India’s prison system came under the scanner at the extradition trial of liquor baron Vijay Mallya at Westminster Magistrates’ Court here today when it was compared to extreme conditions in Russia. The 61-year-old businessman’s defence team raised the issue as part of its opening arguments in response to the case for fraud laid out by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on behalf of the Indian government. The defence told Judge Emma Arbuthnot that there was “simply no mechanism to secure compliance” with the assurances provided by Indian authorities on safe prison conditions in India.
“The government [in India] has been unable and unwilling to remedy breaches of court orders,” Mallya’s barrister Clare Montgomery told the court. The judge questioned how it compares with poor prison conditions in Russia, a country where extradition cases hinge on unsafe prison conditions. Montgomery said that the situation in Russia was a “lot better than India” because they at least allow international experts in to review breaches of court orders.
“That is interesting,” the judge noted. The issue is likely to be discussed in further detail as the case progresses through the trial, scheduled to end on December 14. Mallya, wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering allegedly amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores, has been in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for his defence on day two of his trial.