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    London Eye: Nirav Modi case finally on the fast-track

    London Eye: Nirav Modi case finally on the fast-track

    London Eye: Nirav Modi case finally on the fast-track
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    By Sanjay Suri   IST (Published)

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    A decision had been expected on Tuesday but Edward Fitzgerald appearing for Nirav Modi sought time to submit objections over the fresh assurances given by the Indian government.

    The Nirav Modi extradition case is now on the fast-track to an early decision following the final hearings in his extradition appeal at the London High Court on Tuesday.
    Justices Stuart Smith and Justice Jay ordered defence for Nirav Modi to list their objections against extradition, particularly to fresh assurances given by the Indian government on November 13. Those objections will have to be shared with the Crown Prosecution Service representing the Indian government by Monday, December 20.
    The Indian government has been asked to file their response by 4 pm on Thursday, Dec. 23. That exchange will be considered by Justice Jay by Jan. 4. Within seven to 14 days of that he will list the case for further directions.
    The date for further directions may not be the date on which an order is passed, depending on the content of the submissions. But a decision is expected shortly now, likely within a matter of weeks.
    Justice Smith observed in court during the hearings on Tuesday that both the judges are “very concerned” about the length of time Nirav Modi has been in custody. He was arrested on March 21 in 2019, and he would be three years in jail this March, but a decision is now due well before then.
    “He should either be released, or extradited,” Justice Smith said.
    A decision had been expected on Tuesday but Edward Fitzgerald appearing for Nirav Modi sought time to submit objections over the fresh assurances given by the Indian government. Those assurances topped an earlier set of assurances submitted to the court.
    Justice Jay observed that the Indian government has promised specialist care for Nirav Modi in custody, with an ambulance at hand, access to private medical care, and constant access to his lawyers. “This may or may not be true, but this is what they say they will do. This may be the answer to the whole case.”
    He went on to remark that in the face of such assurances hearing over other issues raised by defence for Nirav Modi may not be necessary. Justice Smith added, “Whatever the Indian government produces, you (defence counsel for Modi) will say it is not good enough. This could go on forever.”
    The new set of dates now seek to compress the timetable over any further delays.
    Nirav defence
    The appeal was heard on the sole ground of Nirav Modi’s mental health and a claimed proneness to suicide. All other grounds on which the district judge ordered the extradition of Nirav Modi on Feb 25 this year were upheld by the High Court at the stage when he sought leave to appeal against the district court order.
    On the ground of mental health, the arguments amplified those presented before the district judge and the High Court earlier. Fitzgerald argued that Nirav Modi was in a state of deteriorating depression that made him suicide-prone, and that this would be exacerbated were he to be extradited.
    That argument was presented under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights that seeks to protect life, liberty and security, and under section 91 of Britain’s Criminal Justice Act 2003 that asks courts to consider the physical and mental state of a person before ordering extradition.
    Fitzgerald argued that medical facilities in India would be ill-equipped and inadequate to provide Nirav Modi the level of care he needs.
    “There is risk of suicide, the certainty of deterioration, and doubts whether he can get the treatment he would need in India,” Fitzgerald argued. If ill his recourse would be to a hospital that is “overcrowded, understaffed and that has been repeatedly criticised for the last few decades.”
    Assange
    At the heart of the case lies the question whether the court will accept sovereign guarantees from the Indian government as it has from the US government in the case of Julian Assange. There are striking legal parallels between the two cases.
    Assange too pleaded — through the same lawyer as in the Nirav Modi case — that he is mentally unwell and suicide-prone to resist extradition to the US. That was upheld by a lower court but overruled by the court of appeal that accepted a sovereign guarantee from the US that Assange would be well looked after and kept away from harsh detention conditions.
    As the judges observed, they ow face the question whether they should accept similar sovereign guarantees from India.
    — London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around.
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