Convinced that he will not experience a bearable lightness of being following extradition to India, Vijay Mallya’s defence has urged the Crown Prosecution Service that more light must be shed on the subject. They have cast a shade of doubt on the pictures submitted of Barrack 12 of Arthur Road Jail, where Mallya will be housed, arguing that while they purport to show natural light flooding into the cell, “Whatever the light is, it is not natural light.” By way of contrast, one can’t but recall a letter written by Indira Gandhi from Naini Central Jail during the freedom movement, where she wrote of a tiny patch of sky visible from her quarters, the only sign of the world outside. Darker parallels with the Cellular Jail, a relic of the British empire, may also be drawn.
Judge Emma Arbuthnot has agreed that more clarity is needed, and required the Indian authorities to submit a “step by step video” — careful, no stumbling, or they’ll think it was shot in some kind of dank gloom — of the sort commonly seen on the online booking sites of hotels. Perplexed, the Indian authorities have pointed out that the accused would be extradited under a treaty, whose conditions must be met anyway. Besides, Barrack 12 is for housing high-profile prisoners, and is free of the brawling gang-lords and crawling vermin that feature prominently in lesser jails, at least in the popular imagination.
But these days, suspicion has become second nature. The willingness of the Indian authorities to supply whatever documentation that London needs has been read by Indians on social media as a promise to provide fake news. A fake video, with fake and wholly unnatural light, perhaps shot at a fake location. As Mallya’s lawyers know, we live in dark times and will believe anything.