Mumbai: Businessman Vijay Mallya’s arrest in London on Tuesday on behalf of India was swiftly followed by him being produced at a magistrate’s court before being released on bail.
But the road ahead for India’s extradition request may be considerably longer—Tuesday’s arrest was no more than the first formal step in what could be a long and complex process, said legal experts.
In India, Mallya has nine non-bailable warrants issued against him by special investigative courts and magistrate’s court in relation to various alleged violations of law.
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The extradition proceedings were initiated by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) following a request by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI on 25 January filed a chargesheet against Mallya and 10 others on charges of fraud and criminal conspiracy for defrauding IDBI Bank Ltd of Rs950 crore.
According to CBI, the bank officials had entered into a criminal conspiracy with the executives of Mallya’s now defunct Kingfisher Airlines for “misutilisation, misappropriation and diversion of funds".
Advocate Abad Ponda said that while initiation of the extradition process showed “good intent", much depended on the efforts made by Indian authorities to get Mallya back. Ponda, who practices criminal law, is also representing the bankers who were arrested in the IDBI Bank loan case.
“While the intent is good, extradition is a long, tardy, cumbersome process. It all depends on how much effort the Indian authorities have made for a strong case for his extradition. His (Mallya’s) extradition is crucial to take the CBI investigation to its logical conclusion," he said.
Ramesh Vaidyanathan, managing partner at Advaya Legal, said the timeline to take the extradition process to a logical conclusion could be anything between 18 months and 24 months.
“It all depends on whether the court feels that a conviction is possible. The first level will include a full hearing before the district court that may happen sometime next month, then hearing before the high court and the Supreme Court."
Ujjwal Nikam, a public prosecutor who has represented India in similar cases, said extradition is a complicated process.
Nikam represented India in the high- profile extradition case of music director, Nadeem Akhtar Saifi, in connection with music producer Gulshan Kumar’s murder in the 1990s. The government has failed to get Saifi extradited. The UK court also imposed costs on the Indian government.
“Extradition is a complicated process, where the evidence put together by the Indian authorities against any person will be examined by the law of a foreign land. Compelling evidence compiled by the Indian investigative agencies through the MEA is the only way the extradition proceedings will move forward," said Nikam.
According to the MEA website, 62 people have been extradited to India from foreign jurisdiction. Only one person has been extradited from the UK with the majority of extraditions coming from the United Arab Emirates.
This is not the first time that the Indian government has tried to get Mallya back to India. The first extradition request sent in 2016 did not find favour with the UK authorities due to the lack of a chargesheet.
“The first request was more for not paying the banks their dues, which is not a fit case for extradition. A chargesheet makes for a case of financial fraud," said Vaidyanathan.
Separately, the Enforcement Directorate, which is investigating a money laundering case, has also secured a special court order to invoke the India-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to get Mallya to India.
A consortium of bankers led by the State Bank of India claim that they are owed more than Rs9,000 crore by the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines