Govt notifies Commonwealth extradition norms for Choksi
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Govt notifies Commonwealth extradition norms for Choksi

New Delhi, Aug 7: In what is seen as opening the room for legal battle similar to get extradition of Vijay Mallya, Indian government has notified an extradition arrangement with Antigua and Barbuda under a Commonwealth membership framework to get hold of fugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi.

As India does not have any existing bilateral extradition treaty with Antigua and Barbuda and the government is aware of the fact that Antiguan passport would allows PNB scam o-accused Choksi, visa-free travel to over 100 countries, the Gazette of India on Monday published a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) notification dated August 3 saying that provisions of Extradition Act, 1962, shall apply to Antigua and Barbuda as a Designated Commonwealth Country under provisions of its own Extradition Act, 1993.

Taking a cognizance of the request from CBI, a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs has also handed over a formal extradition request to the government in Antigua, sources said.

The legal basis for Extradition with States with whom India does not have an Extradition Treaty ("non-Treaty States) is provided under the provisions of the Indian Extradition Act, 1962, which says that the Central Government may, by notified order, treat any convention to which India and a foreign state are parties, as an Extradition Treaty made by India with that foreign state. This only creates the stage for legal course as Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne has indicated his willingness to cooperate with India on the case.

However, as Choksi is now a citizen of that country, it is also clear a 'due process of law' would have to follow.The MEA sources said that the notification specified that the provisions of India’s Extradition Act, 1962 shall apply to Antigua and Barbuda with retrospective effect from 2001 when the Caribbean nation had notified India as a designated Commonwealth Country under its extradition law.

The passport episode vis-a-vis Choksi and the 'clearance' he obtained had certainly embarrassed official agencies. Under the Citizenship by Investment Program of Antigua and Barbuda, a person can take their passport on a minimum investment of 1,00,000 US dollar in the National Development Fund.

Choksi's citizenship in Antigua was cleared in November 2017 and he fled India only on January 4 this year. He later took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15. With regard Choksi's nephew Nirav Modi, the government has made formal request for extradition to the United Kingdom through a special diplomatic bag to the High Commission of India, London.

Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are wanted in connection with the Rs 13,578-crore fraud in Punjab National Bank (PNB). Gen V K Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs told Rajya Sabha last week that an extradition request for Nirav Modi has been sent by a Special Diplomatic Bag to the High Commission of India, London for onward transmission to the UK authorities. UNI