Sources add that the said barrack is reserved for criminals facing terror charges and those who have threat perception and could also pose as a threat to the jail. It’s highly unluckily that Mallya would be housed in Kasab’s barrack. “We have other cells which are equally secured,” added the official while speaking on the issue of security.
A senior official from the Prisons Department also told The Indian Express that even before receiving a query from the Centre, a detailed discussion on Mallya took place a few months ago when the reports of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seeking Mallya’s extradition first surfaced. A source said that while lodging a prisoner who is being brought through an extradition treaty, the conditions of the extradition cannot be breached. This includes how and where the accused should be lodged.
“This is not the first time that we are dealing with prisoners who have been extradited and lodged in our prisons. In their cases, we have met all the conditions listed in the treaty. Similarly, in the case of Mallya, we had discussed all that would be required to be done in the eventuality of him being brought to India,” said an official. According to sources, senior officials also inspected barrack number 12 at the Arthur Road jail to see the conditions of the cells. “The treaty would require us to have barrack with particular size specifications. Cell number 12 on Arthur Road would be able to meet with such specifications. As far as providing facilities goes, those would be under the realm of the treaty agreed upon by the two parties,” added the official.
The official added that they could seek the permission from the court to produce Mallya through video-conferencing. “The agencies could always ask the court to produce Mallya through video-conferencing. This will ensure that he is secured and we don’t have to press additional manpower in ferrying him to courts,” added the official.