Vijay Mallya today appeared before the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London for the hearing on his extradition proceedings. During the hearing, the court is expected to review the video of the jail cell where Mallya will be incarcerated after he is extradited to India. Depending on its findings, the London court will take a final call on handing over the absconding liquor baron to India.
In earlier hearings, Mallya's defence team had called for an inspection of the Barrack 12 of Mumbai's Arthur Road jail to ascertain whether it meets the UK's human rights obligations regarding extradition proceedings. The cell in question is where Mallya will be held once he is extradited to India, during his trial in Indian courts, and later if he is convicted in the cases against him.
Mallya's lawyers had argued that the cell does not receive enough natural light and lacks other facilities, which could affect Mallya's health. In response, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing the case on behalf of India authorities, had stressed that the Indian government has provided adequate material which renders the need for a physical inspection unnecessary. This led to the demand of video recording of the prison cell for review by the Westminster Magistrates' Court.
During the last hearing in July, Judge Emma Arbuthnot had asked Indian authorities to submit a step by step video of the of the Mumbai prison to clear the doubt on availability on natural light. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which has been arguing the extradition case on the behalf of Indian authorities, had submitted the video of the jail cell it received from the Central Bureau of Investigation last month.
In the eight-minute video, jail officials explain how Barrack 12 is properly sunlit and well-aired. The video also explains that Mallya will be provided with clean bed linen and pillows, as well as regularly maintained washing and toilet facilities.
Mallya has been engaged in a legal battle over his extradition to India on charges of banking fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore. He has been out on bail on the extradition warrant since his arrest in UK last April. The former Kingfisher Airlines boss has promised to pay back the amount he owes Indian banks. He still will have to face criminal proceedings in India.
Upon being asked outside the court whether he has the means to pay what he said he will, Mallya replied, "Obviously, that's why a settlement offer has been made." The next hearing in this regard is on September 18.
The extradition trial, which opened at the London court on December 4 last year, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against Vijay Mallya.
It also seeks to prove there are no "bars to extradition" and that the tycoon is assured a fair trial in India over his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines' alleged default of over Rs 9,000 crores in loans from a consortium of Indian banks.
The Crown Prosecution Service has argued that the evidence they have presented establishes "dishonesty" on the part of the businessman and that there are no bars to him being extradited from the UK to face Indian courts.
Vijay Mallya's defence team has deposed a series of expert witnesses to claim he had no "fraudulent" intentions and that he is unlikely to get a fair trial in India.
Edited by Vivek Punj with PTI inputs