Extradition proceeding in 498a Ipc
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO.676 OF 2008
Shri Bhavesh Jayanti Lakhani, aged ) 33 years, residing at A/103, Star ) Galaxy Apartment, L.T. Road, Opp. ) St. Anne’ School, Borivli (West),
Mumbai 400 092. ) …. Petitioner Versus
1. The State of Maharashtra (At the )
instance of Borivli Police Station, )
2. The Commissioner of Police, )
3. The Crime Intelligence Unit, )
General Branch, Crime Branch, )
CID, Crawford Market, Mumbai )
400 001. )
4. Central Bureau of Investigation, )
Interpol Wing, Government of )
India, New Delhi. )
5. Union of India, having address at )
Law & Judiciary Department, )
Aaykar Bhavan, Marine Lines, )
Mumbai 400 020. )
6. Ms. Hetal Girish Thakkar @ Mrs. )
Hetal Bhavesh Lakhani @ Mrs. )
Hetal Ashwin Matta, presently )
residing at 7109, Avignon, Dr. )
Round Rock, Texas 78681 )
5332. ) … Respondents Mr. A.P. Mundargi, senior counsel i/b Mr. Prakash Naik for the petitioner.
Mr. S.R. Borulkar, Public Prosecutor with Ms. U.V. Kejariwal, A.P.P. for the State.
Mr. Yug Choudhary, advocate appointed for respondent 6. CORAM : SMT. RANJANA DESAI &
DR. D.Y. CHANDRACHUD, JJ.
DATE ON WHICH THE JUDGMENT IS
RESERVED : 1ST AUGUST, 2008.
DATE ON WHICH THE JUDGMENT IS
PRONOUNCED : ___ AUGUST, 2008.
JUDGMENT: (Per Smt. Ranjana Desai, J.)
1. In this petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the warrant issued by the Magistrate Court, Clayton County, Georgia in Case No.2006/CW/06369 and Case No.2006/CW/06370 or any other Court in the U.S.A. in respect of AJN
the complaint filed by respondent 6 is sought to be stayed. The petitioner is also seeking a direction restraining the respondents or any other Central Government machinery from arresting the petitioner or taking any action pursuant to the warrants.
2. We have heard, at length, Mr. Mundargi, learned senior counsel, who is appearing for the petitioner, Mr. Choudhary, who is appointed by us to appear for respondent 6 and Mr. Borulkar, learned Public Prosecutor for the State.
3. In this petition, on 7/4/2008, Division Bench of this court (Bilal Nazki & V.M. Kanade, JJ) issued notice to the other side. Interim relief in terms of prayer clause (c) was granted. Resultantly, the warrants issued against the petitioner got stayed. The petition appeared on our board on 22/7/2008. Since respondent 6, the wife who is in U.S.A. was not served, she was not represented. Because it is the case of the petitioner as submitted in the court and reiterated in the written submissions that a Red Corner Notice is issued against him and because by interim order, the warrants AJN
and the Red Corner Notice are stayed, we appointed Mr. Choudhary to assist us on behalf of respondent 6. We directed that the petition be placed on our board on 29/7/2008. Interim protection was ordered to be continued till 29/7/2008. We directed Mr. Choudhary to get address of respondent 6 from the petitioner’ s
counsel and take steps to contact her. On 29/7/2008, Mr. Choudhary stated that he had contacted the petitioner on phone. He stated that the correct address of respondent 6 was not given by the petitioner. We, therefore, granted to the petitioner leave to amend the title. Statement of the petitioner’ s counsel was recorded
that compilation will be sent to respondent 6 by courier. Compilation seems to have not been dispatched till 1/8/2008. It was brought to our notice that minor daughter Eesha’ s custody was
granted by the American Court as well as the Family Court at Mumbai to respondent 6 mother and the Family Court had also issued arrest warrant against the petitioner. It was also brought to our notice that the Family Court’s order is challenged by the petitioner in this court; that the petitioner’ s appeal is admitted and
that the warrant issued by the Family Court is stayed. It was AJN
pointed out to us that this court had while admitting the matter noted in the order that the petitioner had brought Eesha to the court but the respondentwife was not available. We are informed that this court did not interview the child. In the interest of justice, therefore, we directed that the child be brought to us on 30/7/2006 at 3.00 p.m. The petition was adjourned to 30/7/2006. Interim protection was extended till 30/7/2006. On 30/7/2006, we interviewed Eesha in our chamber. We asked learned counsel whether the civil appeal and the present petition should be heard together. Mr. Naik, learned counsel for the petitioner took time to obtain instructions. We, therefore, adjourned the petition to 31/7/2008 and extended the protection granted to the petitioner till 31/7/2008. On 31/7/2008, Mr. Naik submitted that he cannot make a statement that both the matters should be heard together. Since a question of law is involved in this petition, we posted this petition for hearing as to admission today by extending interim protection till today. Before, we turn to the question of law, it is necessary to give the gist of the facts as stated by the petitioner because the petitioner’
s counsel has alleged fraud and contended that fraud has AJN
vitiated all actions initiated against the petitioner.
