Victory in Indian Extradition case

14.06.16 | |

 

David Rhodes fought a 3 year battle to resist extradition to India of a political activist, V, for whom the case has dominated 24 years of his life.

 

In a comprehensive and forceful judgment District Judge Purdy refused to allow the extradition of a former refugee, accused of terrorist offences in India in 1992. Amongst other findings, the District Judge held that V had been tortured in the past by the Indian Q Branch (security police) and if extradited there was a real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment (Art 3) and a flagrant denial of a fair trial (Art 6). India has declined to appeal the ruling.

 

V was a communist and civil rights campaigner in India. He contended that the allegations that he had been involved in a ‘bomb blast’ on a railway in 1992 were fabricated and politically motivated. He was arrested and held in custody from 1992 to 1996, during which time he was subjected to ill-treatment, contrary to Art 3. He stood trial between 1994 to 1996, by which time all the evidence had been heard. He was granted bail pending verdict, but no verdict ever came. By 2002, he was petitioning the President of India and the Chief Justice to compel a resolution to his case. During his time on bail, he was subjected to regular detentions and interrogations, under torture, for his political activities.

 

As a result, he came to the UK in 2002 and claimed asylum. The Immigration Adjudicator accepted that V had been fleeing ‘persecution not prosecution’ in India due to his political activities. In 2003, he was granted asylum from the very prosecution for which his extradition was sought a decade later. Had he remained a refugee, he could not have been extradited. He relied on the safe haven granted by the UK to settle and start a family. After living a laudable and hard working life here for 5 years, he became a British citizen. His world was torn apart in 2013 when he was arrested on an extradition warrant.

 

Over the 3 years that followed, David Rhodes, instructed by Kate Goold at Bindmans LLP, mounted a spirited defence to the extradition request. The Court heard many days of legal argument and evidence from V, numerous experts from India and the UK, and reading thousands of pages of evidence, including undisputed evidence that V had been tortured in custody. The Court also considered the complexities of ‘TADA’, the controversial counter-terrorism legislation in India.

 

On 27 May 2016 DJ Purdy, whilst bearing in mind the importance of the presumption of mutual trust between States, discharged the extradition warrant with a finding that V had fled persecution, not prosecution and so was not a fugitive when he arrived in the UK to achieve sanctuary in 2002. He made a finding that India had "actively obstructed" the inspection of the proposed prison where V would have been detained, by an independent British expert, jointly instructed by the CPS and the defence.

 

DJ Purdy held that to allow V’s extradition would:

(1) Be both unjust and oppressive due to the passage of time of more than 20 years.

(2) Violate the prohibition on torture or inhuman and degrading treatment, given prison conditions in India – especially prison overcrowding, state sponsored violence especially against political prisoners, and non existent treatment for any mental health condition in custody;

(3)         Violate the right to a fair trial (trial within a reasonable time) due to the unacceptable delays in the Indian trial process between 1992 to 2002.

(4)         Extradition would be unjust or oppressive given V’s long-standing PTSD and the lack of appropriate mental healthcare in Indian prisons.

 

On 10 June the CPS confirmed that India would not be appealing the Judgment.

 

Kate Goold, Partner of Bindmans LLP, said:

"These proceedings have taken over 3 years out of V's life. He thought he was safe in the UK and was then dealt with this hammer blow. The Indian Government, having decided to issue the extradition request after V was in the UK for over 10 years and in full knowledge that he had been tortured in custody, failed to cooperate with the evidential process and "actively obstructed" legitimate enquiries made. We welcome this ruling but this extradition request should never have been made when the Indian Government were well aware of the delays and torture that V had already suffered and were unwilling to cooperate during the extradition process."

 

V said:

"I thank my legal team for all the hard work and in particular the independent experts who cast a bright light on the true state of human rights in India, which is often ignored in the UK and other western countries"

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