The perceived crisis in the Indian judiciary may be used by fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya as a ground to escape extradition to India, if highly placed Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sources are to be believed.
CBI sources, familiar with the ways being used by Mallya, said that the current controversy of the four Supreme Court judges may be used by Mallya and his legal team as a point to seek to prove the falsehood that Indian judiciary was “corrupt and prone to political influence”.
When contacted, the main counsel of Mallya, Clare Montgomery of the London based “Matrix” law firm, told The Sunday Guardian: “In accordance with the relevant code of conduct, it would not be appropriate for me to make any comment on the case.”
The newspaper had asked her: “You have stated that the CBI was prosecuting this case for ‘political motivation’. What is the reason for saying this and does not your client believe in the working of the Indian judiciary system?”
Sources in the agency said that they had a very strong case against Mallya, but the “manipulations that are being carried out by him” are likely to affect the final outcome of the case. “He has helped and obliged many influential people when he was at his peak in India and now they are returning the favour. He is still quite influential and that may help him” a highly placed source said.
In December last year, while the argument for the case was going on, Mallya’s legal team devoted a considerable time (one hour) on the controversy surrounding senior CBI official Rakesh Asthana whose elevation as a special director in the agency was challenged by an NGO.
Asthana is the man who is handling the case of Mallya. This was done, according to agency sources, to save Mallya by defaming the CBI.
His legal team during their arguments has repeatedly focused on allegations that the case registered by the Indian government against Mallya was politically motivated and has claimed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of “making political capital from the Mallya case on the assumption there was a fraud”.
Mallya’s team has also focused on “trial by media” to bolster their arguments that if he is extradited to India, he will not get a fair trial.
His lawyer, during her arguments, has stated that the CBI has “long and inglorious history of being politically motivated in the cases it brings” and has also criticised prison conditions in India, saying that they were worse than in Russia, a country to which British courts have on several occasions refused to extradite suspects for that reason.
In this same context, the CBI is also looking at the sudden increase in reports in certain media houses regarding the “prison conditions” in Tihar jail, which were reported very prominently in the recent times.
Mallya’s team has also focused on “trial by media” that is routinely carried out by news channels to bolster their arguments that if Mallya is extradited to India, he will not get a fair trial.
Last month, Mallya’s lawyers introduced Martin Lau, an expert on South Asian law, as an expert witness in the case.
Lau has said: “There is an increasing concern in India about media trials, which is connected with a change in the landscape in India where TV channels use panel discussions....”
Lau also referred to the Delhi High Court setting up a committee to look into “trial by media”, adding that it raised concerns about the “fairness of a trial” in India.
Vijay Mallya’s lawyer have also raked up the Aarushi-Hemraj double murder to highlight what she alleged was incompetence on the part of the CBI.