Extraditing Vijay Mallya

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Extraditing Vijay Mallya

His arrest raises hopes he will be sent to India

Controversial industrialist Vijay Mallya's arrest by London police on an extradition request by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the first small but significant step towards bringing him back to India to face trial in a slew of cases registered against him. He stands accused of defaulting on bank loan payments to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore, and has been ensconced in the UK, refusing to return to India. Scotland Yard acted on the plea apparently after getting the nod from higher authorities. The arrest is a boost to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA Government's image, which had come under attack by the opposition for the regime's supposed failure to bring the absconding industrialist to book. The Modi Government had been relentlessly pursuing the matter with the British authorities, and now it appears that the first breakthrough has taken place. But there need not be any over-celebration, because Mallya's return is still far from a done deal. The Kingfisher group chief will, without doubt, deploy all the legal muscle he can summon to fight against his extradition. He is now out on bail under stiff conditions, one of which is that he will not move from his present residence until further orders. A court shall begin hearing on the extradition plea from May 17, and among other things before it, the fact that Mallya has been declared a proclaimed offender by Indian authorities, will be of particular importance. The legal process could take months — even up to a year, according to some experts. As per reports, the UK Crown Office will argue the Indian Government's case before the court. But the court will need to be convinced that there is a fool-proof case of fraud against Mallya, made out by Indian agencies such as the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. The court will also have to be persuaded that there is no political or other vested interest in seeking the industrialist's extradition and that a trial against him is already on. If the prosecution convinces the court on these matters, then the judge will forward the extradition request to the Ministry concerned in the Theresa May Government for implementation.

It may be recalled that Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley had taken up the extradition matter forcefully with the British Chancellor of Exchequer Philip Hammond and as well as with May during his visit to the UK a couple of months ago, and both had agreed that economic offenders should not get a safe haven. Besides, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had discussed the matter with his British counterpart and impressed upon her the desirability of extraditing the proclaimed offender. Given this backdrop, New Delhi has cause to be pleased with the recent development, but it will have to sustain the push if it has to succeed in eventually laying its hands on Mallya. This case is also important because, while India and the UK signed an extradition treaty back in the early 1990s, the UK hasn't extradited a single person to India under this understanding. In one recent instance, a UK court had turned down the CBI's plea for the extradition of an Indian national accused of military leaks, on the ground that the agency did not supply credible evidence to back its charge. Will the Mallya case turn out to be different, with the Indian agencies demonstrating competence?

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