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UK HC dismisses India's appeal to extradite couple accused of murder

Arti Dhir and her husband Kaval Raijada are wanted in India for the murder of 11-year-old Gopal and his brother-in-law in Gujarat three years ago.

Press Trust of India  |  London 

uk high court
The judges take note of the seriousness of the case and the fact that the Magistrates' Court had previously found a prima facie case against the two accused. (Representative Image)

The High Court in England on Thursday dismissed the Indian government's appeal for the of a UK-based couple to face charges of murder of their adopted son in India.

Arti Dhir and her husband Kaval Raijada are wanted in India for the murder of 11-year-old Gopal and his brother-in-law in Gujarat three years ago.

Their request had been turned down on human rights grounds by Westminster Magistrates' Court in London in July last year, with the Indian government later granted permission to appeal in the High Court.

Lord Justice James Dingemans and Justice Robin Spencer ruled that delays on the part of the Indian government to provide the requisite assurances related to human rights concerns were at the heart of the appeal dismissal.

"We accept that there will be financial consequences of discharging Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada and requiring the government to start proceedings again Those financial consequences were brought about by the government's failure to obtain directions in relation to the assurance or to provide the assurance at an earlier stage, the judgment notes.

The judges take note of the seriousness of the case and the fact that the Magistrates' Court had previously found a prima facie case against the two accused.

"However, that means that the government should have complied with directions from the court to avoid unnecessary delays, they add.

The ruling does observe that extradition proceedings may be brought again for the court to consider Indian government assurances afresh. The UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian authorities in court extradition proceedings, has indicated plans to reissue extradition proceedings at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot had ruled against extradition last year on the grounds that the couple would be subjected to a double life term without parole if convicted in India, which would be in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The High Court verdict makes clear that further extradition proceedings might be brought if an adequate assurance is provided showing that an "irreducible life sentence" will not be imposed on the couple. Significantly, it notes that as the irreducible life sentence is a Gujarat state related policy, it might be waived by the Centre which could pave the way for the duo to be extradited without any human rights concerns.

The case dates back to June 2017, when Dhir and Raijada were arrested on a provisional warrant in the UK and released on conditional bail following "substantial securities".

According to details that emerged in court, the murder allegations against the duo relate to their adopted son Gopal Sejani and his brother-in-law Harsukhbhai Kardani in February 2017 in India.

An investigation by Gujarat police has claimed that the accused had hatched a plot to adopt Gopal and then insure him for around Rs 1.3 crore before staging his kidnapping and murder in India to split the life insurance payout.

The High Court reiterated the Magistrates' Court finding that the couple could face prosecution within the UK itself due to strong evidence of money being sent from the London bank account linked with the accused to the man who organised the killing.

First Published: Thu, February 06 2020. 21:52 IST
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