Former SC judge Markandey Katju bats for Nirav Modi in UK court

Former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju will depose as a witness in a UK court against the extradition of fugitive economic offender Nirav Modi, reported Live Law.

Justice Markandey Katju told Live Law he will testify in the court proceedings before London's Westminster Magistrates' Court tomorrow via video conferencing. He further said that he will not speak before the court anything on the merits of the criminal case against Nirav Modi. Katju has already submitted his written statement.

A UK Court is currently holding a trial on the Indian government’s plea seeking the extradition of the diamond merchant.

Justice Markandey Katju said that he will oppose the Indian government's plea for extradition, as Nirav Modi is unlikely to get a free and fair trial in India. He added that Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in one of his press conferences, has already labelled Nirav Modi as a criminal. Katju alleged that the Indian judiciary is being subservient to the Narendra Modi government.

Meanwhile, the prison conditions in India and Nirav Modi's fragile mental health were once again in focus during the diamond merchant's ongoing extradition hearing related to the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Wednesday.

The third day of the five-day hearing, presided over by Justice Samuel Goozee, was devoted to the defence laying out further arguments against a prima facie case of fraud and money laundering against Modi, who observed the court proceedings via live videolink from Wandsworth Prison in London where he has been lodged since his arrest in March last year.

The 49-year-old jeweller seemed particularly inanimate through most part of the day, with the judge at one point pausing the hearing to check if the videolink had frozen and asked Modi to keep moving from time to time so the court can be sure he is still connected to the proceedings.

Modi's defence team, led by barrister Clare Montgomery, raised further issues around the conditions at Barrack 12 at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where he is to be lodged on being extradited, claiming it is covered in its entirety in a blue metallic cover since it housed a terrorist in 2007. This makes the barrack "incredibly hot", with other problems such as damp, dust, insects and rodents, she quoted testimony as saying.

Besides fears related to a COVID-19 outbreak earlier in the year, references were also made to a medical expert's "addendum report" which highlighted "much more serious" concerns around Modi's mental health.

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