Extradition trial: Mallya’s defence raises doubts about legal process in India
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Extradition trial: Mallya’s defence raises doubts about legal process in India

Law expert Martin Lau, who deposed on Vijay Mallya’s behalf on the fourth day of his extradition trial, claimed that the Indian Supreme Court had shown ‘unusual speed’ in dealing with Mallya’s case. He also supported the defence’s contention that the former liquor baron won’t get a fair trial if extradited.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2017 23:16 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
London, Hindustan Times
Vijay Mallya,Vijay Mallya case,Supreme Court
Controversial businessman Vijay Mallya arrives at the Westminster magistrate’s court in central London last week for a hearing in his extradition trial.(AFP photo)

A law expert appearing on behalf of controversial businessman Vijay Mallya on Monday expressed doubts about the Indian Supreme Court’s handling of the case, and alleged that it gave preferential treatment to banks.

Martin Lau, professor of law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, deposed on Mallya’s behalf on the fourth day of his extradition case at the Westminster magistrate’s court, claiming that the Supreme Court had shown “unusual speed” in dealing with Mallya’s case. The defence says the former liquor baron will not get a fair trial if extradited to India.

Lawyer Mark Summers, who appeared on India’s behalf, said the issue before the court was not to decide on trial issues but whether there was a prima facie case that Mallya has to answer in India. The defence says the prosecution has “zero” evidence against him.

Commenting on the various aspects of the law and judicial system in India, Lau said courts in India tend to be influenced by media trials. When asked by Summers if the legal chronology of Mallya’s cases in India supports his contention on the apex court, Lau said: “By giving banks preferential treatment, it has allowed doubts to be cast on judicial independence.”

The professor of law said the Supreme Court’s decisions reflect a certain pattern where judges, especially those nearing retirement, rule in favour of the government allegedly to secure post-retirement jobs and postings in the administration. “I have the highest respect for the Supreme Court, but it is not disrespectful to voice doubts about some of its aspects. It is not a corrupt institution. It is heavily burdened,” Lau said, agreeing with Mallya’s lawyer Clare Montgomery on various legal aspects related to him.

Lau said media trials were an issue due to the proliferation of television channels, but agreed with Summers that Mallya could raise the issue during his trial in India.

According to the legal expert, India’s case that Mallya gave misrepresentations to IDBI Bank while securing loans, failed to honour obligations, and used loan funds for unintended purposes does not amount to cheating. Wilful default is not an offence in Indian law, he claimed.

Montgomery cited the rapid pace at which Mallya’s case progressed from the Karnataka high court to the Supreme Court, despite the latter having a large number of cases on its plate. She also referred to another study that found several allegedly undesirable aspects – including fabrication and planting of evidence; torture; death penalty; and abuse of the legal process in India – to support the defence’s claim that Mallya may not face a fair trial if extradited.

Besides this, Montgomery cited a press report to allege that CBI special director Rakesh Asthana threatened bank officials in the Mallya case. Lau agreed with her that a statement under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code cannot be used to secure a conviction in court.

Margaret Sweeney, chief financial officer of the Force India F1 team, deposed to say that all transactions with Kingfisher Airlines were audited and made under existing contracts. She denied India’s allegation that some of the payments made since 2008 were shrouded in secrecy.

Academic Lawrence Saez will speak on Indian politics when he deposes on Mallya’s behalf on Tuesday.

First Published: Dec 11, 2017 20:39 IST