LONDON: The spider, it seems, may get ensnared in its own web.
The luck of billionaire fugitive Nirav Modi, who fled to the UK after allegedly taking part in India’s biggest-ever fraud on the State-run Punjab National Bank, seems to have run its course with the legal pathway cleared for his extradition.
A UK court ruled on Thursday that Modi indeed does have a case to answer before the Indian courts, quelling the speculation that he may 'never stand trial' because he is ‘depressed’ and has manifest ‘suicidal tendencies’.
The judgment will now land on the desk of British Home Secretary Priti Patel who has the authority to order a requested person's extradition after considering certain extraneous issues. For instance, under the provisions of the Extradition Act, she must consider the possible imposition of death penalty by Indian courts, in which case extradition cannot be ordered.
If this and certain other factors do not come into play, the minister must order extradition within two months of the day on which the District Judge referred his decision to the Secretary of State, in this case by the end of April.
The Home Secretary's order rarely goes against the court's conclusions. However, there is still the proverbial slip between the cup and the lip, as witnessed in the extradition case of former Kingfisher Airlines chief Vijay Mallya, who remains on bail in the UK while his asylum request is debated. So, it is still some way to go before Modi can be formally moved from Wandsworth Prison in London to Barrack 12 Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai and face trial in India.
The ministerial decision aside, the judge has informed Modi of his right to seek an appeal in the High Court and he has up to 14 days to make that application.
It is also possible to appeal to the UK Supreme Court but this is only possible if the High Court certifies that the appeal involves a point of law of general public importance, and either the High Court or the Supreme Court gives leave for the appeal to be made.
Modi's legal team did not immediately confirm if he intends to appeal against Thursday's ruling; in that case, he will remain behind bars at Wandsworth Prison on judicial remand until the next stage in the legal process.
VINDICATION OF INDIAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM:
UK court holds there is prima facie evidence against Nirav Modi of money laundering
Judge satisfied it could lead to conviction
Convinced conditions in Barack 12 at Arthur Road Jail are far better than those in his current cell in London
Judge feels Nirav will not be denied justice, if he is extradited
Debunks Modi's claim that Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tried to influence the case against the billionaire