Supreme Court lashes Centre, MEA over delayed extradition of Vijay Mallya

Supreme Court lashes Centre, MEA over delayed extradition of Vijay Mallya”

Martin Lau, professor of law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, deposed on Mallya's behalf on the fourth day of his extradition case at the Westminster Magistrates Court, claiming that the Supreme Court had shown "unusual speed" in dealing with Mallya's case.

Warning over the further delays in such cases where personalities such as Vijay Mallya are involved, the apex court has asked for a reply over the issue by Friday. Citing academic research, Lau told the court that in India, Supreme Court "judges close to retirement lean in decision-making in favour of government".

Lau added although the Supreme Court is "heavily burdened", the Mallya case went to it with "considerable apace".

Mallya, 61, is fighting extradition to India where he faces charges of fraud and cheating after defaulting on loans to Indian banks worth Rs 9,000cr.

"I hold the Supreme Court in the highest respect but it is equally not disrespectful to indicate that some doubts are voiced about particular patterns [in judgments]", Dr Lau, an expert on South Asian law, told court. Lau also spoke about the adverse impact of a media trial on the fairness of the court trial.

"There is growing concern media coverage might affect all aspects of a trial from judge to witnesses to police".

He argued there was intense media interest because "substantial funds had gone missing in a developing country" and the prospects of fair trial could be raised in the trial court in India.

Lau said courts in India tend to be influenced by media trials.

Clare Montgomery, Mallya's lawyer, pointed out the rapid pace at which his case progressed from the Karnataka high court to the Supreme Court, despite the latter facing a large number of cases.

She also referred to another study that found several allegedly undesirable aspects including fabrication and planting of evidence, torture, death penalty, and abuse of the legal process in India to support the defence's claim that Mallya may not get a fair trial if extradited.

Reading from Lau's written testimony, Mallya's counsel quoted from an unnamed media report to claim that there had been "coercion" by Special Director Rakesh Asthana and his team over the banks in India to pursue criminal proceedings against her client. Lau agreed with her that a statement under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code can not be used to secure a conviction in court.

Earlier today, the defence had deposed Margaret Sweeney, the Chief Financial Officer of Force India, Mallya' s Formula 1 racing team. Sweeney denied any secrecy in transactions between Kingfisher Airlines and Force India, and said that all the accounts had been audited.

However, the CPS arguing on behalf of the Indian government countered that assertion in its cross-examination, indicating that the reason such a repayment offer would have been rejected was that the banks knew Mallya had the means to pay back the entire amount due.

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