Updated: June 4, 2021 4:44:03 am
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) Thursday adjourned a hearing in the deportation case of fugitive diamond jeweller Mehul Choksi Thursday, directing the two parties to come to a consensus on the administrative issues relating to the case. These include filing of documents and replies by the parties; fixing of time that each party will require for arguing the case; and the sequence of court proceedings.
Choksi’s lawyer in India, Vijay Aggarwal, said the case may now come up for hearing only on July 1. “Till then, as per the existing Dominican court order, Mehul Choksi shall remain in Dominica, is what I understand,” said Aggarwal.
On Thursday, for the first time since Choksi was reported missing in Antigua and Barbuda on May 23, the Indian government spoke about the ongoing legal tussle involving him in Dominica.
“India remains steadfast in its efforts that fugitives are brought back to India. Mehul Choksi is currently in the custody of Dominica with some legal proceedings underway. We will continue to ensure he is brought back to India,” said a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson.
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Earlier in the day, a magistrate court of Dominica rejected the bail application of Choksi, in connection with his illegal entry into the country. Choksi pleaded not guilty, but the prosecution argued that the 62-year old businessman may flee if he is granted bail.
Choksi is currently in hospital under police protection for injuries sustained by him, reportedly while in custody. The magistrate court will hear this particular case on June 14.
The Dominican Public Prosecution Service told the ESCS that Choksi should be deported to India as his plea against it is not maintainable. Choksi’s lawyers have argued that Choksi is not a citizen of India as per Article 9 of the Indian Constitution as this had automatically got revoked when he had taken the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in 2018.
On May 23, Choksi had been reported missing from Antigua and Barbuda. The next day, Choksi was caught by the local police of Dominica, reportedly when he arrived on a boat. Subsequently, Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said that his government has “specifically requested” Dominica “to have Indian law enforcement agencies make necessary arrangements to have him (Choksi) returned directly to India”.
However, Choksi’s legal team has claimed he did not flee Antigua but was abducted via a honey trap. According to his lawyers, Choksi was befriended by a woman over the last six months, called to an apartment in Antigua on May 23, and abducted by a group of men from there. He was then allegedly beaten up and forced into a yacht before being ferried to Dominica.
Meanwhile, the local media of Antigua and Barbuda on Thursday reported that the cabinet of the Caribbean island country too wants Choksi to be deported directly to India from Dominica. The decision was taken in a meeting held on Thursday.
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