A defiant Vijay Mallya has confirmed his plans to initiate a lengthy appeal process against the UK government's order to extradite him to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to nearly Rs 9,000 crores in India. The 63-year-old embattled liquor baron's extradition was approved by UK Home Secretary.Sajid Javid on Sunday, boosting India's efforts to bring back the fugitive businessman.
Mallya has two weeks to lodge a permission to appeal in the High Court after Javid signed off on his extradition order. Hours later, Mallya took to social media to confirm his plans to appeal against the decision. "After the decision was handed down on December 10, 2018 by the Westminster Magistrates Court, I stated my intention to appeal. I could not initiate the appeal process before a decision by the Home Secretary. Now I will initiate the appeal process," Mallya said in a statement on Twitter.
Once the application is made, the court will consider whether there are grounds for the appeal to be admitted and that in turn would trigger another set of hearings over the next few months in the Administrative Court, which is part of the UK High Court. "It could take months for the case to be heard as the court gets very clogged up and the whole process could take up to five or six months," explained Sarosh Zaiwalla, Founder and Senior Partner of UK-based law firm Zaiwalla & Co.
"The Crown Prosecution Service (arguing on behalf of the Indian government) could apply for an expedited appeal process but it is not common for this to be granted. You would have to show the need of urgency," he said. Following the outcome at the High Court level, both sides could apply for the right to appeal to the Supreme Court, which would involve at least another six weeks.
However, that process is more complex as the UK High Court must certify that the appeal involves a point of law of general public importance, and either the High Court or the Supreme Court gives leave for the appeal to be made. Mallya has been based in the UK since March 2016 and remains on bail on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard in April 2017.
In her verdict at the end of a year-long extradition trial in December last year, Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled that the "flashy" former Kingfisher Airlines boss had a "case to answer" in the Indian courts. She found there was "clear evidence of dispersal and misapplication of the loan funds" and accepted a prima facie case of fraud and a conspiracy to launder money against Mallya, as presented by the CPS on behalf of the Indian authorities.
The court also dismissed any bars to extradition on the grounds of the prison conditions under which the businessman would be held, as the judge accepted the Indian government's assurances that he would receive all necessary medical care at Barrack 12 in Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail. "There was no evidence which allowed me to find that if extradited Dr Mallya was at real risk of suffering a flagrant denial of justice," the verdict noted.
India and the UK have an Extradition Treaty signed in 1992 and in force since November 1993. So far only one successful extradition has taken place from the UK to India under the treaty – that of Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, who was sent back to India in 2016 to face trial in connection with his involvement in the post-Godhra riots of 2002.
As India falls under the Category 2 set of countries within the UK's Extradition Act 2003, any decision of the courts must be endorsed by the UK Home Secretary – who has the authority to order extradition. It is not uncommon for a higher court to give leave to appeal and then to overturn the verdict of a lower court.
In a related extradition case of alleged bookie Sanjeev Kumar Chawla, wanted in India on match-fixing charges, the High Court had overturned an earlier Westminster Magistrates' Court ruling against his extradition to India due to human rights concerns related to Tihar Jail in Delhi where he was to be detained.
Under the legal process, the case was sent back to the magistrates' level where a District Judge overturned the previous ruling last month and found in favour of the Indian government. Javid is also due to announce his decision on the extradition order of Chawla, a key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal involving former South African captain Hansie Cronje in 2000, within the stipulated two-month period - which runs until early March.