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Mallya extradition: London's court witnesses debate over Mumbai's prison condition


ANI London, [UK]
London, [UK], July 31 (ANI): Lawyers in London's Westminster Court on Tuesday debated on the condition of toilet and natural light in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail as the final submissions in fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya trial are postponed till September 12.
The embattled Mallya returned to Westminster Magistrate's Court in London for what he and the gathered throng of journalists thought would be the day that final submissions would be made in his extradition trial.
Instead, Judge Emma Arbuthnot apologised to Mallya as she was only able to hear short submissions. The submissions took the strange form of an exchange between Mallya's Attorney Clare Montgomery QC and the lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Mark Summers QC.
The discussion revolved around conditions at Barrack 12 of the Arthur Road jail where the Indian government intends to detain Mallya if he is extradited to India to face charges that he defrauded a consortium of Indian banks to the tune of Rs. 9000 crores.
Mallya's defence has claimed that he will not face a fair trial if returned to India and would be subjected to "inhuman" conditions if kept at the Arthur Road jail.
Meanwhile, Judge Arbuthnot sought assurances from authorities at the jail and the Indian government that Mallya would not face such conditions if extradited to India.
The defence cited a report compiled by India's National Human Rights Commission, published in April 2018 following a visit to the Arthur Road jail in December 2018, which raised serious concerns about the facility including concerns about overcrowding and the structural integrity of the largest and oldest jail in Mumbai.
In response to the report, the Indian government sought to reassure judge Arbuthnot that it would ensure humane conditions for Mallya.
In submissions to the court, the Indian authorities outlined that there will be adequate toilet and washing facilities, including private separate toilets - including a Western Commode - and washing facilities that will be regularly cleaned.
The government also reassured the court that Mallya would be provided with adequate bedding - including regularly cleaned bed linen and pillows.
Summers also provided the court with a series of photographs that claim to show that there is adequate natural light inside Barrack 12. The lack of natural light and ventilation had been one of the defence team's major concerns.
In response to the NHRC's concerns about structural integrity, the Indian government claimed that the NHRC's inspector had not visited Barrack 12 of the jail and had only seen the general buildings.
In its submissions the Indian government stated that the conditions and structural integrity of Barrack 12 were adequate.
The Indian government also reassured the court that court hearings would be held regularly and Mallya would be produced in court on time so that his trial would proceed "expeditiously".
Judge Artbuthnot was also assured that Mallya will remain in Barrack 12 before, during and after his trial irrespective of the length of any potential sentence.
The judge was shown detailed pictures of Barrack 12. The CPS and the Indian government has gone to great lengths to assure judge Arbuthnot that conditions inside Barrack 12 including natural light were adequate.
The Indian government contended that there was no need for the judge or the UK government to carry out an inspection of Arthur Road jail or the Barrack 12 complex and that the information furnished by the government was adequate for the judge to make an assessment of the conditions.
In response Mallya's lead defence counsel, Montgomery said that the photographs cannot be relied up. She claimed that a photography expert employed by the defence team claimed that the apparent "natural" light shown in the photographs appear to be "staged".
Pointing to several photographs and anomalies in shadows and shapes in the photographs, Montgomery stated that the photographs had been staged with artificial light.
As a result Judge Arbuthnot requested the Indian government to compile a detailed video of barrack 12 in order to make a judgement. It is hoped that final submissions will be made on 12 September.
Mallya is on bail in an extradition case against him on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore.
Earlier on June 30, Mallya was summoned by a designated court under Fugitive Economic Offenders to appear before it on August 27. The notice was issued to Mallya and others in connection with Enforcement Directorate's June 22 application to declare him as a fugitive economic offender and to confiscate his properties.

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First Published: Jul 31 2018 | 5:41 PM IST

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