As Vijay Mallya complained about “no natural light” or fresh air in Indian jails, a UK judge today asked India for a video of a cell at the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai where it plans to keep the fraud-accused liquor tycoon. The court will take up the high-profile extradition case next in three weeks, on September 12.
Judge Emma Arbouthnot, hearing India’s case for Vijay Mallya’s extradition to face charges of money-laundering and fraud, said she could not go with the photographs of Barrack 12 that Indian officials have provided the court.
The judge asked officials to film any man going into the prison, through the door shown in the photographs. “Can we shoot it during mid-day? I want to see some natural light, sunlight, whether the windows pick up any natural light,” the judge said.
Vijay Mallya’s defence team had argued that photographs submitted by India showed “no natural light in the cell and no fresh air”. Lawyer Clare Montgomery also alleged that the photos were taken using a technique to show light within the building. “How will the sun get through this huge wall,” she asked.
India told the court that the photos proved that jail conditions complied with the guidelines of the Human Rights Commission. Vijay Mallya would be put up in barracks with fresh air and light, a private western-style toilet facility and clean bedding, said Mark Summers, the lawyer representing the government.
Vijay Mallya’s case is being heard in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.
The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss, who has been on bail since his arrest in April last year, is fighting extradition to India, citing mainly the poor condition of jails.
At the last hearing in the case on April 27, Judge Arbuthnot had confirmed that the bulk of the evidence submitted by the Indian authorities will be admissible in the case.
If the judge rules in favour of the Indian government, the UK home secretary will have two months to sign Vijay Mallya’s extradition order. Both sides will have the chance to appeal in higher courts in the UK against the Magistrates’ Court verdict.
To bolster Vijay Mallya’s case, his defence team has submitted written material from UK-based prisons expert Dr Alan Mitchell, challenging some of the photographs of Barrack 12 of Mumbai Central Prison on Arthur Road, where the businessman is to be held if he is extradited. The team has produced many expert witnesses to claim he is unlikely to get a fair trial in India.
The extradition trial opened in London on December 4 last year.
Vijay Mallya has been based in the UK since he left India in March 2016 as banks stepped up efforts to recover Rs. 9,000 crore in unpaid loans.
Last month, after prolonged silence, Vijay Mallya had issued a lengthy media statement labelling the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) charges against him as “untenable and blatantly false”.
He has since lost his appeal in the UK’s Court of Appeal against a High Court order in favour of 13 Indian banks to recover funds amounting to nearly 1.145 billion pounds.
A related order last month granted permission to the UK High Court Enforcement Officer to enter Mallya’s properties in Hertfordshire, near London. Mallya says he has handed over a full statement of his UK assets to the court and there was no question of use of force to enter his home, Ladywalk, in the village of Tewin in England.