A law ministry official says there is nothing strange about a Delhi court allowing "fugitive criminal" Maninder Pal Singh Kohli's extradition to Britain to face rape and murder charges provided he be not hanged if found guilty - though much of Europe abolished death penalty long ago.
Ordering extradition of Kohli on a British plea, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kamini Lau ruled on Friday, "It is hereby recommended that extradition of Kohli is possible. The fugitive criminal, however, be extradited as per the international covenant that no death penalty is imposed on him."
Kohli is accused of raping and murdering 17-year-old British girl Hannah Foster after kidnapping her on March 14, 2003 from a place near her home in Portswood, Southampton, where she had gone on a weekend picnic with her friends.
The court conditionality came although Britain and most European countries have abolished the death penalty.
A law ministry official who did not want to be identified by name told IANS that there was no harm in the court imposing a condition protecting Kohli from a possible death sentence, albeit remote.
"The UK may not have any death sentence now. But can you guarantee that in future it might not amend its law to provide for capital punishment?" said the official. "There is no harm in the court imposing a precautionary stipulation."
Advocate Naveen Matta, who was part of the external affairs ministry legal team to pursue the British extradition plea for Kohli in the court, pointed out that the court might have been prompted to impose the condition because Kohli has feared racial bias during the trial in Britain.
Even after pronouncement of the verdict on Friday, Kohli specifically had his fears recorded in the court.
Matta pointed out that under the provisions of Extradition Act, a court's order in an extradition proceeding happens to be of advisory nature to the central government.
He said the court order and Kohli's statement would be forwarded to the external affairs ministry, which would take its final decision on handing over the accused to British authorities.
Under the Extradition Act, the central government can deport Kohli only 15 days after the passage of the court order. During this period, he can approach the higher court.
Again, unless a higher court suspends the lower court order, the government will have to hand over Kohli to Britain within 60 days of the lower court order.
If the government fails to deport Kohli in 60 days, he will have a valid reason to seek his freedom here because he is not an accused in India.