The Westminster Magistrates' Court in London ruled in favour of Indian government on Thursday and paved the way for extradition of fugitive diamond retailer Nirav Modi, who is wanted by Indian law enforcement agencies in PNB loan fraud case.
However, today's judgment by the UK extradition court is just the first 'successful' step towards a long-drawn process. While it is an important victory for India and its law enforcement agencies, it is too early to celebrate, legal experts believe.
Modi will exhaust all the legal remedies, including appealing in higher courts as well as seeking asylum in the UK, before Indian authorities would be able to bring him back. This could take time, a year or more, but not less.
"He can appeal at the level of High Court and go to the level of House of Lords. He can also go to the European courts for human rights violation. He can also potentially seek asylum," says Sherbir Panag, partner at Law Offices of Panag & Babu.
Modi is in London's Wandsworth Prison since his arrest in March 2019.
Indian authorities cannot do much to expedite the process, and they will have to follow the legal procedures. Experts say there should be a distinction between public sentiment and process of law. "Process of law won't yield to public sentiments," says a lawyer on condition of anonymity.
Panag says Nirav Modi has legal rights to appeal and he will explore all his options. The case may go the way Vijay Mallya's extradition case went. The same Westminster Magistrates' Court had in December 2018 ordered extradition of Mallya, who had been charged with defrauding a consortium of banks in a Rs 9,000-crore fraud case.
However, Panag says Modi's case is worse than that of Mallya's as courts in UK had earlier rejected his bail plea on the grounds that that there were attempts by him to tamper with evidence. If the extradition court also accepts this view, then higher courts will take the matter seriously when he appeals in those courts.
One of the legal remedies that Nirav Modi has is that he can apply for asylum, but it will not be a judicial process.
If he is seeking asylum, he will have to demonstrate very clearly that punishment for the offence in India would far exceed that in UK, prison conditions in India are bad or that he would be subject to political persecution.
Asylum cases in UK are handled by the Home Office, which is equivalent to Home Ministry in India. The whole process will be confidential.
"It is strictly a confidential matter and they don't divulge details of the person (seeking asylum) because if the details come out then life and liberty of the asylum seeker could be in danger," says Panag.