Mallya extradition: UK court seeks video of Mumbai cell

Vijay Mallya gestures to members of the media as he leaves after appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London on Tuesday. AFP

A UK court on Tuesday asked the Indian authorities to submit a video within three weeks of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail cell where they plan to keep Vijay Mallya after extradition, as it set September 12 as the date for closing arguments in his high-profile extradition trial.

During a brief hearing on Tuesday, Judge Emma Arbuthnot said she was not able to hear the case fully and just addressed representations from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), representing the Indian government, and Mallya’s defence team on the conditions at Barrack 12 of Mumbai Central Prison.

She asked the Indian authorities to submit a “step by step video” of Barrack 12 for “the avoidance of doubt” over the availability of natural light in the cell where the 62-year-old businessman is expected to be detained pre-trial, during the trial and in the event he is convicted by the Indian courts.

“I would like a video of Barrack 12, to see where the windows are… shot maybe at mid-day with no artificial lighting,” the judge said, setting a three-week time-frame for the film to be provided to all parties in the case.

Mallya, who has been on bail on an extradition warrant since his arrest in April last year, is fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore.

As he arrived in court on Tuesday for the hearing, he reiterated his offer to settle dues with the Indian courts.

“I have made a comprehensive offer to the Karnataka High Court to settle dues... the question of stealing money, money laundering are all blatantly false charges,” he said.

“Now that the assets are before the court, I am in the hands of the court; I hope this will all end,” he added.
“At the end of the day, the courts will decide,” added Mallya, whose bail was extended until September 12, which has been set as the date for the next hearing when the judge is expected to hear closing submissions in the case before she can set a timeline for her verdict.

The CPS on Tuesday presented its arguments in favour of the government of India to address the judge’s concerns arising out of a National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) prisons report from earlier this year.

CPS barrister Mark Summers took the judge through a “further letter of assurance” from the Indian government, highlighting that any concerns of “overcrowding” associated with Arthur Road Jail do not relate to Barrack 12 — which houses only six inmates and was “clean and hygienic”.

The availability of “private” and adequate washing and toilet facilities that are regularly cleaned and have a western-style functioning flow of water and clean mattress and bedding were among the other assurances provided.

Arthur Road Jail’s structural integrity and a commitment that Mallya’s trial would proceed “expeditiously” in India were among some of the other issues addressed by the CPS.

Mallya’s defence team, led by Clare Montgomery, focused its objections on the lack of natural light available in Barrack 12 as it claimed that the “government of India assurance cannot be relied upon”.

“The photos show natural light flooding into the cell. But our (expert’s) assessment is that… it is very difficult to work out where the light was coming from. Whatever the light is, is not natural light,” said Montgomery.

While Mallya’s defence team was insisting on an inspection of the jail cell, the CPS stressed that the Indian government had provided “adequate material” which rendered the need for an inspection unnecessary.

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Mallya extradition: UK court seeks video of Mumbai cell

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