India wins plea to extradite suspected cricket bookie Chawla from UK
Suspected cricket bookie Sanjeev Chawla’s case involved the home ministry submitting three sovereign assurances to the courts on the conditions in which he would be lodged in Tihar. His extradition was blocked by judge Rebecca Crane of the Westminster magistrates court on the ground of a real risk to his human rights in Tihar.
Britain’s high court on Friday upheld India’s appeal against a lower court’s October 2017 judgement blocking the extradition of suspected cricket bookie Sanjeev Chawla, ruling that “there will be no real risk” to him in Tihar Jail, where he will be lodged, if extradited.
The ruling reflects improved paperwork and responsiveness of Indian authorities in extradition cases lodged in Britain. Chawla is wanted in India for prosecution for his role in fixing cricket matches between India and South Africa in February-March 2000.
Chawla’s case involved the home ministry submitting three sovereign assurances to the courts on the conditions in which he would be lodged in Tihar. His extradition was blocked by judge Rebecca Crane of the Westminster magistrates court on the ground of a real risk to his human rights in Tihar.
India appealed in the high court on the ground that the lower court did not take into account its second assurance, which provided more details and guarantees of his personal safety and facilities that would be available to him.
Delivering the judgement after receiving the third assurance about facilities such as personal space, medical attention and toilet, justice Leggatt and justice Dingemans said: “In these circumstances, having regard to all of the information available to this Court about Tihar prisons, the terms of the third assurance (which was not before the district judge) are sufficient to show that there will be no real risk that Mr Chawla will be subjected to impermissible treatment in Tihar prisons.
“Therefore, pursuant to the provisions of section 106 of the Extradition Act 2003, we quash the order discharging Mr Chawla, remit the case to the district judge, and direct the district judge to proceed as if the district judge had not ordered Mr Chawla’s discharge.”
India submitted to the courts detailed evidence about Chawla’s role in match-fixing, with Crane remarking 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.”
Chawla’s defence raised four issues to block extradition: passage of time, human rights, prison conditions and right to family life. Crane had dismissed all objections except the risk to his human rights in Tihar based on reports by NGOs, expert evidence, press reports and Indian court rulings.
However, after India submitted further details and guarantees in the third assurance to the high court, the case now returns to the Westminster magistrates court that will be required to “proceed as if the district judge had not ordered” Chawla’s discharge in October 2017.
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.
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