India’s letter rogatory seeks probe on Nirav Modi, info from UK | india news | Hindustan Times
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India’s letter rogatory seeks probe on Nirav Modi, info from UK

Home Office sources said no application for asylum has been submitted by Nirav Modi, who has family in the UK, but an expert legal team is said to be working on submitting one.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2018 00:03 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
India has not yet made an extradition request, but any such request may become infructuous if Modi is granted asylum in the country.
India has not yet made an extradition request, but any such request may become infructuous if Modi is granted asylum in the country.(Reuters)

A letter rogatory has been sent to British authorities by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate, seeking investigation and information on fugitive businessman Nirav Modi, who arrived in the UK before his Indian passport was revoked in February.

The letter seeks cooperation and assistance in investigating Modi’s assets in the UK and aspects related to his alleged criminal and financial offences, including money laundering.

A formal response to the letter is awaited, Indian officials said on Monday. New Delhi has not yet requested his extradition.

Home Office sources said no application for asylum has been submitted by Modi, who has family in the UK, but an expert legal team is said to be working on submitting one.

Modi has a jewellery store called Nirav Modi in Mayfair, where business is as usual.

Since asylum on political grounds is unlikely after India was placed in the “safe” list of countries for such purposes in 2005, Modi is likely to seek refuge on the ground of risk to his human rights in jail, if extradited to India.

Currently, the four major grounds for considering asylum applications from Indian citizens are sexual orientation and gender identity, prison conditions, women fearing gender-based harm or violence, and religious minority groups.

Kartik Mittal, senior solicitor at London-based law firm Zaiwalla & Co, said: “The interesting element is Modi’s choice of UK for seeking asylum, over perhaps Belgium where he grew up.

“While both countries are signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights, there is a debate in UK surrounding replacing the current Human Rights Act (which gives the European Court of Human Rights jurisdiction) with a tougher Bill of Human Rights.”

He added, “Under the present human rights framework, an appeal to the European court is possible beyond the member states’ highest court, and it is known that the European court tends to favour an asylum seeker when there is a case for human rights violation.”

Modi choosing the UK to claim asylum indicates he is confident that the country will continue to accept the jurisdiction of the European court of human rights, despite the sentiment in favour of Brexit, Mittal said.

Applicants seeking asylum raise the fear of being imprisoned on return to India and that prison conditions are so poor that they amount to torture or inhuman treatment or punishment.

Poor prison conditions have been raised in prevent extradition in other cases, including those of businessman Vijay Mallya and suspected cricket bookie Sanjeev Chawla.

An asylum application on the ground of poor prison conditions is assessed against the UK’s obligation to uphold Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Home Office reportedly has a large backlog of asylum applications, with decisions taking years. While the application is under consideration, the applicant can usually remain in the UK.

An asylum application on the ground of poor prison conditions is assessed against the UK’s obligation to uphold Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Home Office guidance says: “Prison conditions which are systematically inhuman and life-threatening are always contrary to Article 3 ECHR. However, even if those conditions are not severe enough to meet that threshold, Article 3 may be breached if, because of a person’s individual specific circumstances, detention would amount to inhuman or degrading treatment.”

It adds, “If the prison sentence or the prison regime, irrespective of its severity, is discriminatory or being disproportionately applied for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, the person may qualify as a refugee.”

According to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, 5,500 Indian citizens applied for asylum in the UK over the past five years. Most of them were made after they arrived at UK ports, indicating they may have travelled on valid visas and applied for asylum later.