The Centre on Wednesday opposed a plea by a youth seeking trial in India for an alleged driving offence committed in Australia in 2008 in which one person lost his life.
In a reply filed before additional chief metropolitan magistrate (ACMM) Sudesh Kumar, the Centre said the plea by 24-year-old Puneet citing a threat to his life in Australia as being the reason for him to seek trial in India "is an abuse of the process of law" and an attempt to delay the extradition proceedings.
In its reply, filed through advocates AK Vali and Naveen Kumar Matta, the Centre said, "It is entirely the prerogative of the government to take appropriate decision on extraditing or refusing to extradite a fugitive criminal."
The Centre said that as per the provisions of Article 4(3)(b) of the Extradition Treaty between India and Australia, the court was "not empowered to express any opinion on the (said) matter".
Puneet, who was present in the courtroom during the hearing, is accused of having rammed his speeding car into a footpath, seriously injuring two pedestrians, one of whom later succumbed to the injuries.
He was arrested in Punjab on November 29 after a court here issued an arrest warrant against him in pursuance of an extradition request by Australian authorities.
During the arguments, Matta told the court that Puneet's application was not "maintainable" at this stage and the appropriate forum before which the plea might be moved was the Union government.
Matta also told the court that there were multiple allegations against Puneet, related to the accident and also regarding the use of fake documents to come to India from Australia.
The government counsel pointed out that the person whose passport Puneet allegedly used to return to India had already been convicted by a court in Australia.
The counsel for Puneet argued that the trial of his client should be conducted in India as there was a threat to his life in Australia. The defence counsel claimed that Puneet was pressed in Australia into pleading guilty to the alleged offences and was afraid he would be convicted if he was sent back.
But the Centre countered the claims saying Puneet fled Australia before his sentencing after pleading guilty to the said charges.
The court fixed the matter for further arguments on January 9 and extended the judicial custody of Puneet till that time.
The Centre told the court that the apprehension felt by the accused that he would be targeted in Australia was based only on some opinions expressed on social networking websites.
It also stated that the fact of harsher penalties in Australia for the offences for which he was facing charges there did not entitle Puneet to seek trial in India.
Puneet had sought his trial to be conducted in India as he felt a "threat to his life in Australia due to racist attitude of Australians towards Indian citizens".
Puneet said the punishment for the charges he faced in Australia was "highly excessive" and might go up to 40 years' imprisonment.
According to the red corner notice issued against him, Puneet was driving a sedan in Australia's Southbank on October 1, 2008, at a speed of 148kmph when he struck a concrete pillar, leading to the death of one person.
The red corner notice also stated that Puneet had left Australia on June 12, 2009, on an Indian passport belonging to one of his friends.
The Australian government had requested Puneet's extradition from India through a letter on October 15, 2013.