4. The case of the petitioner as stated in the written submission is that he got married to respondent 6 on 6/4/2002 in Mumbai. After marriage, they proceeded to California and stayed there from 2002 to 2005. Their child Eesha is aged about 5 years. According to the petitioner, respondent 6 withdrew all funds from their joint account and filed a petition for divorce in the court of Norfolk, Boston, which was not admitted on the ground of jurisdiction and enraged by this respondent 6 filed a false complaint against the petitioner and obtained restraint order against her and Eesha which was subsequently vacated. On 5/10/2005, respondent 6 obtained the order of judicial separation. The court granted interim custody of Eesha to respondent 6. The court, however, granted to the petitioner access to Eesha. According to the petitioner in breach of the restrain order, respondent 6 moved to New Hampshire and called the petitioner to join her there. Thereafter, the petitioner and respondent 6 stayed together at New Hampshire. AJN
5. According to the petitioner, in March, 2006, respondent 6 informed the petitioner that both of them will have to return to India permanently because the Asylum Office had called her and that Federal Government in the U.S.A. had found out about her lies in the Asylum Application of May, 2003. According to the petitioner, both of them decided to return to India and with the consent of respondent 6, the petitioner booked three tickets in March, 2006. Respondent 6 then told the petitioner that she had lost her passport. She informed the petitioner that he should go to India with Eesha and she will follow them. On 7/3/2006 and 14/4/2006, respondent 6 herself gave in writing that she had authorized the petitioner to travel to India with Eesha. With the consent of respondent 6, the petitioner brought Eesha to India on 15/4/2006. According to the petitioner on 2/5/2006, respondent 6 misled the American Court and obtained exparte divorce decree.
6. The petitioner’
s case is that respondent 6 had no intention to come to India with the petitioner. She got married to one Ashwin Matta. She filed a complaint with Macklenburg County Police AJN
Department in North Carolina by giving a different story that the petitioner had kidnapped Eesha and had fled along with her to India. The police in Atlanta, therefore, issued two arrest warrants against the petitioner i.e. Custody Violation Warrant and Kidnapping Felony Warrant and a Red Corner Notice is issued by Interpol against the petitioner.
7. The petitioner’s further case is that respondent 6 filed a petition for custody of Eesha in Family Court, Mumbai, on 11/5/2007. Family Court directed the petitioner to produce Eesha before it. Pursuant to the notice of the Family Court, the father of the petitioner remained present in the court on 15/5/2007 and stated that the petitioner has gone out of Mumbai along with Eesha. Matter was adjourned to 18/5/2007. On that day, again the petitioner’
s father remained present and informed the court that the petitioner could not be contacted. Family Court issued arrest warrant against the petitioner and granted custody of Eesha to respondent 6 mother and allowed her to take Eesha to the U.S.A. This order was challenged by the petitioner in appeal in this court AJN
and this court (J.N. Patel & A.A. Sayed, JJ.) admitted the appeal and stayed the order of the Family Court granting custody of Eesha to respondent 6 and issuing warrant against the petitioner.
