Why In­dia fails to ex­tra­dite Mallya, Modi, Choksi...

The Northlines - - OPINION - AAKAR PA­TEL The first is­sue is the qual­ity of our in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Why should any law-abid­ing na­tion take the CBI se­ri­ously when even In­dia does not?

What is the prob­lem in get­ting the UK to ex­tra­dite our cit­i­zens?' asks Aakar Pa­tel.

In­dia has pro­posed nine points to the G20 mem­ber na­tions ask­ing for strong co­op­er­a­tion to deal with fugi­tive eco­nomic of­fend­ers.

In­dia's note to the oth­ers reads: 'Co­op­er­a­tion in le­gal pro­cesses such as ef­fec­tive freez­ing of the pro­ceeds of crime, early re­turn of the of­fend­ers and ef­fi­cient repa­tri­a­tion of the pro­ceeds of crime should be en­hanced and stream­lined.'

I do not know of any eco­nomic of­fender who flees from other na­tions to In­dia so pre­sum­ably we are do­ing this mainly with re­spect to In­di­ans who run away to these coun­tries.

The G20 na­tions are Ar­gentina, Aus­tralia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Ger­many, In­dia, In­done­sia, Italy, Ja­pan, Repub­lic of Korea, Mex­ico, Rus­sia, Saudi Ara­bia, South Africa, Tur­key, the United King­dom, the United States and the Euro­pean Union. Again, I do not know of In­di­ans who flee to Rus­sia, Saudi Ara­bia, Tur­key, Ja­pan, Korea, Mex­ico, In­done­sia and such places. The pre­ferred place is the United King­dom. The ques­tion we In­di­ans should ask is: What is the prob­lem in get­ting the UK to ex­tra­dite our cit­i­zens?

In Novem­ber last year, the West­min­ster mag­is­trates court in Lon­don ruled against In­dia which was try­ing to ex­tra­dite bookie San­jeev Ku­mar Chawla and an In­dian cou­ple, Jatin­der and Asha Rani An­gu­rala. Judge Re­becca Crane 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 Fe­bru­aryMarch 2000'.

But she still re­fused to ex­tra­dite him be­cause she felt his hu­man rights would be vi­o­lated in Ti­har jail. She ruled: 'There are strong grounds for believ­ing that 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. In the other case, Judge Emma Ar­buth­not ruled that it would be un­just to ex­tra­dite the cou­ple be­cause of long de­lays from the CBI. Let us look at why In­dia fails at ex­tra­di­tion so of­ten.

The ev­i­dence that In­dia pro­duces is from agen­cies like Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion. Un­der the present gov­ern­ment the agency has lost all its cred­i­bil­ity. Its top two of­fi­cers have blamed each other for cor­rup­tion and the Supreme Court has had to in­ter­vene. The se­cond is our ju­di­ciary and the re­spect it com­mands.

In a re­cent case of jour­nal­ist Ab­hi­jit Iyer Mi­tra, who asked for bail be­cause he felt his life would be un­der threat in jail, Chief Jus­tice Ran­jan Go­goi said: 'If your life is in dan­ger, then what bet­ter place to stay than jail?'

I will leave it to read­ers to de­ter­mine how the world would view this.

The third thing is the con­di­tion of our jails.

In March 2013, Ram Singh, one of the ac­cused in the in­fa­mous Nirb­haya case, per­haps the most im­por­tant crim­i­nal case of our gen­er­a­tion, was found hang­ing in his small cell in Ti­har.

The Ti­har law of­fi­cer and spokesman said it was un­clear if this was mur­der or sui­cide.

Singh had se­verely in­jured both his arms in an ac­ci­dent in 2009 and a metal rod had to be in­serted in his right arm, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for him to even bend it or clench his fist.

In order to com­mit sui­cide, Singh would have had to rip apart a sheet, tie it to an eight-foot high grill on the ceil­ing, reach­ing out with the help of a medium-sized plas­tic bucket, and hang him­self -- all with­out wak­ing up the three other in­mates sleep­ing in the same tiny cell in the dead of night.

In 1995, the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia sent the CBI to ex­tra­dite Iqbal Mirchi. I was a ses­sions court re­porter in Mum­bai at that time. Mirchi's lawyer, Shyam Keswani, gave me the doc­u­ment that the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia was giv­ing the Bri­tish mag­is­trates.

It was a 200 page chargesheet. None of the first 199 pages re­ferred to the ac­cused. The last page said: 'Also wanted in the case, one Iqbal Me­mon alias Mirchi.' Of course, the Bri­tish judges threw the case out.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi has told the G20 that they should im­ple­ment in­ter­na­tional prin­ci­ples on transna­tional or­gan­ised crime and that the na­tions should co­op­er­ate more ac­tively.

Un­for­tu­nately for us, many of these are rule of law na­tions, mean­ing that their ju­di­ciary is ac­tu­ally in­de­pen­dent. They will ob­serve and ac­cept the ab­scond­ing per­son's ar­gu­ment that in In­dia the in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies, ju­di­ciary and jail sys­tem are prob­lem­atic. This can­not be de­nied, even by us.

The prob­lem is not ex­ter­nal and our fo­cus should not be on what the other na­tions should be do­ing. Our pro­posal to G20 is mean­ing­less in that sense.

We have to look in­ward. We have to fol­low our own laws and pro­cesses prop­erly so that we are re­spected by the world as a rule of law state.

At the mo­ment, and this should shame all of us, we are not.

Aakar Pa­tel -- win­ner of the 2018 Prem Bha­tia Award for Po­lit­i­cal Re­port­ing -- is Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional In­dia. The views ex­pressed here are his own.

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