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'India is a country governed by rule of law': Key observations in Sanjay Bhandari extradition case

District Judge Michael Snow, who heard the case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London earlier this year, concluded that there are no bars to him being extradited and decided to send the case to UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

India TV News Desk Edited By: India TV News Desk New Delhi Updated on: November 09, 2022 19:22 IST
Sanjay Bhandari, Sanjay Bhandari extradition case, Sanjay Bhandari extradition to India
Image Source : PTI UK court approves extradition of arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari to India

“India is a friendly country governed by the rule of law," a UK court said on Monday, as it allowed the extradition of Sanjay Bhandari, an accused middleman and consultant in arms deals, to India. Bhandari is set to face charges of tax evasion and money laundering in the country. 

The 60-year-old faced two extradition requests from the Indian authorities, the first related to money laundering and the second to tax evasion.

"Indian judges are impartial and independent," Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London observed in the case. 

"Criminal proceedings in India are governed by the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure. At each stage of a criminal trial, every accused has the right to seek a remedy from the High Court and the Supreme Court of India," it said. 

Bhandari, who was resident in India for tax purposes at the time in 2015, is accused of concealing overseas assets, using backdated documents, benefiting from the assets not declared to the Indian tax authorities and then falsely informing the authorities that he did not possess any overseas assets.

He, however, denies the allegations.

Also Read | When Ravi Shankar Prasad said Sanjay Bhandari's links with Cong leaders should be investigated

Earlier this year, District Judge Michael Snow, who heard the case at Westminster's Court, concluded that there are no bars to him being extradited. 

The judge further decided to send the case to UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is authorised to order the extradition based on the court order.

“As I am satisfied that extradition is compatible with the defendant’s Convention rights, I must send this case to the Secretary of State [Braverman] for a decision as to whether the defendant is to be extradited,” Judge Snow said in his judgment.

“However, I only do so on the basis of the Assurances that have been provided by the Government,” he said, with reference to Indian government assurances that Bhandari will be held in a separate cell at Tihar Jail in New Delhi with relevant healthcare provisions while he faces trial in India.

The judge also concluded a prima facie case had been established with respect to both extradition requests.

“He failed to declare his overseas income and assets... He benefited from the income and assets that had not been declared. A reasonable jury can properly infer benefit from his undeclared income and purchase of substantial assets overseas,” the judgment read.

Sanjay Bhandari's arrest and bail

The Indian government’s extradition request for Bhandari had been certified by then UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in June 2020 and he was arrested on an extradition warrant the following month that year.

The London-based businessman has been on bail on security provided to the court as he fought extradition on the cases against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED).

According to the court documents, Bhandari is wanted in India for intended prosecution for an offence of money laundering contrary to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002 and for offences of tax evasion contrary to the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Asset), Imposition of Tax Act 2015 and Income Tax Act 1961.

The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), on behalf of the Indian authorities, argued that Bhandari's conduct amounts to "fraud by false representation" in the British jurisdiction.

Bhandari’s defence team had sought to argue against the prima facie case and also on human rights grounds, claiming a "real risk" that he would be subjected to torture by the police and of a breach of his Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) rights because of the conditions in Indian prisons, from “non-state agents and from the prison guards”.

Also Read | When CBI booked Sanjay Bhandari, others in Pilatus aircraft deal

Sanjay Bhandari extradition to India - The conditions

Assurance has been given by the Government of India, the court said. 

  • The defendant will be kept in the cells of Ward No. 4 at Central Jail No. 3, Tihar. Normally, three inmates can be lodged in a single cell of that ward. However, in the case of the defendant, he may be kept alone in the cell
  • The defendant will be provided with all basic amenities in accordance with the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018. The cells have proper ventilation and hygienic conditions. Clean and drinkable water is available. Access will be ensured to natural light, clean sanitary facilities, outdoor exercises, sports and recreational activities, security surveillance (through CCTV monitoring and other mechanisms), medical care and liberty to religious practice in a violence-free environment. A menu of nutritious food is decided by a committee of officers including a dietician and a doctor
  • The defendant will be allowed reasonable facilities for seeing or communicating with family members, relatives, friends and legal advisers twice a week

Also Read | Nirav Modi to be extradited to India, after he loses appeal in UK court

 

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