India has sent a formal request to the United Kingdom for the extradition of absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi, the government informed the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. He is wanted on charges of involvement in the Rupees 3,500 crore PNB fraud case and is believed to have left India earlier this year.
On 2 July, the Interpol had put out a red corner notice on Nirav Modi. The government had suspended the passports of Modi and uncle Mehul Choksi, a co-accused in the case, for four weeks in February this year. There are unconfirmed reports that the two have travelled to several countries in the interim.
The government’s move came even as a UK court is in the process of deciding on a similar request from India for liquor baron Vijay Mallya.
What Is Extradition?
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is the designated nodal authority in India for these matters. It defines the process as “the surrender by one state to another” of a person who needs to be proceeded against for crimes in the courts of the other state.
This can be done under provisions of a treaty between the two countries (states) or under a special arrangement for a particular case in the absence of a treaty.
A country with which India has a treaty is obliged to consider an extradition request. In the absence of a treaty, the foreign country considers such requests in accordance with its own laws, and on assurances of reciprocity.
The legal basis is provided under the Extradition Act, 1962. It was enacted to consolidate and amend the existing laws related to the transfer of fugitive criminals from India to a foreign state and vice versa.
India has treaties with 42 countries, including the UK and the United States, and a special arrangement with nine others.
How The Process Works
The MEA processes requests from the following categories before deciding on approaching another country:
- States where the alleged offence has taken place.
- Courts of law were the fugitive offender is wanted.
- The Union Home Ministry on behalf of agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the National Investigation Agency (NIA)
The MEA then sends a formal extradition request to the country where a fugitive or absconding offender is believed to be residing in. Such requests are sent through diplomatic channels under the signature of the Minister for External Affairs.
This is accompanied by an affidavit or an undertaking by the investigating unit outlining why a particular person is wanted in India.
Once that foreign country completes its legal requirements, including relevant court hearings, and approves the extradition of a fugitive, the Indian law enforcement agency concerned sends an escorting team to that country to bring the offender back.
Successful Extraditions In The Past
High-profile cases where an extradition request has been successful include that of underworld gangster and 1993 Mumbai blasts case accused Abu Salem and his girlfriend Monica Bedi, who was wanted for passport fraud.
They were extradited from Lisbon in 2005 after a long-drawn legal process in Portugal. Since India does not have a treaty with Portugal, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had to give an undertaking that Salem would not be awarded the death sentence in keeping with Portugal’s laws.
A more recent case is that of underworld gangster Chhota Rajan (Rajendra Sadashiv Nickhale) who was brought back from Indonesia in 2015 to face charges of kidnapping and murder.
According to a list on the MEA’s official website, 65 people have been extradited to India between 2002 and 19 March 2018. This includes persons wanted for the Mumbai bomb blasts, acts of terrorism, waging or attempting to wage war against the Indian state, economic offences including bank frauds, and criminal offences like murder.