WITHIN HOURS of his arrest in London, liquor baron Vijay Mallya was out on bail to set the stage for a long legal battle for extradition by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED). Several such requests from the CBI and other agencies from India are pending with authorities in the UK despite both countries having signed an extradition treaty in 1993, say officials. India has failed to secure extradition in many high-profile cases, including that of former IPL chairman Lalit Modi, Navy war room leak suspect Ravishankaran and Purulia arms drop case accused Kim Davy. After a long battle, CBI could not secure the extradition of Iqbal Mirchi from London, where the underworld operative died in 2013. Another such case is that of music composer Nadeem Akhtar, who is wanted in the murder of music baron Gulshan Kumar.
Former CBI in-charge of Interpol in New Delhi, N S Kharayat told The Indian Express, “Extradition is a prolonged battle, it’s a judicial process and the person has the right to appeal, which makes it difficult for agencies. It is not an open and shut case. In comparison, a deportation is a quicker and faster process.”
In this case, officials said, India will have to move quickly and the first step would be to obtain a fresh non-bailable warrant (NBW) from the Mumbai court, which had initially issued one for Mallya. In Delhi, a government functionary said that India needs to set a precedent that crossing geographical boundaries does not absolve one of a crime, such as squandering public money.
“The extradition process now starts. The CBI and Indian High Commission will present its case. But the proof that they expect, will be very tough… there is a myth that you cross geographical boundaries, take refuge and be out of bounds. India needs to set this precedent,” he said. Under Article 9 of the India-UK treaty, there are several grounds for refusal of extradition, including if the request is deemed to have been made “with the purpose of prosecuting him or punishing him on account of his race, religion nationality or political opinions”.
Senior lawyer Majeed Memon said, “The local magistrate (in London) has limited power as per local laws. He can only examine the propriety and correctness of the request (extradition) made by the Indian government. The authority to examine the merits of evidence, on the basis of which extradition is fought, lies only with the UK Supreme Court.” India had come up with a list of nearly 60 names to be extradited from Britain during bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Theresa May last November. Among them was alleged serial sex offender, 69-year-old UK national, Raymond Andrew Varley, who is facing a CBI case on charges of child abuse.
The UK handed over to India a list of 17 people whose custody it seeks. As per Interpol records, only one fugitive criminal, Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, has been extradited from the UK in the last five years. Besides Mallya, as many as nine extradition requests made by India is pending with UK, including those for Rajesh Kapoor, Tiger Hanif, Atul Singh, Raj Kumar Patel, Jatinder Kumar Angurala, Asha Rani Angurala, Sanjeev Kumar Chawla, Shaik Sadiq and Ashok Malik.
In the Mallya case, the fact that he was released on bail soon after he was produced in court suggests that the legal authority was satisfied that police had brought the right man before it in terms of the warrant issued by an Indian court. It also indicates that Mallya has not agreed to be extradited but chosen to contest the move.
As per provisions of the UK Extradition Act, the court must begin hearing the Mallya case within 21 days. Through the hearings, the magistrate must decide if the allegations brought against Mallya warrants his extradition to stand trial in India.
If the magistrate’s court orders Mallya’s extradition on the basis of the Indian request, he will have the opportunity to contest the verdict in the high court and further in the UK Supreme Court. If any court orders his extradition, Mallya will get 10 days to file an appeal in a higher court.