London: A British court currently hearing the extradition case of embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya has rejected two extradition requests by the Indian authorities in recent weeks. Judges at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London ruled in favour of UK-based alleged bookie Sanjeev Kumar Chawla on October 16 and also discharged a fraud case against a British Indian couple, Jatinder and Asha Rani Angurala, on October 12.
The rulings come just weeks before the extradition case against Mallya, wanted in India on loan defaults to several banks amounting to about Rs 9,000-crore, comes up for its next case management hearing on November 20 to determine the course of the extradition trial scheduled to start on December 4.
The case against Chawla, the key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal involving former South African captain Hanse Cronje in 2000, was discharged by District Judge Rebecca Crane on human rights grounds over severe conditions in Tihar Jail in Delhi where he was to be held on being extradited.
The judge said she was satisfied there was a prima facie case against Chawla over his role in the fixing of “cricket matches played between India and South Africa during the tour of the South African Cricket Team to India under the captainship of Hansie Cronje in February-March 2000”.
However, on hearing expert evidence from Dr Alan Mitchell, a licenced medical practitioner and a former medical officer at a Scottish prison, she ruled in favour of Chawla on the grounds that his human rights would be violated in Tihar Jail under Section 87, Article 3 relating to “prohibition of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment”.
“[There are] strong grounds for believing that the RP [Requested Person: Chawla] would be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the Tihar prison complex, due to the overcrowding, lack of medical provision, risk of being subjected to torture and violence either from other inmates or prison staff which is endemic in Tihar,” Judge Crane noted in her judgment.
In the case of the Anguralas, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot – also presiding over the Mallya case – ruled that it would be unjust to extradite them after nearly a quarter of a century since the fraud was alleged to have taken place when Jatinder was a branch manager at the Bank of India in Jalandhar.
The Anguralas were wanted for fraud dating back to between 1990 and 1993 against the public sector bank, causing a total loss of about 24,000 pounds. Jatinder Angurala was accused of fraudulently sanctioning and paying out loans to himself, his wife and co-conspirators during that period. He later admitted irregularities and promised to repay the bank and deposited some money but did not repay all the money taken.
The couple, who are now British citizens, were arrested on an extradition warrant in June 2015 at a shop owned by them in south-east London and remanded on conditional bail. The judge was critical of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for considerable delays in the case and for failure to arrest the accused years ago despite being aware of a series of addresses associated with them.
“I find I am not sure he is a fugitive and his extradition is barred by reason of passage of time as I find it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite him by reason of the quarter century that has passed since the alleged offence,” Judge Arbuthnot said in reference to Jatinder. “He is aged 69, not in the first flush of youth, he has minor health issues… it is just too late and it would be wrong to extradite him now,” she notes.
In relation to his wife’s extradition, she ruled that “there will be prejudice and oppression” were she to be extradited and barred her extradition by reason of the passage of time as well. India and the UK have an Extradition Treaty, signed in 1992 and in force since November 1993, under which Bangladeshi national Mohammad Abdul Shakur wanted in the UK on murder charges was to be extradited from India most recently.
Besides Mallya, there are now five Indian extradition requests pending in UK courts involving fugitives Rajesh Kapoor, Tiger Hanif, Atul Singh, Raj Kumar Patel and Shaik Sadiq, based on a government statement made in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year.