UK court asks for video of Mumbai jail cell where Mallya will be held

Vidya Ram London | Updated on July 31, 2018

Vijay Mallya leaves Westminster Magistrates court in London, Britain, July 31, 2018.   -  Reuters

Extradition hearing to continue in September as defence insists govt assurances “cannot be relied upon”

India has three weeks to submit a video showing the natural light available to inmates of Barrack 12 of Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai as Vijay Mallya’s defence team claimed the Indian government’s assurances “cannot be relied upon” . The closing oral submissions that were due to be held on Tuesday have been postponed to September 12, after the judge was unable to hear the case as scheduled.

During the brief hearing on Tuesday, prosecution barrister Mark Summers updated the judge on some of the prosecution’s recent submissions, since the last hearing on April 27, including the decision by the Court of Appeal in London to reject Mallya’s application to appeal the decision of a lower court to enforce the worldwide freezing order of his assets, and the registration of the Karnataka District Court’s judgment against Mallya in London.

Assurances on Barrack 12

Summers then turned to additional assurances that had been provided to the judge, who had expressed concerns over a National Human Rights Commission of India inspection from 2017 that reported concerns around conditions and overcrowding.

Wider statistics applying to Mumbai Central Prison on Arthur Road didn’t apply to Barrack 12, he insisted. Barrack 12 was “clean and hygienic and overcrowding does not arise,” he insisted, pointing to other documentation on the structural integrity of the building, and sanitation facilities. The government’s contention was that there was “no need for there to be an inspection,” he concluded. He also confirmed that authorities intended to hold Mallya, if extradited, at Barrack 12 both during the trial and pre-trial as well as, if convicted, for the length of any sentence.

However, the most contentious point proved to be the assurance on natural light available to prisoners at Barrack 12, supported by photographs from the government. The government’s assurances “cannot be relied upon,” insisted Defence Barrister Clare Montgomery, who insisted that because the barracks were encased in a steel outer shell, the light shown in the government pictures, were the result of a “manipulation” of doors, and lighting and couldn’t be the natural light they contended it was. “What harm is there in having an inspection,” she asked the judge, who instead asked the prosecution to provide a video taken at midday that showed the lighting to allay concerns. “I am not expecting direct sunlight,” the judge explained. The prosecution agreed to provide the additional information.

The judge adjourned the hearing till September 12, explaining she was “unable” to hear the case on the day.

The hearing on the Indian government’s efforts to extradite Mallya to face charges of fraud and money laundering kicked off in December, but has been beset by delays and requests for further clarification and assurances. A separate case has been going through a London commercial court, brought by a consortium of 13 public sector banks seeking to recover £1.145 billion worth of assets. Last week, the Court of Appeal rejected Mallya’s attempt to appeal the commercial court’s decision on the Karnataka judgment and the WFO.

Mallya, who broke his silence in June to accuse the government of pursuing a politically motivated case against him, said on Tuesday that he had made a “comprehensive offer” to the Karnataka Court to settle dues. “The question of stealing money, money laundering are all blatantly false…Now that the assets are before the court I am in the hands of the court. I hope this will all end.”

Published on July 31, 2018

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