"Are Indians normally very prompt in their responses?" asked chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot as the British counsel representing India in Vijay Mallya's extradition case in Westminster Magistrates' Court in London said he needed more time to provide further evidence in the case.
The comment by the judge is a telling statement on the evidence-gathering exercise led by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) despite months of noise. From government agencies to politicians, everyone at the Centre has been claiming that they have enough evidence to bring Mallya to justice.
However, what the court witnessed during the hearing on Tuesday conveyed quite the opposite.
The Indian government, more specifically the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), failed to present evidence to support its request to extradite Mallya to India to face charges of alleged fraud.
The CBI has alleged that Mallya colluded with senior executives of IDBI Bank to obtain a loan of Rs 900 crores despite his Kingfisher Airlines’ “weak financial position and low credit rating”. However, it did not provide enough evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to present before the court to prove its case.
Aaron Watkins, appearing for the CPS on behalf of India, pleaded that he hadn't received the necessary evidence from the CBI to make progress. This was despite authorities being given four weeks to facilitate the receipt of proof to substantiate the argument.
“We have not received final evidence,” Watkins admitted in the court. He also said that no date has been provided as to when the evidence would arrive. He submitted that additional charges besised alleged fraud in obtaining loan from IDBI had not arrived, either.
On this, judge Arbuthnot asked, "Are Indians normally very prompt in their responses?" adding that "they have taken six months so far and we haven't got any further forward in the past 6 weeks."
An initial case management hearing date of May 17 had been postponed to June 13.
Watkins responded that the Crown Prosecution Service had “a good and close working relationship” with the CBI.
The delay by the Indian side comes despite a meeting between a joint team of CBI and ED officials with the CPS in London last month to thrash out details of the case.
"Our aim is to build a strong, infallible case and these meetings will help resolve issues across the table. The CPS will be arguing based on documents provided by CBI and ED, therefore a joint team is here to address queries they may have," official sources had said after the meeting held in early May.
A CBI official had also flown in from Delhi for the hearing on Tuesday.
61-year-old embattled business tycoon Vijay Mallya, who is facing a slew of cases in India over his default case involving Rs 9,000 crore worth loans, on Tuesday taunted Indian media saying "you can keep dreaming about a billion pounds."
The court also exempted Mallya from personal appearance for the next hearing slated for July 6 and extended his bail until December 4, when the final hearing of the case is likely to begin.
Mallya's defence team, which is being led by the firm Joseph Hague Aaronson LLP, said a second extradition request is expected from the Indian government. Mallya has been in the UK since March 2016 and was arrested by Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant on April 18.
He had attended a central London police station for his arrest and was released on conditional bail a few hours later after providing a bail bond worth 650,000 pounds, assuring the court of abiding by all conditions associated with extradition proceedings, such as the surrender of his passport and a ban on him possessing any travel documents.
If the District Judge rules in favour of extradition at the end of the trial, the UK home secretary must order Mallya’s extradition within two months of the appropriate day. However, the case can go through a series of appeals before arriving at a conclusion.