In what is deemed as the first step to bring back controversial televangelist Zakir Naik from Saudi Arabia to India, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) obtained a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against him from a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Mumbai on Thursday.
But it remains to be seen if Naik will be brought back considering agencies are still finding it tough to bring back fallen former IPL chairman Lalit Modi and liquor baron Vijay Mallya from the United Kingdom. India also could not secure the extradition of music composer Nadeem Akhtar Saifi, wanted in the Gulshan Kumar murder case. The only person who has been brought back was Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, who faces trial for his involvement 26/11. He was brought back from Saudi Arabia after India signed an extradition treaty with the country in 2010.
To compound the diplomatic and political hurdles one faces for extradition, Naik’s lawyers have already geared up to battle it out with the ED. Naik’s lawyer, Taraq Sayyed on Thursday objected the ED’s plea of seeking an NBW against Naik.
Sayyed contended that Naik is presently not an accused before the court hence it has no jurisdiction to issue a non-bailable warrant. Sayyed also said the agency should have moved the magistrate’s court for appropriate action against Naik because he failed to answer their summons.
However, counsel for ED Hiten Venegaokar said, “Naik has failed to respond to the agency. He has till date not revealed his location and also not given his permanent address.” The court has hence allowed the plea of the agency observing that there exists an extradition treaty between the UAE and India and he can be brought back.
“Naik failed to appear before the IO and has given evasive replies. For thorough investigation in such offences, the presence of the accused is necessary,” said special PMLA judge PR Bhavake.
But India’s track record in getting an accused back for trial has not been satisfactory considering the poor standards of investigations by agencies, and the difference in law in other countries.
Retired judge BN Srikrishna was of the opinion that extradition primarily depends on the diplomatic relationship between the countries, and the conditions agreed upon. But also pointed out that the prosecuting agency has to necessarily satisfy competent authorities with credible reasons of him or her being extradited which has to be supported by evidence against him.
“Evidence which we feel are tangible enough is not necessarily accepted in other countries,” justice Srikrishna said, and added, ““Extradition is a political process and it has to pass through several stages. Many of the countries turn down India’s request owing to provisions of capital punishment. In many of the cases, the requests are turned down for political and economic offences.”
Senior counsel with the Bombay high court, Ashok Mundargi, echoed these sentiments. “Investigation done by the Indian agencies is not up to the mark to match the demands from European countries. There have been several instances were India lost in extradition proceedings, most popular being the case of Iqbal Memon alias Iqbal Mirchi, a close aide Dawood Ibrahim and the case of music composer Nadeem Akhtar Saifi in the Gulshan Kumar murder case. In one of the cases, India had to pay the compensation to the accused for legal procedures,” Mundargi said.