Even as embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya was granted permission to appeal against his extradition order in the UK High Court, India suffered another setback as its extradition request in a murder case was turned down by a court here.
The 63-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss welcomed a second chance to disprove the case of fraud and money laundering against him, as the High Court granted him leave to appeal on the grounds of the prima facie case presented by the Indian authorities.
Meanwhile on the same day, July 2, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot of Westminster Magistrates’ Court handed down her judgment in a case involving an Indian-origin British citizen Arti Dhir and her husband Kaval Raijada, wanted in India for the murder of their adopted 11-year-old boy Gopal and his brother-in-law.
Judge Arbuthnot, incidentally the same judge who had found a prima facie case against Mallya in her ruling in favour of extradition in December 2018, “discharged” Dhir and Raijada on human rights grounds under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“In the light of my finding that Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada if extradited will be subject to an irreducible sentence, I find there are substantial grounds for believing that they would face a real risk of being subjected to treatment, a lack of review of a life sentence, which would be inhuman and degrading. This would be a breach of Article 3,” notes Arbuthnot in her ruling.
The judge did find that “there is a circumstantial prima facie case that Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada acting together and with others committed the offences”.
The Indian government had provided an assurance that the death penalty would not apply in their case and also some additional assurances, which came in later than the timeframe stipulated by the court.
Judge Arbuthnot warns in her ruling: “Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada should be aware of the following, that it is possible that one of two things may happen. The first is that the State of Gujarat may change the law to ensure that a review of a life sentence for multiple murder which would be in accordance with Article 3 principles may take place. If that were the case the life sentence would no longer be irreducible. The matter would come back to this court and the remainder of the issues raised by the defendants would be considered.
“The second is that… There is strong evidence of money being sent from the defendants’ London bank account to the man who organised the killing. Relevant emails were exchanged between the United Kingdom and India. This evidence means it is not impossible for a prosecution to be initiated here”.
The case dates back to June 2017, when Dhir and Raijada were arrested on a provisional warrant in the UK and released on conditional bail following “substantial securities”.
According to details that emerged in court, the murder allegations against the duo are related to their adopted son Gopal Sejani and his brother-in-law Harsukhbhai Kardani in February 2017 in India.
Both Londoners are alleged to have adopted Gopal, an orphan farm boy from Gujarat, insured his life and then arranged for his murder.
He was attacked, kidnapped, stabbed and he died from his injuries on February 11, 2017, near Rajkot.
Kardani tried to prevent the kidnapping and was stabbed in the process and also died a few days later.
Dhir and Raijada are said to have arranged for the child to be killed with a number of others, including Raijada’s father and one Nitish Mund.
An investigation by Gujarat police has claimed that the accused hatched a plot to adopt Gopal and then insure him for around Rs 13 million(£151,000) before staging his kidnapping and murder in India to split the life insurance payout three ways.
Dhir, who worked at Heathrow Airport, allegedly met Mund and Raijada while they were students in London and had plotted the murder for many years. Interpol issued a “red notice” for Dhir in April 2017 before she was arrested by Scotland Yard a few months later.
The full extradition hearing in the case took place in January with a further hearing last month before its conclusion this week.