India files appeal in UK High Court against couple for extradition in murder case

London, July 19 

The Indian government has lodged an appeal in the UK High Court after its extradition request for a couple, wanted for the murder of their adopted child, was turned down by a London court recently.

The UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian authorities in court extradition proceedings, said it will be seeking permission to appeal against the Westminster Magistrates' Court order in the case involving Indian-origin British citizen Arti Dhir and her husband Kaval Raijada, wanted in India for the murder of their adopted 11-year-old son Gopal and his brother-in-law.

An investigation by Gujarat police has claimed that the accused had hatched a plot to adopt Gopal and then insure him for around Rs 1.3 crore before staging his kidnapping and murder in India and then split the life insurance payout.

"We have lodged an appeal of behalf of the Indian authorities. The appeal will be considered on the papers by a single judge, who will decide whether or not to grant leave," a CPS spokesperson said.

An "on the papers" decision will involve a High Court judge determining the merits of India's application and if it is accepted, the case will proceed to a "substantive hearing" in the next few months. 

Earlier this month, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot had rejected India's extradition request for Dhir and Raijada on human rights grounds under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

"In the light of my finding that Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada if extradited will be subject to an irreducible sentence, I find there are substantial grounds for believing that they would face a real risk of being subjected to treatment, a lack of review of a life sentence, which would be inhuman and degrading. This would be a breach of Article 3," noted Judge Arbuthnot.

Arbuthnot, incidentally, is the same judge who had ordered the extradition of former Kingfisher Airlines chief Vijay Mallya. That case is undergoing a separate appeals process in the UK High Court, scheduled for a hearing in February next year.

In the murder case, the judge had found a "circumstantial prima facie case that Ms Dhir and Mr Raijada acting together and with others committed the offences". 

However, the rigorous life sentences they would face in India if found guilty of the multiple murders resulted in the two accused being freed. 

The Indian government had provided an assurance that the death penalty would not apply in their case and also some additional assurances, which came in later than the time frame stipulated by the court.

The judge had warned the accused that they could be hauled before the UK courts again if the legal framework in the state of Gujarat, where the killing occurred over two years ago, were to allow a process of parole in a life sentence for multiple murder in accordance with the ECHR. 

She had also pointed out "strong evidence" of money being sent from the London bank account linked with the accused to the man who organised the killing, which could mean the prospect of a prosecution being initiated in the UK.

The case dates back to June 2017, when Dhir and Raijada were arrested on a provisional warrant in the UK and released on conditional bail following "substantial securities". 

According to details that emerged in court, the murder allegations against the duo related to their adopted son Gopal Sejani and his brother-in-law Harsukhbhai Kardani in February 2017 in India.— PTI

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