The defence team of Nirav Modi on Thursday sought dismissal of the fugitive diamond merchant’s extradition to India, saying that the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai did not have arrangements or plans to deal with his mental health problems, including the risk of suicide, reported the Hindustan Times. Modi is facing an extradition trial in London for allegedly duping the Punjab National Bank of more than Rs 13,000 crore.
Claire Montgomery, the lawyer representing Modi, also claimed that her client would not receive a fair trial in India, citing statements by Indian ministers and former judges Abhay Thipsay and Markandey Katju, who deposed in the case. Modi’s lawyers have claimed that he would not receive a fair trial as the case was being politicised by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, reported PTI.
Mental health and risk of suicide were the main grounds on which the court had on Monday blocked the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.
“As in the Assange case, the issues here evidentially are the same, the mental condition of Modi and the treatment he would receive given the prison conditions in India,” said Montgomery, adding that her client’s mental health has been deteriorating because of his lengthy incarceration since March 2019.
Helen Malcolm of the Crown Prosecution Service, representing India, said that the court could ask the Indian government for a fresh assurance on facilities for mental health treatment in the jail. She also sought adjournment of the proceedings to access Modi’s mental health records for it to be independently assessed by a consultant psychiatrist and that appropriate assurances can be acquired for his care in India.
“While the issues of mental health are not contested, the consequences of those need cross-examining,” said Malcolm.
The Crown Prosecution Service lawyer also pointed out that she does not see any similarity between the case of Modi and Assange, as the latter reportedly suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and depression. The lawyer also refuted claims that Modi would be kept in solitary confinement.
On the matter of seeking assurances from the Indian government, Montogomery said that the court was not obliged to do so after a certain time limit. Malcolm said that India has submitted that Modi has the option to seek privately paid medical treatment and that there were three nearby hospitals where he could treated. Montogomery called India’s assurances “utterly worthless”.
District Judge Samuel Goozee turned down the application for adjournment sought by Malcolm, concluding that the Indian government had “ample opportunity” to respond to five reports presented by defence witness Dr Andrew Forrester, a forensic psychiatrist who examined Modi on several occasions last year. Dr Forrester had concluded that “coupled with a severe condition of depression, he presents a high risk of suicide albeit not immediately”.
The Crown Prosecution Service will conclude its arguments on Friday. The final hearing and a judgement in the case is expected in a few weeks.
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. The jeweller has been in prison since he was arrested in March, 2019, on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard and his attempts at seeking bail have been repeatedly turned down.
Modi was arrested on March 19, 2019, and is currently lodged in London’s Wandsworth jail.