Fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya, awaiting verdict by a UK immigration court on India’s request for his extradition, may have received some temporary reprieve when the judge asked the prosecution for a video of the condition of the cell in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail where he is supposed to be lodged. But his efforts to dodge Indian law are unlikely to succeed for long.
The three-week interregnum was granted after Mallya’s defence team raised concerns about the conditions in Barracks 12 of the jail, where his designated cell is located. The prosecution, representing the Indian government, had submitted a photograph of the cell, but Mallya complained about the lack of natural light in it. Under British extradition policies, the authorities have to ensure proper conditions for the treatment of the prisoner.
India has insisted that the prisons here are as good as in any other country and prisoners’ rights are fully protected in Indian jails. The authorities refute Mallya’s apprehension about a threat to his life, which he had raised by citing the case of Rajan Pillai, another tycoon, perhaps even more flamboyant than the ‘King of Good Times’, who died a miserable death in a hospital corridor, after falling seriously ill, unattended and uncared for in his prison cell. And, as for the feared threat to his life, Indian officials are expected to inform the British judge that Mallya will get full security cover as an undertrial prisoner and his cell will be highly secured as per international standards.
More importantly, there is a precedent of similar extradition having taken place between India and UK, which would surely be cited as proof of acceptable conditions in Indian jails. According to sources, there has been only one extradition from the UK to India so far and that was of Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, whom the UK repatriated to India to face trial in connection with his alleged involvement in the post-Godhra riots of 2002. But Patel had not contested the extradition order as Mallya is doing now.
The immigration court’s verdict is, perhaps, the only element standing between Mallya and his inevitable arraignment in Indian courts. He has already lost a series of court cases, providing a major setback to his well-hatched plan to defraud Indian banks to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore and get away to the safety of foreign shores, which he believed were unreachable by Indian law. But a consortium of 13 banks has got a UK high court to uphold their plea for enforcing a worldwide freeze of his assets equivalent to the money he owes to them by way of principal and interest. Recent overtures by the embattled baron indicate that he is reconciled to the idea that the wheel may have turned a full circle for him.