8. Respondent 6 is not before us. To the petition, the petitioner has annexed her application filed in the Family Court in Mumbai. From the application, her case appears to be that the petitioner used to illtreat her. She complained to the police about the ill treatment. The police helped her to obtain Abuse Prevention Order from the Trial Court of Massachusetts (U.S.A). Ultimately, she decided to take divorce. On 5/5/2005, the Trial Court in the U.S.A. issued permanent Abuse Prevention Order against the petitioner. According to respondent 6, on 9/5/2005, she filed a petition for divorce before the Trial Court of Massachusetts. On 5/10/2005, she was awarded interim custody of Eesha and the next date of hearing was fixed on 2/5/2006. On 15/4/2006, Eesha was found missing. She reported to the police in Mecklemberg County Police Department in North Carolina. The police found out that the petitioner had taken Eesha to India. The police in Atlanta issued AJN
two arrest warrants against the petitioner i.e. Custody Violation Warrant and Kidnapping Felony Warrant. The FBI cannot execute the warrants unless the authorities in India execute the custody order. Respondent 6 has further stated that on 2/5/2006, trial took place in Massachusetts. The petitioner’s
attorney was present. He
produced a travel consent letter on which signature of respondent 6 was forged. Seeing this, the court awarded legal and physical custody of Eesha to respondent 6.
9. As stated by us hereinabove, we have in detail narrated the petitioner’
s case because Mr. Mundargi, learned senior counsel for the petitioner submitted that respondent 6 has practiced fraud on the court. He submitted that fraud vitiates everything. Fraud has, therefore, vitiated the arrest warrants and the Red Corner Notice. This is his main contention. According to Mr. Mundargi, Eesha was brought to India because respondent 6 gave consent. Case of respondent 6 as stated in the application is that her signatures were forged by the petitioner. We have also noted that it is the petitioner’
s case that he was not present in the U.S.A. Court when AJN
decree of divorce was passed and he also did not remain present on two dates in the Family Court, Mumbai, which led the Family Court to issue arrest warrant.
10. At the outset, we want to make it clear that on the facts of the case, we do not want to express any opinion. We are mindful of the fact that this court has admitted the petitioner’s appeal challenging the grant of custody of Eesha to respondent 6. Facts involved in that appeal would obviously be dealt with by this court when it is finally heard.
11. The question here is whether a Red Corner Notice can be stayed by this court. For this purpose, it is necessary to have a look at the provisions of Extradition Act, 1962 (for short, “the Extradition Act”).
12. Many International Conventions have been held to discuss how to empower State parties to deal with crimes committed by fugitive criminals. Statement of Objects and Reasons of Act 66 of AJN
93 by which the Extradition Act was amended states that India is a party to many of these conventions which lay down specific obligations on the State parties to extradite or prosecute fugitive offenders. The Extradition Act provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction over foreigners for crimes committed by them outside India. One of its objectives is to cover extradition requests on the basis of International Conventions within the scope of the Extradition Act.
13. Under section 2(c)(i), extradition offence means in relation to a foreign State, being a treaty State, an offence provided for in the extradition treaty with that State.
Extradition treaty is defined under section 2(d) as under : “(d) “extradition treaty” means a treaty [, agreement or arrangement] made by India with foreign State relating to the extradition of fugitive criminals, and includes any treaty [, agreement or arrangement] relating to the extradition of fugitive criminals made before the 15th day of August, 1947, which extends to, and is binding on, India;”
Section 2(f) defines a `
as under :
“[(f)”fugitive criminal” means a person who is accused or convicted of an extradition offence within the jurisdiction of a foreign State and includes a person who, while in India, conspires, attempts to commit or incites or participates as an accomplice in the commission of an extradition offence in a foreign State.]”
Under section 2(j), a ‘
means a foreign State with
which an extradition treaty is in operation.
14. There is no dispute about the fact that India has extradition treaty with U.S.A. U.S.A. is therefore, a treaty State. Chapter II of the Extradition Act applies to extradition of fugitive criminals to foreign States. This chapter contains provisions which dealt with extradition of fugitive criminals to States with which India does not have extradition treaty. Though here we are concerned with a case where there is extradition treaty, it is necessary to have a look AJN
at certain provisions contained in this chapter to compare them with the provisions which relate to States which have extradition treaty to appreciate Mr. Mundargi’
s argument that while considering
s case facts will have to be gone into.
