All the signs are that Nirav Modi may soon be out on bail. A bail hearing is due November 6, being held against all expectations, and against the direction of the legal path in the case so far. This will be his fifth attempt to get bail, and he could well get fifth time lucky.
He was first refused bail at the Westminster Magistrates Court after his arrest in March of this year. His lawyers made a second attempt, doubling the security offered to a million pounds, with an offer of 24-hour tagging and curfew. This too was turned down. A third hearing could be held only if his lawyers could show a change in circumstances. This was allowed after he offered to raise the security offered to two million pounds, that being seen as a change in the circumstances for considering bail. This was not accepted either. Nirav Modi then went in appeal to the High Court. His plea there included the submission of a confidential medical report citing extreme anxiety and depression as a reason to be granted bail. This plea too was turned down. So if now a fifth plea is to be heard back at the Westminster Court, and now that it is, it would have to rest on a very significant change of circumstances.
That change of circumstances would have to be significant enough to be near dramatic. The likely basis would be an urgency to be pleaded over his medical condition. He has looked well enough through his appearance in court from jail via video link every 28 days that his remand in jail is extended. He has spoken minimally but confidently to confirm his name and date of birth to the magistrate. The next such appearance is due on November 11 but it won’t, of course, happen if he gets bail November 6. It would seem that if a medical report has been good enough to bring a new consideration of bail after four refusals, it could be good enough for him to get bail. That would bring him back to his penthouse at Centre Point in London, that overlooks all of Central London. His extradition trial is due to be held only in May of next year, so there’s a lot of time before that to play for.
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Who can remember a more mixed up time in British politics? An election that’s a part referendum, ahead of an idea of Brexit crowded with ever-evolving ifs and buts. A deal from Boris Johnson that his friend across the Atlantic says, helpfully for him no doubt, is too compromised, and that some in his own party think is not compromised enough. On the other side, a Labour stand on Brexit that has been clear to no one and doesn’t look like getting any clearer now. And the final ‘if’ over the election, what if it produces more of the same. And then what if Brexit doesn’t happen, and what if it does. The strongest vote against Brexit came from Scotland and from London. Would it be the same Britain exiting the EU if Scotland quits Britain itself since London can’t possibly?
Through all this, it gets yet more mixed up for the Indian voter, a million and a half of them. That can be a precious number if the results are close, even a make or break number. Consider that we’d have had no election at all now if Boris Johnson had a majority of ten more in parliament. Ten of the present MPs came in with a majority of 75 votes or less – the MP from North Fife constituency in Scotland got in with a majority of just two votes. If Indian votes have immense tipping potential but so do Pakistani votes. People of Pakistani origin are a couple of hundred thousand less than Indians but can count more in an election because Pakistanis vote Labour as a bloc; Indians vote individually, as do mainstream voters. There’s more of ‘the Pakistani vote’ than there is by way of any ‘Indian vote’.
Between Indians and Pakistanis in Britain, new developments over Kashmir have up opened up a new subcontinental partitioning. The Pakistani foreign ministry has gone official over this: “We fully support (Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn’s stand on Kashmir as an issue to be internationalised and look forward to him being the next PM.” The Indian government hasn’t said anything correspondingly undiplomatic to support the Conservatives. But new groups are getting active around Britain encouraging Indians who traditionally vote Labour to rethink their decisions.
On then to the next mix in the pot. Where do you choose between the vote for the individual and for the party? Say with Labour MP Virendra Sharma who is a pukka Indian. A new question arises every day now, around every political corner. Behind all these, to ask only one more, for now, will Britain will come out of the corner it’s gotten itself into, or corner itself yet further.
London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around.
Read his columns here.