Britain has ordered extradition of one of the main Naval war room leak accused Ravi Shankaran to India to face trial, a move that may expedite court proceedings pending for several months.
"On May 22, the secretary of state, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed an order for Ravi Shankaran's extradition to India. Mr Shankaran is accused of industrial espionage under the Indian Official Secrets Act," a home office spokesperson told PTI in London on Tuesday.
United Kingdom Home Secretary Theresa May issued the orders for his extradition to India and facing trial but gave Shankaran, close relative of former Naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash, 14 days time to file an appeal in the case, the Central Bureau of Investigation said in New Delhi.
Shankaran's defence team told the court that he intends to appeal against the order. Unless an appeal is filed within the time-frame, the authorities will proceed with extradition procedures immediately.
At a hearing at Westminster Magistrates court in London on March 27, District Judge Nicholas Evans had said in his ruling that "a case to answer has been made out" against the accused, clearing the way for the Home Secretary to take the final call.
The CBI, while pressing for his extradition, had assured the Westminster Magistrates court in Britain that his bail will not be opposed once he is brought back to face trial. The 49-year-old Shankaran had listed denial of bail in India among the reasons for opposing his extradition to this country, sources said.
The CBI plans to send a team to the UK to bring him back once all legal formalities of that country are completed as Shankaran, against whom an Interpol Red Corner notice had also been issued, may be opposing the decision of the British home secretary in the court in London.
About giving an assurance, the CBI justified it by saying that he had been named in a charge sheet and all he required was to face the trial. The retired naval commander, who was arrested in London in May 2010, has been given conditional bail, which includes the requirement to live at a new UK address provided by him, a deposit of 20,000 pounds and no right to foreign travel. Shankaran is one of the key accused in the case of leaking classified information from the War Room to arms dealers. He has been absconding since the case was registered by the CBI in March 2006.
His passport was revoked on May 1, 2006 and an Interpol Red Corner Notice was secured against him in July that year. An Interpol Red Notice is the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant.
Shankaran was first located in the UK in 2007 and an extradition request was sent. However, he reportedly fled from London to other parts of Europe before he ran out of luck in 2010 when he was arrested by Scotland Yard.
Shankaran's defence team, led by James Lewis, had claimed that some of the evidence should be ruled inadmissible and also that their client's human rights were at a "real risk" of being impinged due to the "endemic delays in the Indian judicial system".
The UK's Crown Prosecution Service had argued the CBI's case that there was substantial evidence to extradite the accused for a trial in India. Delivering his verdict in March, Judge Evans had said: "The court is concerned with English rules of law and evidence that may be inadmissible in India is not a relevant consideration...no new evidence has been presented that deals a knock-out blow to the prima facie case to answer".
The judge had also dismissed Shankaran's claims that the CBI had gone "out of the way to cover up false and fabricated evidence" as having no "merit whatsoever".
He said extradition hearings are bound by good faith between sovereign states and that he is confident that if the prosecution in India no longer felt there was "credible and admissible" evidence against the accused, then it was their duty to end the proceedings and withdraw the extradition request.