Victory for India: Chawla case sent to UK lower court for re-trial

Vidya Ram London | Updated on November 17, 2018

India secured a legal victory in the UK on Friday as the High Court in London quashed a previous decision by a lower court to discharge alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla who India had sought to extradite.

The case will now return to the lower court for a new trial, after new assurances provided by India showed there was “no real risk that Chawla will be subjected to impermissible treatment in Tihar prisons,” said the judgement by Lord Justice Leggatt and Justice Dingemans at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Risk ruled out

In October 2017 District Court Judge Rebecca Crane had ordered Chawla’s discharge despite there being a prima facie case against him in the match-fixing scandal in early 2000, because of the conditions in Tihar prisons in New Delhi, which led her to conclude there was a risk of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights being contravened.

This article states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Following a hearing in April, in a May judgement, the judges also ruled of the risk of Article 3 contravention but said India should have the chance to offer assurances relating to the personal space for Chawla, toilet and medical facilities and also how India would ensure he was free from the risk of intra-prisoner violence in high security wards.

In June Indian provided further assurances including that Chawla would be accommodated only in a single cell with proper safety and security and not within a high security ward, and would house inmates with “satisfactory conduct.”

There were also reassurances around medical provision provided that the court saw as a “sufficient assurance.” They noted India’s “solemn diplomatic assurance” around four specific cells that Chawla would be held in.

Significant judgement

The judge had also rejected a defence application for Alan Mitchell, a prison expert who has also testified for Vijay Mallya’s defence team in the extradition case against him, to provide further testimony, noting he had not been provided with access to Tihar. “This application was refused because no reason had been given to explain why Mitchell should comment on the adequacy of the assurances.”

The judgement — while significant for India — is unlikely to impact the impending decision of Westminster Magistrates Court’s Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot on whether or not to extradite Vijay Mallya.

Arbuthnot, at the final hearing before a judgement is set for December 10, said that for her the key issue was the prima facie case against him.

The Chawla judgement also relates to specific conditions guaranteed to Chawla in Tihar jail, rather than any broad-brush assessment of Indian courts more widely.

A date is yet to be set for the case which will return to Westminster Magistrates Court.

Published on November 16, 2018

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