A United Kingdom High Court on Monday granted fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi permission to appeal against his extradition to India on mental health grounds, reported PTI. He is accused of duping the Punjab National Bank of more than Rs 13,000 crore.
In February, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in the UK had ruled that the fugitive diamond merchant can be extradited to India to face trial. On April 15, UK’s Home Minister Priti Patel approved his extradition.
Modi was arrested on March 19, 2019, and has been lodged in London’s Wandsworth jail.
The 50-year-old businessman had appealed against his extradition in a London court, saying that he faced the risk of dying by suicide due to mental illness if transferred to the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai. He also cited the risks of being infected by Covid-19 in the prison.
On Monday, Justice Martin Chamberlain ruled that arguments presented by Modi’s legal team about his depression and high risk of suicide were arguable grounds for a substantial hearing.
The judge also noted the adequacy of measures in preventing suicide at the Arthur Road Jail fall within the ambit in allowing a substantial hearing. “At this stage, the question for me is simply whether the appellant’s case on these grounds is reasonably arguable,” he said. “In my judgement, it is. I will grant permission to appeal on Grounds 3 and 4.”
Grounds 3 and 4 pertain to the Articles of European Convention of Human Rights on the right to life, liberty and security, and Section 91 of the UK’s Criminal Justice Act 2003 that is related to a person’s fitness to plead, according to PTI.
Modi is facing two sets of criminal proceedings. The Central Bureau of Investigation case relates to the large-scale fraud upon PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of “Letters of Understanding”, while the Enforcement Directorate is investigating the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud.
He also faces two additional charges of “causing the disappearance of evidence” and intimidating witnesses, or criminal intimidation to cause death added to the CBI case.
Throughout the proceedings of the case, which went on for two years, Modi has denied the charges and opposed the efforts to extradite him from Britain to India. But his multiple attempts at seeking bail was repeatedly turned down as he was deemed a flight risk.