15. Section 7 relates to the procedure before a Magistrate before whom a fugitive criminal who is wanted in a State with which India has no treaty is brought. It states that when the fugitive criminal is brought before the Magistrate, he shall inquire into the case in the same manner and shall have same jurisdiction and powers, as nearly as may be, as if the case was one triable by a court of Sessions or High Court. This section permits the Magistrate to take evidence on behalf of the requisitionist State as well as on behalf of the fugitive criminal. It empowers the Magistrate to discharge the fugitive criminal if no prima facie case is made out. But, if a prima facie case is made out, the Magistrate has to commit the fugitive criminal to prison to await order of the Central Government.
16. Chapter III provides for return of fugitive criminal to foreign States with extradition arrangements. Section 14 states that a fugitive criminal may be apprehended in India under an endorsed warrant or a provisional warrant. Section 15 states that where a warrant for the apprehension of a fugitive criminal has been issued in any foreign State and such fugitive criminal is or is supposed to be, in India, the Central Government may, if satisfied that the warrant was issued by a person having lawful authority to issue the same, endorse such warrant in the manner prescribed, and the warrant so endorsed shall be sufficient authority to apprehend the person named in the warrant and to bring him before any Magistrate in India. Section 17 says that if the Magistrate is satisfied on inquiry that the endorsed warrant for apprehension of the fugitive criminal is duly authenticated and that the offence of which the person is accused or has been convicted is an extradition offence, he shall commit the fugitive criminal to prison to await his return and shall forthwith send to the Central Government a certificate of the committal. Subsection (2) of section 17 states that if the Magistrate is of opinion that the endorsed warrant is not AJN
duly authenticated and that no extradition offence is said to have been committed by the fugitive criminal, the Magistrate may pending the receipt of the orders of the Central Government detain such person in custody or release him on bail. Under subsection (3), the Magistrate has to report the result of his inquiry to the Central Government.
17. Therefore, while dealing with a fugitive criminal wanted in a State with which India has no treaty, the Magistrate can inquire into the case in the same manner as if the case was triable by Court of Sessions or High Court, however, while dealing with a fugitive criminal wanted in a treaty State, such inquiry and such a trial is not open. There is no provision enabling the Magistrate to take evidence. He cannot discharge the fugitive criminal. He has to only see whether the warrant is duly authenticated and whether the fugitive criminal is concerned with an extradition offence. If these two conditions are satisfied, the Magistrate shall commit him to prison. The use of the word “shall” is significant. The Magistrate has then no option but to commit him to prison. He has to then AJN
submit the result of his inquiry to the Central Government together with written statement which the fugitive criminal may desire to submit for the consideration of the Central Government. The reason for this is obvious. Section 29 gives power to the Central Government to discharge any fugitive criminal. It states that if it appears to the Central Government that by reason of the trivial nature of the case or by reason of the application for surrender or return of a fugitive criminal not being made in good faith or in the interests of justice or for political reasons or otherwise, it is unjust or inexpedient to surrender or return the fugitive criminal, it may, by order, at any time stay any proceedings under this Act and direct any warrant issued or endorsed under the Extradition Act to be cancelled and the person for whose arrest the warrant has been issued or endorsed to be discharged.
18. In case of extradition of fugitive criminal from treaty States, the Magistrate cannot make a roving inquiry into facts. He has to only see whether the warrant is endorsed properly and whether the fugitive criminal is involved in an extradition offence. He cannot AJN
assume the role of a trial judge. The moment he is satisfied that the above two conditions are satisfied, he shall commit the fugitive criminal to custody. The reason for such stringent provision is obvious. The Extradition Act recognizes the sanctity of an extradition treaty. Extradition treaty implies mutual obligations. It demands mutual respect for warrants or notices issued by States party to it. Since an extradition treaty falls within the domain of the Central Government as per the provisions of the Extradition Act, the ultimate authority to take vital decisions is left with it. Treaty obligations have to be respected. They are international obligations. Disrespect or disregard shown to warrants issued by a treaty State may result in similar response from that State to warrants issued by India. Such approach will result in frustrating the extradition treaty.
