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Nirav Modi appeal: Retired Bombay HC Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog to give evidence in UK court

Retired Justice Nandrajog will give evidence on the sovereign assurance given by the government of India, and on the status of accessing private healthcare in Arthur Road Jail, Mumbai.

June 30, 2022 / 06:59 AM IST
Nirav Modi secured a UK Tier 1 investor visa in 2015. He was spotted in London in March 2019 by 'The Telegraph' reporters. Modi has remained in Wandsworth prison since his arrest in March 2019.

Nirav Modi secured a UK Tier 1 investor visa in 2015. He was spotted in London in March 2019 by 'The Telegraph' reporters. Modi has remained in Wandsworth prison since his arrest in March 2019.

Nirav Modi's appeal against the Westminster Magistrates' Court judgment that found no bars to his extradition to India, could take as long as the extradition trial itself.

Modi is wanted in India on charges of fraud and money-laundering to the tune of $2 billion.

The Westminster Magistrates' Court had given its judgment in the extradition case in February 2021 - that verdict had come after a trial which lasted just under two years.

The delay in Modi's appeal has been caused by the high court ruling on Tuesday, allowing evidence by Pradeep Nandrajog, retired chief justice of the Bombay High Court, and one psychiatrist from both sides.

This happened because the evidential landscape has changed substantially since the lower court's decision. The crux of Nirav Modi's appeal is on the issue of mental health and whether or not he will be in a position to resist the urge to commit suicide in Arthur Road jail.

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Justice Nandrajog will give evidence on the sovereign assurance given by the government of India, and on the status of accessing private healthcare in Arthur Road Jail.

The high court has directed that both the psychiatrists must prepare a memorandum containing separately the points on which they agree and disagree. Both the health experts will be cross-examined and so will be Justice Nandrajog, which promises a slice of the ferocious arguments made before Judge Sam Goozee of the Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Usually, it is the trial court that hears evidence and cross-examination, but the high court has the power to admit fresh evidence which was not available during the trial.

Generally, if vast amount of fresh evidence is allowed during the appeal process, the case is remitted to the lower court, but in this case, the two-judge bench concluded that the fresh evidence will be tested in the high court itself.

This potentially prevented an even longer delay, because any ruling from the lower court could have been subject to another appeal in the high court.

Extradition is a rather busy field of law in England. The barrage of cases that reaches the courts pertains to individuals from around the world, which means that the fast-evolving case laws offer immense scope in terms of new arguments or points of law. The development in the Nirav Modi appeal case reflects this position of London as an popular centre for fugitives.

In the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, much like Nirav Modi, the courts here agreed that Assange has mental health issues and poses a risk for suicide, but that the assurances given by the USA assuage those concerns.

Now that a retired chief justice will be giving evidence on behalf of Nirav Modi, it will be interesting to see how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) representing India will counter him. During the trial, Justice Markandey Katju and Abhay Thipsay gave evidence and were cross-examined by the CPS in the Westminster Magistrates' court.

In December 2021, when the appeal was first heard, the high court had spoken about the delay in the case and highlighted the long period for which Nirav Modi remained in jail - unable to get bail, Modi has remained in Wandsworth prison since his arrest in March 2019.

During the proceedings on Tuesday, however, there was no such reference to his long incarceration, which in all likelihood will continue into 2023.
Danish Khan is a London-based independent journalist and author of 'Escaped: True Stories of Indian fugitives in London'. He is researching Indian capitalism at University of Oxford.
first published: Jun 29, 2022 06:54 pm
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