On February 25, the Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London accepted the contention of the Indian government to extradite Nirav Modi, who duped the Punjab National Bank of billions of rupees and fled the country when he found the noose around him tightening, saying that the evidence against him “is prima facie sufficient to order his extradition to India to face the charges”.
Delivering the verdict, Judge Sam Goozee said: “India is governed by it(s) written Constitution which has at its core the fundamental principle of the independence of the judiciary by virtue of the separation of powers between judiciary, the executive and the legislature. There is no cogent or reliable evidence that the judiciary in India are no longer independent, or capable of managing a fair trial even where it is a high-profile fraud with significant media interest. (sic)”
The verdict assumes great significance because it not only ensures that Nirav Modi will be brought back to face charges but also serves as a reminder to all fugitives, their protectors and those trying to defraud India that they can no longer just take a flight out of the country after duping Indian institutions and people hoping to find safe havens abroad. The law will catch up with them. This is a unique case where the government has succeeded in its attempt to extradite a fugitive hiding on foreign soil.
Allowing the extradition plea of the Indian government, Judge Goozee said: “Pulling all these findings together, I determine, on one possible view of the evidence, I am satisfied that there is evidence upon which Nirav Modi could be convicted in relation to the conspiracy to defraud the PNB. A prima facie case is established.”
The verdict is a result of sustained efforts of Indian investigating agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation that built a water-tight case against Nirav Modi and punctured holes in all his contentions, such as fairness of investigation, trial, admissibility of evidence, prison conditions, availability of health facilities in India and extraneous consideration against the extradition request. The agencies had the full backing of the Narendra Modi government, which has promised that those who defraud India will not be allowed to go scot-free by taking refuge on foreign soil.
The verdict has also busted the Congress’s motivated campaign, which tried to project the Narendra Modi-led government as one protecting the corrupt. It is well known by now that Nirav Modi executed the fraud during the UPA regime. It has now also been documented that Congress leader and former high court judge, Abhay Thipsay, deposed in favour of Nirav Modi at the UK court but “never disclosed his party-political affiliation either in the report’s biography or in relation to his declaration as an expert and disclosure of any potential conflict of interests”. The court has also made some scathing remarks against former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju for saying that Nirav Modi is unlikely to get a fair trial in India.
The judgment exposes those who were trying to shield Nirav Modi, something that the BJP had maintained all through the trial in the case.
The Westminster Court has upheld the supremacy of the Indian judiciary and reposed faith in the country’s judicial system to accord a fair trial to Nirav Modi. It has also said that India is well-equipped to ensure Nirav Modi’s human rights are protected and he gets all the necessary medical assistance during and after his trial. The court upheld all assurances of India and rejected the submissions of the defence regarding human rights violations, fair trial and prison conditions. That the court observed that considering the length and strength of relations between India and the UK, there is no evidence of breach of solemn diplomatic assurance by the government of India goes to prove India’s global standing. These are not facts that needed vindication but the UK court spelling it out will help India in handling cases of other fugitives.
The verdict serves as a reminder that business as usual is no longer acceptable. Under PM Narendra Modi, India is no banana Republic where an unholy business-political nexus will be allowed free reign to dupe, defraud and hide offshore. This is a victory of India’s investigating agencies, judicial process, global prowess and 130 crore-plus people who have said no to corruption and shielding the corrupt.
The writer is BJP National General Secretary and member of Rajya Sabha