The UK High Court (HC), which last month dismissed an appeal filed by fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who allegedly cheated Punjab National Bank (PNB) of over Rs11,000 crore, accepted that the risk of suicide if he is extradited may be high, but that the arrangements at the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai will enable the authorities to cope properly with his condition.
Last year, Mr Modi's lawyers challenged a court order allowing the British government to extradite him, citing his mental health and risk of suicide.
In the judgement, Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert Jay
say, "...the risk of deterioration of the underlying depression and the risk of suicide cannot be considered in a vacuum. On the basis of the assurances that the government of India (GoI) has given, we accept that there will be suitable medical provision and an appropriate plan in place for the management and medical care of Mr Modi, which will be provided in the knowledge that he is a suicide risk (i.e. a person who, in the absence of preventative measures, may or will attempt suicide and will or may succeed)."
Mr Modi appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 20 March 2019 and has been in custody at HM Prison Wandsworth since then. On 11 February 2020, the Indian government made a further extradition request in relation to a third set of criminal proceedings involving alleged interference with evidence and witnesses in the proceedings of central bureau of investigation (CBI). This request was certified on 20 February 2020.
For the extradition of Mr Modi, the Indian government gave two assurances to the UK courts.
In the first assurance, the Indian government stated that, in the event of extradition, Mr Modi would be held at Barrack No12 at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai which is separate from the general population at this prison. Aside from matters of personal space and living conditions, the key point was that medical facilities would be available 24x/7, four medical officers along with four nursing orderlies and two pharmacists would also be available, there was a prison hospital with 20 beds and outside experts came in when required. There is a public hospital within 3km of the prison.
In the second assurance, described as a 'continuation' of the earlier assurance, the government stated that, if extradited, Mr Modi "may receive any relevant and necessary treatment from a private doctor or mental health expert of his choice, including treatment or counselling from psychiatrist, psychologist, as required and paid for by him, including coming into prison/ over video-link for consultations."
The HC noted that the arrangements that will be in place, which have been the subject of assurances in response to the concerns and promptings of those acting for Mr Modi, are appropriate. "That is of itself an indication that they will enable the authorities to cope properly with Mr Modi's condition and the risk of suicide. On the assumption that the arrangements are put into place in accordance with the GoI's assurances, the residual risk is, in our judgment, greatly reduced."
"The arrangements that we are assured will be put in place are appropriate to Mr Modi's present and anticipated mental condition. They are in a number of respects more comprehensive than the regime that has been implemented at HM Prison Wandsworth. Specifically, the arrangements for weekly attendance (and more often if necessary) by the JJ Hospital psychiatrist and the assurance of attendance by a psychologist as and when required, together with the assurance about the availability of relevant and necessary treatment from a private doctor or mental health expert of his choice go significantly further than the regime at HM Prison Wandsworth."
Mr Modi had appealed against his extradition where he would face trial in the fraud case linked to PNB.
In July 2020, the enforcement directorate (ED) confiscated the fugitive diamantaire's properties worth Rs329.66 crore in Mumbai, Rajasthan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the UK. The movable and immovable assets were seized under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.
The assets included four flats at Samudra Mahal, the iconic building in south Mumbai's Worli, a seaside farm house and land in Alibaug, a wind mill in Jaisalmer, a flat in London, some flats in the UAE, shares and bank deposits. On 5 December 2019, the court declared him a fugitive economic offender.
Mr Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi of the Geetanjali group are being investigated by the two agencies after PNB alleged that they cheated it of Rs13,500 crore with the involvement of some bank employees.
ED has filed a charge-sheet against Mr Choksi in a Prevention of Money Laundering Act court in Mumbai.
India is currently making efforts to extradite Mr Modi from the UK and his uncle Mr Choksi from Antigua and Barbuda where he is now a citizen.