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India granted permission to appeal in murder extradition case: UK

PTI

London

The Indian government has been granted permission by the UK High Court to appeal for the extradition of a UK-based couple to face charges of murder of their adopted son in India in 2017.

The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian authorities in court extradition proceedings, said on Wednesday that permission to appeal had been granted against a lower court’s order to extradite Indian-origin British citizen Arti Dhir and her husband Kaval Raijada for the murder of 11-year-old Gopal and his brother-in-law.

The appeal in the extradition request, which had been turned down by Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London in July, will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on January 28 next year.

 “The appeal has been granted and listed for January 28,” a CPS spokesperson said.

 In July, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot had accepted there was a “circumstantial prima facie case” against the couple but turned down the extradition request on human rights grounds.

 The judge concluded that they would be subjected to a double life term without parole if convicted in India, which would be in breach of 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 Arbuthnot, incidentally 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 rigorous life sentences Dhir and Raijada would face in India if found guilty of the multiple murders resulted in the two accused being released on bail pending the High Court appeal.

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

 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 to split the life insurance payout.

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