UK ruling makes cricket bookie Sanjeev Chawla’s extradition more likely
By ruling that suspected cricket bookie Sanjeev Chawla faced “no real risk” to his human rights in the Tihar Jail, Britain’s high court has removed the only bar to his extradition to face charges of match-fixing during South Africa’s tour of India in 2000.
The Westminster Magistrates Court, which had blocked his extradition on grounds of risk to his human rights due to conditions in Tihar in October 2017, was satisfied that there is a prima facie case for Chawla to answer on the basis of evidence gathered by the Delhi police.
The district judge had also dismissed Chawla’s objections to his extradition on the ground of ‘passage of time’ (over 15 years elapsed since the alleged crime in India) and ‘right to family life’ (he has been living in the UK with his family since 1996 with wife and two sons).
The high court’s judgement on Friday sends the case back to the magistrates court with the direction to the“District Judge to proceed as if the District Judge had not ordered Mr Chawla’s discharge” in October 2017.
The magistrates court will now set a date to hear the case in the light of the high court ruling, and unless new evidence is submitted or new issues raised by the defence, it is likely to recommend to home secretary Sajid Javid that no statutory bars to his extradition apply.
The final decision to extradite, however, rests with the home secretary. Tiger Hanif, who is wanted in connection with blasts in Gujarat in 1993, had also raised the issue of “real risk of torture” in jailif extradited, but the high court had similarly dismissed the claim in April 2013.
The court found no bars to Hanif’s extradition. He made a final ‘representation’ to the homesecretary to avoid extradition, but a decision on his extradition has not been made yet.
Besides the renewed hearing in the magistrates court, Chawla is likely tohave opportunities to appeal and make a’representation’ to the home secretary to avoid extradition.
A significant aspect of the October 2017 ruling of the magistrates court was the mention of the quality of evidence submitted by Indian authorities against Chawla. Since the 1993 extradition treaty between India and UK, many cases fellthrough due to poor quality of evidence and paperwork that did not hold up in British courts.
Judge Rebecca Crane said in her judgement that she was “satisfied that there is a prima facie case…The affidavit of Bhisham Singh, the deputy commissioner of police, dated 18.05.15 also contains a very detailed summary of the evidence”.
The affidavit includes the background of the events leading to the expose of match-fixing, details of phone conversations, investigation and analysis of call details, investigation of the venues where the teams stayed, details of evidence provided by South Africa and the UK, summary of the role played by each accused and evidence against them, and forensic analysis of the voices of recorded conversations.
“There is clear evidence sufficient to make a case requiring an answer that the RP (requested person) acted with others to fix the outcome o cricket matches by providing money to members of the South African cricket team”, Crane ruled.
The home ministry submitted three sovereign assurances that Chawla’s human rights would not be at risk in Tihar (the magistrates court did not consider the second assurance before blocking Chawla’s extradition, and the third was submitted to the high court in July this year).
According to court documents, Chawla was born in New Delhi in 1967 and lived in India until 1996, when he moved to the UK on a business visa. He has been in the UK since then, but his Indian passport was revoked in 2000. He was granted permanent UK residency in 2003 and obtained a UK passport in 2005.
Chawla’s is among several Indian extradition cases pending with the British government. These include the high profile case of suspected financial offender Vijay Mallya, who is on bail until December 10, when judgement is due in the Westminster magistrates court.
Risk to human rights in jail is one of the issues raised by Mallya’s defence to block extradition. Indian authorities have submitted detailed visual and other evidence to assure the court that there will be no such risk to him in the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai.