India and Britain on Tuesday decided to expedite the requests for extradition and mutual legal assistance pending on either side. The decision gains importance in the backdrop of India pressing Britain to extradite Vijay Mallya.
The External Affairs Ministry said both sides resolved to strengthen legal cooperation in pursuing the pending requests, without mentioning any specific case. A special court in Mumbai last week had allowed the Enforcement Directorate to invoke the India-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to bring back liquor baron Mallya to India to face money laundering probe.
The issue of Mallya's extradition is understood to have figured in the dialogue though there was no official confirmation. Mallya has been probed on money laundering charges in a case of alleged default of bank loans wortharound Rs 9000 crore.
"Both sides held detailed and fruitful deliberations on the legal processes and procedures in either country and reviewed the requests for extradition and mutual legal assistance pending on either side," the MEA said in a statement after the two-day talks.
It said the two sides reiterated their determination to strengthen legal cooperation and expedite the pending requests. "It was agreed that the central authorities of both thecountries would review further progress in these cases everysix month through video conference," the MEA said.
The Indian delegation was led by Joint Secretary, Consular, Passport and Visa, in the MEA and had representatives from the Ministries of Home Affairs and Law and Justice and investigating agencies, including CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the state authorities concerned.
The UK delegation was led by the Head of the UK Central Authority for Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance, the UK Home Office and representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service. The MEA said the meeting was held pursuant to the decision taken during the visit of British Prime Minister Theresa May to India in November.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and May had then directed the officials dealing with extradition matters to meet at the earliest to develop better understanding of each country's legal processes, identify the causes of delays and expedite pending requests to ensure that fugitives and criminals cannot escape the law.
The ED has been wanting Mallya to join the probe in the case "in person" and had issued multiple summons to him butcould not get success as the businessman, who is in the UK, never deposed before it. The order by Mumbai court had come as a fresh blow to Mallya as India, through the Ministry of External Affairs, has recently handed over to the UK an extradition request against him based on a CBI case in the same offence.