By Sumit Saxena
New Delhi, Dec 19 : Fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya’s extradition is developing into a complex interplay of political connections, which helps him to continue to live in the UK, despite exhausting all avenues of appeal against his extradition. The legal wrangle has been given a peculiar identity – an issue outside and apart from the extradition process – which has effect under the UK law and its resolution is a pre-requisite to bring him back to India.
According to a source familiar with the development, strong political patronage in the UK is nixing all efforts to extradite Mallya, who is wanted in India for defaulting on loans worth thousands of crores of rupees.
The source added that Mallya’s extradition is before India’s foreign secretary as an important matter seeking immediate attention. Also, a crystal-clear diplomatic stand on Mallya has been communicated to the UK authorities, yet they continue to stall his extradition behind the veil of a confidential legal issue. Despite repeated efforts, the UK has declined to disclose these confidential proceedings, said the source.
The high court dismissed Mallya’s appeal against extradition on April 20, 2020. He applied leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in the high court. On May 14, the high court of London rejected his application for permission to appeal to Supreme Court. Mallya has thus exhausted all avenues of appeal in the UK. In fact, the high court order had set Mallya on the path for extradition within 28 days, yet it is far from complete.
“It is understood, he is actively pursuing asylum proceedings in the UK. India’s foreign secretary had met the Indian High Commissioner in the UK, and discussed the matter. But the UK authorities are acting arbitrarily, when it comes to his extradition”, said the source, citing that asylum is a completely discretionary proceeding of the political dispensation.
Indian authorities are pursuing Mallya’s extradition very aggressively, the home secretary had written a letter to the foreign secretary to take up with concerned authorities in the British High Commission and the UK government for successful extradition of Mallya.
The UK side has consistently maintained that Mallya’s extradition is conditional to a legal issue, which is outside and apart from the extradition process. This issue — which is confidential in nature and cannot be disclosed — has the effect under the United Kingdom law and extradition cannot take place until it is resolved. The UK side has told the Indian authorities neither can they provide any more details nor intervene in the process.
Last month, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava was quoted as saying that they have been informed there’s a confidential legal issue which needs addressing, following which Vijay Mallya can be extradited to India. He added that no particular timeline has been indicated and the Indian authorities continue to take up this issue with UK authorities.
Mallya is accused of defaulting on loans worth around Rs 9,000 crore involving his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines. He has been in the UK since March 2016.
Mallya is on bail on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on April 18, 2017. He has been aggressively fighting his extradition to India.
On November 2, the Supreme Court Monday had asked the Centre to file a status report in six weeks on the proceedings pending in the UK for extradition of Mallya to India. On October 5, the Centre in an affidavit had informed the top court that Mallya cannot be extradited until a separate “secret” legal process in the UK, which is judicial and confidential in nature, is resolved.
The top court asked the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file a status report within six weeks and scheduled the matter for further hearing in January next year.
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at email@example.com)