LONDON: Disgraced liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s extradition to India is being stalled by mysterious legal issues with Home Office sources saying his extradition had been ordered on February 3 last year but was not happening despite the businessman running out of all judicial options as there was a “confidential” legal issue.
“The extradition of Vijay Mallya was ordered on February 3, 2019. As this is an ongoing legal case, it would not be appropriate to comment further,” a source said. It is not clear what the legal case is as Mallya lost his final extradition battle in the UK courts on May 14.
A senior official in the Indian high commission in London confirmed to TOI, “There is no extradition happening as of now.” He added that this was because of “legal reasons”. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told TOI, “No date has been arranged for Vijay Mallya’s extradition as yet.”
The UK high commission in New Delhi too said there was a further legal issue that needed resolving before Mallya”s extradition could be arranged. “Under UK law, extradition cannot take place until it is resolved. The issue is confidential and we cannot go into any detail. We cannot estimate how long this issue will take to resolve. We are seeking to deal with this as quickly as possible,” the high commission spokesperson said.
A legal expert suggested there could be an asylum request. Extradition barrister Malcolm Hawkes of Doughty Street Chambers said, “The Indian government must make arrangements for Mallya’s removal within 28 days of the day of the decision of the high court refusing to certify a point of law of general public importance. Day one would be the day of the court’s decision. If Mallya has not been removed by the expiry of the 28-day period, he can indeed apply to the court to be discharged altogether.”
He added, “However, the Crown Prosecution Service (acting on behalf of the Indian government) and the National Crime Agency can apply to extend this period. Or, even if they do not, they can counter any application for discharge by showing ‘reasonable cause’ for the delay. The court can, and will, extend the removal period retrospectively if necessary where it agrees there is reasonable cause. The Covid-19 pandemic would undoubtedly amount to reasonable cause, in my view.”
He further said, “I would fully anticipate that if the Indian government is unable to arrange for Mallya’s flight on account of Covid-19, an extension will be sought and will be highly likely to be granted, which may be of some length. He should be informed about this extension and the duration.”
Hawkes said it was not the case that home secretary Priti Patel had to sign off on Mallya’s extradition “The home secretary has already ordered his extradition, so Patel has nothing more to do extradition-wise. It could be that he has applied for asylum, which does involve the home secretary. Those proceedings are ex-parte (they do not include the Indian government, only the home secretary and the asylum seeker). He can’t be extradited until that asylum application has been determined and any appeal dismissed,” he added.
Indian nationals are among the top 10 nationalities applying for asylum in Britain. Yet, only a small percentage are successful. In the first quarter of 2020, there were 468 asylum applications from Indian nationals, of which 394 were made in-country and 74 were made at the border. Fourteen applications were granted at the initial decision.
A spokesperson for the European Court of Human Rights told TOI that Mallya had not, as of Thursday, applied for interim measures under the Rule 39 procedure. If he does, and is successful, that would bar his extradition to India pending determination of his complaint. The majority of requests for interim measures are refused. In 2019, out of 82 requests made for Rule 39 injunctions, none were granted.