Indian dowry law ‘blackmail’ extradition request rejected: no dual criminality

01.03.18 | |

A request by the Government of India for the extradition of a man, represented by Malcolm Hawkes, for an alleged offence of blackmail has been rejected.

 

The conduct related to alleged dowry law offences in India, which was certified in the UK as an offence of blackmail. The man, who lives and works in the UK, was alleged to have threatened to divorce his wife unless her family paid him an additional dowry of £10,000.

 

The defence raised multiple challenges to the request, including dual criminality and prima facie case; it was argued that the conduct would not amount to a criminal offence under the law of England and Wales and the evidence was insufficient to establish a case to answer.

 

The conduct was linked with Indian marital law which was introduced in that country in response to the abuse of women and their families who faced ever increasing dowry demands from their in-laws. Some women were driven to suicide and other acts of serious self-harm. In response, the Indian government outlawed both the payment and receipt of dowries. However, the Indian Supreme Court acknowledged in 2017 that, in setting the threshold so low for complaints of dowry demands to be made, there had been a proliferation of false cases which resulted in numerous arrests and the abuse of the court system.

 

Central to the defence case was a taped telephone call with the man’s former father-in-law, a senior lawyer who admitted that the alleged dowry demand was indeed false. The Indian government failed to respond to this evidence, despite having months to do so.

 

Moreover, INTERPOL has for some time refused to issue Red Notices for dowry-law-related matters, which reflects the concerns over the lack of criminality of these issues, as opposed to Indian cultural mores.

 

Since the court rejected the request on dual criminality and prima facie case grounds, the other issues raised – poor prison conditions, corruption and unfair trial – were not addressed in the court’s judgment.

 

In India v SJ, Malcolm was instructed by Giovanna Fiorentino of Lansbury Worthington Solicitors.

 

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