Appalling jail conditions in India, says witness in Mallya extradition case
The witness doubted India’s assurances about barrack number 12 in the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, where Vijay Mallya, a wanted in India to face fraud allegations, is to be lodged.india Updated: Dec 15, 2017 00:05 IST
A prisons expert deposing on behalf of businessman Vijay Mallya on Thursday gave a detailed account of what he called “appalling” and “deplorable” conditions in jails, and doubted India’s assurances about barrack number 12 in the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, where Mallya is to be lodged, if extradited.
Alan Mitchell, whose previous critical evidence about Tihar jail in Delhi was key to the Westminster magistrates court rejecting India’s request to extradite alleged cricket bookie Sanjeev Kumar Chawla in October, expressed concerns and doubts about arrangements in the jail and India’s assurance, which includes five pages of details of conditions and facilities that will be available to Mallya.
Emma Arbuthnot, chief magistrate of the Westminster magistrates court, set January 10 as the next date of hearing, after India’s lawyer, Mark Summers, submits more information about the jail conditions, and a note on the conspiracy charges against Mallya. She will rule on the admissibility of some documents submitted by India and objected to Mallya’s defence team.
Mitchell picked holes in India’s assurance given by the Union ministry of home affairs, mainly doubting India’s ability to deliver in the absence of an effective compliance mechanism, when even India court orders on jails were not allegedly complied with.
He cited the recent experience of one of the ‘Chennai Six’ British nationals in jails in Tamil Nadu to substantiate his evidence that Mallya, if extradited, would face “deplorable” conditions.
However, he grudgingly admitted to Summers that breaches of the assurance could be highlighted by agencies such as the National Human Rights Commission, courts, Mallya’s lawyers and also the news media. Arrangements for Mallya were discussed in much detail during the day, particularly the availability of natural light, food, ventilation, bed, recreation, space and medical facilities.
According to a medical report read out in court, Mallya suffers from diabetes, coronary artery disease and sleep apnoea. Mitchell doubted the medical attention he would receive when there were said to be only four doctors available in the Arthur Road jail that had a prison population of nearly 3,000.
Mitchell also doubted that local authorities in Mumbai would follow and implement assurances submitted to the court by the Union ministry of home affairs on Mallya’s potential incarceration in the Mumbai jail. Summers, however, told the court that the MHA assurance had been given in “conjunction” with Maharashtra government.
Mitchell, however, agreed with Summers, that prison conditions vary from state to state in India, and that his knowledge of Indian conditions was mainly based on his visit to a jail in Alipore, West Bengal, some years ago.
According to Mitchell, India had only given a general assurance for Mallya on issues such as water and ventilation in barrack number 12: “It says ‘adequate’ amount of water, not specific how much; ‘adequate’ according to whom”.
Clare Montgomery, Mallya’s lawyer, noted Mitchell’s evidence that India was not a signatory to the UN convention on prevention of torture, adding that the Supreme Court and NGOs had highlighted its prevalence in Indian jails.
Summers, however, pointed out that India was a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture and degrading treatment, which corresponds to the relevant section of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Prison conditions in India are one of the main objections raised by Mallya’s defence to avoid extradition. India has submitted photographs of barrack number 12 (said to house six prisoners), besides other details of the cell.
Mitchell is the last of the witnesses in the extradition case, in which the judgement is expected in mid-January, with either side likely to go in appeal.
First Published: Dec 14, 2017 20:34 IST