The top court of the Czech Republic on Wednesday allowed the extradition of an Indian man accused by the United States of conspiring to assassinate a Sikh separatist in New York, The Indian Express reported.

The man, 52-year-old Nikhil Gupta, is in prison in the Czech capital, Prague. The United States has filed a request with the Czech authorities to extradite him.

On Wednesday, the top Czech court dismissed Gupta’s challenge to the November 23 order by the Municipal Court in Prague and the January 8 order by the High Court in Prague, both of which had upheld the United States’s request for his extradition.

In his appeal challenging the lower courts’ orders, Gupta had argued that they had overlooked the political nature of the accusations against him, reported The Indian Express.

However, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic on Wednesday said that it disagreed with his arguments. The court said that it arrived at its decision after examining the extradition documents and the additional information provided by the United States’s authorities in response to Gupta’s arguments.

“The Constitutional Court did not find any circumstance for which declaring extradition admissible would lead to a violation of any of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms," the court said, reported Reuters.

The final decision on extraditing Gupta will be made by Czech Republic’s Justice Minister Pavel Blazek, reported the news agency.

Allegations against Gupta

On June 30, the Czech authorities had arrested Gupta at the request of the United States when he travelled from India to Prague.

On November 29, the US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, announced that it had filed “murder-for-hire charges” against Gupta in connection with his alleged participation in a thwarted plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

It alleged that Gupta had been recruited by an Indian government employee, who “directed a plot to assassinate on US soil an attorney and political activist who is a US citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City”.

While the statement did not name the separatist leader, a report in the Financial Times in November had identified him as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

The United States’ Department of Justice also alleged that the plot was part of a larger conspiracy to kill one person in California and at least three in Canada.

In December, Gupta’s family moved India’s Supreme Court, alleging that he was in the Czech Republic on a leisure and business exploration trip when he was illegally detained after exiting the Prague airport. It had sought directions to be issued to the external affairs ministry, the Union home ministry and the Indian embassy in the Czech Republic to immediately trace and produce Gupta.

The Czech justice ministry, however, maintained that India had no jurisdiction in the matter. The Supreme Court of India on January 4 rejected Gupta’s petition, and said it was for the government to decide on the matter.

India’s investigation

On November 29, New Delhi had constituted a high-level committee to examine the allegations.

On March 20, Bloomberg reported that New Delhi’s investigation into the claims by Washington has found rogue officials, not authorised by the Indian government, had been involved in the alleged plot to assassinate Pannun.

At least one of the persons involved in the alleged plot does not work anymore for Research and Analysis Wing, India’s foreign intelligence agency, Bloomberg quoted unidentified officials as saying. However, the person was still working for the Indian government.

RAW officer’s alleged involvement

On April 29, The Washington Post reported that a Research and Analysis Wing officer named Vikram Yadav was involved in an alleged plot to assassinate Pannun and another Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed in Canada in June.

This was the first time that allegations emerged about the identity and affiliation of an individual from within India’s foreign intelligence agency in Pannun’s case.

The report cited assessments of American intelligence agencies that the operation against Pannun had been cleared by Samant Goel, then the chief of India’s foreign intelligence agency.

India’s external affairs ministry described the report as “unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations”.