Attempting to allay the British judiciary's historical concern about prison conditions in India, further undertakings given by the Modi regime were, Mallya would not be exposed to overcrowding in the prison, and that he would be kept in a separate compound which is “clean and hygienic”.
Five photos of western style toilets were presented to convince the court that acceptable standards would be extended to Mallya.
The Narendra Modi goverment gave an assurance on Tuesday to the British court hearing its application for the extradition of businessman Vijay Mallya to India that if sent back, Mallya will be provided a private western style toilet and wash facilities at Mumbai's Arthur Road prison, where he is proposed to be held.
Barrister Mark Summers, appearing for the British Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Government of India, said: “The Indian government will honour these assurances.” He had earlier submitted a third letter of assurance on the subject to the court, presided over by the chief magistrate of the Westminster magistrates' court Emma Arbuthnot.
Mallya was owner of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines, which is alleged to owe Rs 90 billion to Indian banks, his figure being Rs 55 billion. He is liable as he provided his personal guarantee in drawing the money.
The extradition matter, though, is only about Rs 7.5 billion borrowed from IDBI Bank, where he and executives of the bank are accused of conspiracy and fraud. Mallya denies the charge and is otherwise a significant shareholder in United Breweries, which produces Kingfisher Beer.
Attempting to allay the British judiciary's historical concern about prison conditions in India, further undertakings given by the Modi regime were, Mallya would not be exposed to overcrowding in the prison, and that he would be kept in a separate compound which is “clean and hygienic”. Five photos of western style toilets were presented to convince the court that acceptable standards would be extended to Mallya.
Summers also informed the court that Mallya would not be kept in a prison meant for convicts “during pre-trial or trial periods or after conviction”. He was at pains to impress upon Arbuthnot that the barrack where Mallya will be kept, if extradited, “has recently been renovated and has structural stability”.
He then produced a series of photographs to try and establish that Mallya will enjoy sunlight in his cell -- another sticking point in British courts allowing extradition requests from India. He then put it to the court that no inspection of the Arthur Road facilities by the British court was required.
Arguing for Mallya, Barrister Claire Montgomery rejected the Indian government's claims. She maintained: “The photos cannot be relied on.” She quoted an expert who had been shown the pictures as saying: “It is very difficult to work out where the light was coming from.” She implied the photos of the cell had been taken by showering artificial light on it.
Arbuthnot finally ordered a video of the cell to be taken at midday and handed in “within three weeks” or by August 21. Summers, consulting Rakesh Asthana of the Central Bureau of Investigation who was present in the court, offered to do.
What was scheduled to be the final hearing in the case which has been dragging for over a year, in fact, transpired to an abbreviated half hour session, as the magistrate was reported to be feeling under the weather. The next hearing was posted for September 12.
Prior to that, on August 3, the Bangalore high court is expected to hear Mallya's application for selling if his assets worth an estimated Rs 130 billion placed before it.
Meanwhile, Mallya's Force India Formula One racing company went into administration last week and there is speculation that it could soon change hands. Mallya is, however, said to be resisting this. Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley described Mallya as being "devastated" by the turn of events.
He, however, claimed her majesty's revenue & customs had dismissed a hearing on a winding up order as, according to him, all dues had been settled by the firm. There are reports of there being five bidders for the Silverstone based unit, but at the same time whispers that the company could come out of administration.
Photograph: PTI Photo/