Kin of Nikhil Gupta files plea; SC says ‘sensitive matter’ | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Kin of Nikhil Gupta, accused of plotting assasination in New York, files plea; SC says ‘sensitive matter’

ByAbraham Thomas, New Delhi
Dec 16, 2023 02:21 AM IST

The petition, filed by a member of Gupta’s family identified as “Mr X”, alleged that he was not shown any arrest warran

An unidentified family member of Indian national Nikhil Gupta, who is accused in a US court of plotting an assassination attempt in New York, approached the Supreme Court on Friday alleging human rights violations but the apex court described the matter as an “extremely sensitive” for the Centre and refused to issue directions to the government.

The plea sought the Centre’s intervention in the extradition proceedings pending before the Extradition Court in Prague, Czech Republic.
The plea sought the Centre’s intervention in the extradition proceedings pending before the Extradition Court in Prague, Czech Republic.

The petition, filed by a member of Gupta’s family identified as “Mr X”, alleged that he was not shown any arrest warrant, subjected to forced consumption of beef and pork during his detention in Czech custody in violation of his religious beliefs as a Hindu vegetarian, denied consular access, the right to contact his family in India, and the freedom to seek legal representation.

Unlock exclusive access to the latest news on India's general elections, only on the HT App. Download Now! Download Now!

The plea sought the Centre’s intervention in the extradition proceedings pending before the Extradition Court in Prague, Czech Republic. The court refused to step in but agreed to examine a petition seeking consular access and legal assistance on January 4.

“This is an extremely sensitive matter for the ministry to come in,” a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti told senior advocate CA Sundaram, who represented Mr X. “We won’t direct the government [of India]. You are capable of taking care of yourself. You have already been supplied with the necessary documents and papers,” the bench added.

Sundaram argued that the case had turned into a “diplomatic and political quagmire” between India and the US. “He (Gupta) is a hapless victim caught in the crossfire,” he said, adding that Gupta’s family was not aware of his whereabouts, there was no lawyer or translator to help him get a fair trial and that he had exhausted his financial resources fighting proceedings against him in courts under US and Czech jurisdictions.

Read Here: Who is Nikhil Gupta, Indian charged by US in plot to kill separatist? What we know so far

To be sure, it remains unclear whether Gupta, who was arrested on June 30, is still in the Czech Republic or has already been extradited to the US.

The top court also expressed doubts about looking into the plea. “The person detained has not given his own affidavit. He cannot have given it. As a next friend, you have filed this petition. If there is any violation of law, you have to go to the concerned court there. We are not going to have an adjudication here. Go there and appear.”

To this, Sundaram said, “I fully understand that he has to approach the concerned court but let the ministry of external affairs see if it can assist him.”

US prosecutors have alleged that Nikhil Gupta, alias Nick, worked on the directions of an Indian government employee, who described himself as a “senior field officer” responsible for intelligence, to arrange the assassination of US-Canadian citizen Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a senior leader of the outlawed Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) who has been declared a terrorist by India.

While the indictment filed in a US federal court in Manhattan on November 29 did not name the Indian official (it referred to him as CC-1) or the victim of the assassination plot, unnamed American officials have told the media that Pannun was the target.

The indictment filed against Gupta in a Manhattan court alleges that the Indian official had described the plot to target Pannun as a “priority” two days after another Khalistani leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was gunned down near a gurdwara in the Canadian town of Surrey on June 18. Gupta, who was arrested in the Czech Republic at the request of the US, was allegedly working with the Indian official to ensure the dismissal of a drugs-related criminal case against him in India.

The statement said that the government employee asked Gupta to hire hitman for $100,000 to murder the victim, but the man Gupta found for the job turned out to be an undercover US agent. The indictment also attached a photograph of an alleged cash transfer of $15,000 to the agent.

Read Here | Nikhil Gupta devout Hindu, forced to eat beef: What family told Supreme Court

On December 7, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said the government has instituted an inquiry to look into inputs provided by the US because the matter had a bearing on national security. India has also described the case as a “matter of concern”, and said follow-up action will be taken on the findings of the inquiry committee.

In the petition, Mr X alleged serious violations of international laws as no arrest warrant was presented and the Indian national’s detention was based on an apprehension of US agencies rather than Czech authorities.

“This marks a significant departure from the initial charges and transforms the case into a diplomatic and political quagmire between India and the United States,” the petition filed through advocate Rohini Musa said.

Sundaram said he did not wish to press the first prayer seeking Gupta’s production in the country as the top court would not have the jurisdiction. However, he urged the bench to consider his prayer, seeking the Centre’s intervention in the extradition proceedings pending before the Extradition Court in Prague, Czech Republic, and guarantee of a “fair and transparent” trial by providing consular access and assistance of an Indian lawyer as he was lacking services of a translator.

“These files came in very late in the night. We have not been able to go into in depth and detail,” the bench said, as it listed the matter for hearing on January 4.

Sundaram also urged the court to consider a request to have the matter heard “in-camera” due to the sensitivity attached to the case. “This is a suggestion I am making as a counsel and not on behalf of the party,” he said.

“We will see it on the next date,” the bench said, directing Sundaram to supply a copy to the central agency of the top court to assign the matter to a government law officer.

The petition said that Gupta, “a devout Hindu and vegetarian... was subjected to forced consumption of beef and pork during his detention in Czech custody, a direct violation of his religious beliefs.” Since his arrest, he was not allowed to contact his family in India and have a lawyer of his choice, it added.

The petition also mentioned the “absurdity of the notion that the Indian government would engage him in alleged covert operations and assassinations on US soil” and said “since June 30, he (Gupta) has been in illegal custody of the Czech authorities, facing an alleged political vendetta between the US and Indian governments.”

It further said that Gupta’s family had exhausted their life savings in the legal battles across three jurisdictions – Czech Republic, the US and India, and that “his extradition to the US is unsafe, given the pervasive threat to his life and safety.”

Tell us what your First Vote will stand for in a short video & get a chance to be featured on HT’s social media handles. Click here to know more!

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections Result, Lok Sabha Election 2024 Live, Lok Sabha Elections Results 2024, Weather Today along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, May 30, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On