Visuals of the fugitive businessman may anger us but extradition from UK is a complex process
The visuals of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, the key accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam, roaming freely in London may have challenged our sense of comeuppance but fact is that they have very little impact on his extradition process. Reports in a UK daily may point to his privileged lifestyle in Central London, his walking a pet cat regularly, his new diamond business or a UK insurance number but as MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, these don’t automatically mean he can be brought back immediately and India can only reiterate its urgency to expedite the extradition process, the request for which was made last August. Neither can he be arrested despite an Interpol notice.
Though we have an extradition treaty with the UK, only one out of 28 fugitives that India most wants has been sent back in the last decade. The extradition process is so intricately complex and painstakingly time-consuming that most offenders seek refuge in that country. Even if we go by immediate examples, then the government has yet to get back runaway businessman Vijay Mallya. While extradition proceedings have been formally initiated against Mallya now, nothing of consequence has been initiated against Nirav Modi, who is reportedly seeking political asylum in the UK. There are layers and layers of inquiry and cross-checks of the veracity of the claims for extradition there, no matter how serious the offence may appear to us. Besides, an appeal for asylum, which would but naturally imply a threat perception of the fugitive in his home country, is vetted seriously there. Extradition isn’t easy as it involves conflicting sovereign interests. While the requesting state seeks to prosecute offenders pursuant to its interests and powers, the state where the fugitive is located looks into its own interests and rights too. These pertain to a whole subset of technicalities, be they treaty obligations, different laws, the prerogative to grant asylum and the most pertinent, the protection of human rights. The UK has obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights and this clause has been repeatedly milked by our offenders. Mallya claimed immunity, citing a biased media trial back home that could impair a fair inquiry and our poor prison conditions, which compared to UK standards, will always appear short. Therefore, the hostile prison conditions ruse works in UK courts, delaying processes. Mallya has even claimed government persecution, contending that the CBI isn’t independent, is influenced by the government and hence proceedings against him would be oppressive, unjust and a political witch hunt. And Article 9 of the Extradition Treaty between India and the UK recognises these as a ground to deny requests of the home country. Meanwhile, the action against errant banks and its officials who overlooked clearances, should be big enough to set a deterrent.