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Bringing Laine back: Easier said than done
Vijay Singh in Mumbai | March 27, 2004 00:21 IST
It is not going to be easy for the Maharashtra government to get American historian Dr James Laine extradited for questioning in connection with his controversial book, Shivaji -- A Hindu King in Islamic India.
The row erupted on January 5 when the little-known Sambhaji Brigade ransacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, a venerable institution in Pune that housed invaluable historic artefacts and literature, for having assisted Laine in his research.
The state government, particularly the Maratha-dominated Nationalist Congress Party, seized on the emotional subject with the forthcoming general election in mind and banned the book even as it took a lenient view of the attack on the institution.
Last week, in an attempt to breathe fresh life into the furore, Home Minister R R Patil, who is also the NCP's Maharashtra unit president, declared that the government would issue an arrest warrant against Laine and contact Interpol to get him extradited to India.
But legal experts believe this is easier said than done. Extradition is a judicial process that can only be ordered by a court in the country where the quarry is resident (the United States, in this case).
To set the process in motion, a trial court in Maharashtra will first have to send Laine a notice to appear before it. If he fails to comply, the court will have to issue an arrest warrant. Thereafter, the state police, acting through the Central Bureau of Investigation, will have to approach Interpol for assistance.
Through Interpol, the state police will have to send a chargesheet to the relevant court in the US, which will study the charges, hear Laine as well, and decide whether he can, or should, be extradited.
Noted criminal lawyer Shrikant Bhat pointed out that ordinarily, for an extradition request to be granted, the offence for which extradition is being sought by one country should also be an offence in the host country.
But Maharashtra's Principal Home Secretary P K B Chakravorty argued, "We have different types of extradition treaties for different types of crimes with correspondent countries. If Laine fails to appear to face the charges, only then will we approach Interpol to bring him here to face trial."
"We have booked a case against [the author, publisher and printer]," Pune Police Commissioner D N Jadhav said. "If Laine fails to appear for trial we can approach higher agencies for his extradition."
Bhat, who has read Laine's controversial book, said, "The government can issue an arrest warrant and approach Interpol to extradite Laine under section 153(A) [of the Indian Penal Code, for inciting enmity between two groups]. But constitutionally it is not supportable in court," mainly because it is a work of research.
Meanwhile, Oxford University Press, publishers of the book, have filed a petition in the Bombay high court, challenging the charges against them. The court will hear the petition on April 5.
The Deccan Gymkhana police station in Pune registered a case (CR #10/04) against the author, publisher and printer of the book under sections 153 (wanton provocation with intent to cause riot) and 153[A] (promoting enmity between different groups and performing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony) of the IPC.
The offence under section 153(A) is non-bailable. The Pune police arrested the printer, Vinod Goel, but he secured bail from a Delhi court.
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