19. The Code of Criminal Procedure also contains provisions for reciprocal arrangements. Section 105(A)(a) defines a ` Contracting
State’to mean any country or place outside India in respect of AJN
which arrangements have been made by the Central Government with the Government of such country through a treaty or otherwise. Section 105K states that every letter of request, summons or warrant, received by the Central Government from, and every letter of request, summons or warrant, to be transmitted to a contracting State shall be transmitted to a contracting State or, as the case may be sent to the concerned Court in India in such form and in such manner as the Central Government may, by notification, specify in this behalf. Overall control of the Central Government is seen even here. Section 105 inter alia provides procedure for execution of process issued by any court in a contracting State.
20. Provisions of Chapter III of the Extradition Act which we have quoted hereinabove make it clear that a machinery is created for scrutiny of the warrants issued by the treaty State to find out its authenticity and to find out whether the fugitive criminal is covered by the Extradition Act because of commission of extradition offence by him. A provision is made to give him relief if the above facts are not proved. Wide powers vest in the Central Government to take AJN
necessary steps to give redress to a fugitive criminal if his case warrants it. The provision contained in section 17 directing the Magistrate to commit the fugitive criminal from treaty State to jail on being satisfied about the existence of the conditions stated therein is of mandatory nature. In such circumstances, in our considered opinion, this court cannot tinker with the Red Corner Notice issued against the petitioner. If he is not concerned with any extradition offence, he must inform the concerned Magistrate about it. The Magistrate is duty bound to send his report and the statement if any filed by the petitioner to the Central Government. The Central Government if it feel necessary can give him relief under section 29 of the Extradition Act.
21. We find no substance in Mr. Mundargi’ submission that s
because under section 17 of the Extradition Act while dealing with the fugitive criminal who is produced before him, the Magistrate cannot go into facts, in our writ jurisdiction we should go into the facts. He submitted that we need to go into facts because respondent 6 wife has practiced fraud and fraud vitiates everything, AJN
even the Red Corner Notice. While accepting that in a given case, we can, in our writ jurisdiction go into facts, we are not inclined to do so in this case. In her application made to the Family Court, a copy of which the petitioner has annexed to the petition, respondent 6 has made several serious allegations against the petitioner including the allegation that he has forged her signatures. According to her, while fraudulently taking Eesha to India, the petitioner took away her passport. Therefore, she could not follow him to India. She got a new passport and visited India. She could not locate the petitioner hence she went back. She again came to India after learning that the petitioner was staying in Borivali and then filed a petition in the Family Court. She has expressed a fear that the petitioner may abscond and take Eesha out of the jurisdiction of this court. Therefore, here we are concerned with disputed facts of such nature which cannot be investigated in writ jurisdiction. Besides, the Extradition Act provides for a procedure which cannot be bypassed. The Extradition Act also contains provisions which can provide relief to the petitioner. In matters of treaty obligations, we would not like to trench on the powers of the AJN
22. Red Corner Notice is International Criminal Police Commission Notice (Interpol Notice). It plays a vital role in tracking, tracing and extraditing internationally wanted fugitives. It is issued to seek the provisional arrest and extradition of the fugitive on the basis of valid arrest warrant. It is not possible for us to stay warrants issued against the petitioner by the American Courts. Red Corner Notice cannot be tinkered with. The procedure prescribed under the law must be followed. Apart from the fact that we are of the considered opinion that warrants issued by American Courts and the Red Corner Notice cannot be stayed, we would not like to set a precedent which could be used to hamper investigation of crimes which have global dimensions and for the investigation of which, Red Corner Notice is a critical tool.
In the circumstances, we reject the petition. Needless to say that the interim stay is vacated.
[SMT. RANJANA DESAI, J.]
[DR. D.Y. CHANDRACHUD, J.]
At this stage, Mr. Naik, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner states that the interim order may be continued for six weeks. The prayer is rejected.
[SMT. RANJANA DESAI, J.]
[DR. D.Y. CHANDRACHUD, J.]