There was “no ground at all” to believe that Vijay Mallya faces any risk in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail which has been recently “redecorated”, a UK court said on Monday (11), rejecting the liquor baron’s attempts to show Indian prisons in a bad light and ordered his extradition.
Authorities at the prison have kept a high security cell ready for the 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss.
The Westminster Magistrates’ Court Chief Magistrate Judge Emma Arbuthnot ordered Mallya’s extradition, in a major boost to India’s efforts to bring back the fugitive wanted for alleged fraud and money laundering charges amounting to an estimated Rs 9,000 crores ($1 billion).
The court dismissed the defence’s attempts to dispute Indian prison conditions as a bar to his extradition on human rights grounds, saying the video of the Barrack 12 of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, where Mallya would be held, “gives accurate portrayal and has been recently redecorated”.
“He will have access to personal medical care to manage his diabetes and coronary problems… There was no ground at all to believe that he faces any risk at all (in jail),” the judge ruled.
Delivering the verdict, she said that there was “no sign of a false case being mounted against him”.
“Having considered evidence as a whole. There is a case to answer,” Judge Arbuthnot said as she ruled that Mallya could be extradited to India to stand trial on the charges brought by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.
Addressing the jail conditions in particular, the judge expressed her satisfaction with the evidence provided by the Indian government, describing the video of Barrack 12 at Arthur Road Jail as an accurate portrayal of the conditions which will apply to Mallya.
However, the court made a specific reference to special medical conditions being made available to the businessman, who is described as “far from healthy”.
“A spell in custody is likely to help him cut down on alcohol. A regular exercise routine will need to be worked out by his doctors to keep him healthy. I noted that he is taking a whole range of medications, which the GOI (government of India) will ensure he has access to,” the judge said.
She made it clear that the assurances provided by the Indian government on prison conditions should not be breached because extradition arrangements work on the basis of trust and any failure to abide by the assurances would “doubtlessly” affect the trust between the court and the government.
“I have no reason at all to think that the GOI would want to breach that trust,” she said.
“The doctors and nurses in a prison of the size of Arthur Road have a lot of work on their hands and the assurance given that Dr Mallya could consult his own private doctors seems to this court to be a necessary one in all the circumstances.
“I would expect that the Indian court is able to allow Dr Mallya a bed and home-cooked food which would enable him to face the trials ahead in a more healthy state than otherwise,” she said.
The judge specifically noted that Mallya’s doctors will need to watch what he eats to help manage his diabetes and coronary artery disease.
“The cell is large, far larger than the 3-metre-square minimum set out in a number of authorities. The cell has been recently redecorated. It has a very high ceiling, some natural light from grilled windows, a couple of fans and strip lighting. I accept that the fans go off when the lights go off,” she noted.
The judge was happy with a series of Indian assurances that Mallya will be provided with a thick cotton mat, a pillow, sheet and blanket.
He will be able to apply, on medical grounds, to have a bed. He will have access to “sufficient” water, with his doctor’s expectation being he receives three litres a day.
He will have access to the bathroom which is attached to the cell and appears to be clean and is newly-decorated. It has a lavatory, shower and the basin has a constant supply of water. He will be able to wash each day and will receive adequate food.
Mallya, wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore (£1 billion), had been on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April last year.
After being extradited, Mallya will be lodged in one of the high security barracks located in a two-storey building inside the prison complex, which also housed 26/11 Mumbai attack terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a prison official said in Mumbai.
A high security cell has been kept ready at the jail located in central Mumbai, he said.
“We are fully prepared to lodge him safely at our correction centre. If he is brought here, we will take care of his safety and security,” the official said.
An official from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs earlier said Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail was one of the best in the country.
The comments had come after the the UK judge asked Indian authorities to submit a video of the Arthur Road Jail cell where they plan to keep Mallya following his extradition.
The official said that adequate medical facilities were available to treat prisoners in the jail… and it was highly secured in accordance with international standards.