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Vijay Mallya gets bail, London judge wants to see if Indian jails get proper sunlight

Absconding bank defaulter Vijay Mallya got his bail extended by a London court on Tuesday, 31 July, after a hearing that lasted a couple of hours.

SNS | New Delhi |

Absconding bank defaulter Vijay Mallya got his bail extended by a London court on Tuesday, 31 July, after a hearing that lasted a couple of hours. The Westminster Magistrates’ Court was hearing the closing arguments in the high-profile extradition trial of the embattled liquor tycoon wanted in India on fraud charges.

The court not only extended Mallya’s bail to 12 September, Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot also asked India to submit a video of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, where authorities intend to keep him following his extradition from the UK.

Arrested in April last year in the UK, the 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss has been on bail while fighting extradition to India on the grounds of human rights, fair trial and jail conditions.

Though India submitted photos of the prison, the judge, not satisfied, reportedly asked officials to film someone going into it. She demanded to see “some natural light, sunlight” inside the prison cell.

While Mallya’s defence argued that there was no light inside the prison, India’s counsel Mark Summers said that the photos submitted were proof that jail conditions complied with the guidelines of the Human Rights Commission. He also submitted sovereign assurances that Mallya’s human rights would not be breached and said that the wanted bank defaulter will be put in barracks where he will receive fresh air and light.

Following his bail extension, Mallya, who arrived at the court with his son Siddharth, reiterated that he is ready to settle his dues.

“I have not applied for any clemency plea. I am ready to settle my dues,” he was quoted as saying by ANI adding that “allegations of money laundering and stealing money are completely false”.

India wants Mallya on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores.

At the last hearing in the case on April 27, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had received a boost in the case as Judge Arbuthnot confirmed that the bulk of the evidence submitted by the Indian authorities will be admissible in the case.

The CBI had submitted a detailed set of documents to the UK court, which includes its case of conspiracy against former IDBI Bank Deputy Managing Director BK Batra, who was referred to in court as a new “villain” of sorts in the case.

As per the Indian authorities’ case of conspiracy, Batra reportedly colluded with Mallya in sanctioning some of the loans to the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines without following due diligence procedures.

The extradition trial, which opened at the London court on December 4 last year, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against Mallya, who has been based in the UK since he left India in March 2016. It also seeks to prove there are no “bars to extradition” and that the tycoon is assured a fair trial in India over his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ alleged default of over Rs 9,000 crores in loans from a consortium of Indian banks.

The CPS has argued that the evidence they have presented establishes “dishonesty” on the part of the businessman and that there are no bars to him being extradited from the UK to face Indian courts.

Last month, after a prolonged period of silence, Mallya had issued a lengthy media statement, labelling the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) charges against him as untenable and blatantly false”.

He has since lost his appeal in the UK’s Court of Appeal against a High Court order in favour of 13 Indian banks to recover funds amounting to nearly 1.145 billion pounds.

The High Court order in favour of the State Bank of India (SBI) led consortium had reinforced a worldwide freezing order against Mallya’s assets.

It was followed by a related enforcement order last month granting permission to the UK High Court Enforcement Officer to enter Mallya’s properties in Hertfordshire, near London, where he is based.

Mallya has since said that he has handed over a full statement of his UK assets to the court and there was no question of use of force to enter his home, Ladywalk, in the village of Tewin in England.

(With inputs from agencies.)