A London appeals court has reversed earlier pressure to speed up the extradition process Nirav Modi, Now it seems unlikely that a final decision will be taken in the matter this year. And the chances of extradition are now dwindling.
Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert J ruled on Tuesday that two psychiatrists who gave evidence in support of Nirav Modi should return to testify in the Court of Appeal. The earliest possible date for this may be October. The judges have set three days for the hearing, which will include the evidence and cross-examination of psychiatrists.
Further, the judges accepted the demand of Nirav Modi’s defense team to hear fresh arguments from the retired Supreme Court India judge Markandey Katju Who had earlier given evidence to the magistrate’s court in support of Nirav Modi’s case that he should not be extradited to India. Katju told a London court over a video link that India is a Nazi-like state where there will be no fair trial on Nirav Modi. He told the Westminster Magistrates’ Court that it should not rely on India’s offer of a sovereign guarantee that Nirav Modi will get proper medical care.
Now Katju is being invited to give evidence again, although the appeal is limited to hearing on Nirav Modi’s mental health condition and his claimed tendency to commit suicide. It is expected that this time Katju will tell the London High Court that the Government of India cannot be trusted. He is known to colorfully promote such ideas.
It is not common for an appeals court to summon new evidence. It is being sought because of the time elapsed between the presentations in the magistrate’s court two years ago and the present circumstances in this case. Nirav Modi was arrested on March 20, 2019, and has since been lodged in London’s Wandsworth Jail on judicial remand.
During this, he has sought bail seven times. That petition has been rejected every time.
These new procedures have been introduced by the Court of Appeal against the urgency it had indicated earlier.
At a hearing on December 14 last year, Judge Stuart-Smith observed that both appeals court judges were “very concerned” with the delay in the case. “He should either be released or extradited,” he said. Nirav Modi was then in jail on remand for about three years. He is now in his fourth year in prison – on remand, without trial or conviction.
Moving towards an early verdict, the two judges set a timetable for a decision in the case at the beginning of the new year. Nirav Modi’s team was given a week’s notice on November 13 to file any objections in writing to the new assurance from the Indian government that he would be well looked after in custody. The Government of India was asked to respond within two days of the receipt of the Nirav Modi team’s submission.
Such was his declared flurry that the judges had earlier indicated that they would give only one day to the Government of India to respond. That response time was then extended by two days after the defense said they would need more time to register their objection to the new assurances from the Indian government. Justice Jai told the court that he would summarize the position of both the parties by January 4 and the court would give further directions within a week.
That urgency vanished after that hasty timetable was announced. Far from proceeding within days, it took more than six months for the next hearing to come up on June 28. Meanwhile, some “further directions” were agreed privately between the two sides.
Judges still insist they are fast-tracking the case. Nirav Modi’s defense argued that in light of the changed scenario – all resulting in judicial delays – the matter should be sent back for re-trial at the district court level. Both the judges ruled that it would remain in their court.
Nirav Modi is now able to advance the new defenses in ways not previously expected. The matter will now be debated again in a succinct manner and on crucial issues.
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