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Nirav Modi’s presence confirmed in UK, CBI moves for extradition

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Nirav Modi

New Delhi  |  The UK has confirmed to the CBI that the fugitive billionaire Nirav Modi, alleged to be the mastermind of India’s biggest banking fraud of over USD 2 billion, is in their country, officials said today.

The Central Bureau of Investigation submitted an extradition request to the home ministry immediately after getting the confirmation, they said.

The request to bring him back will be sent to the United Kingdom through the External Affairs Ministry.

The agency has also requested authorities in the UK to detain him on the basis of the Red Corner Notice issued by the Interpol against him, they said.

The RCN was issued on the request of the CBI in June this year, officials said.

In its RCN issued against a fugitive, the Interpol asks its 192 member countries to arrest or detain the person if spotted in their countries after which extradition or deportation proceedings can begin.

Nirav Modi, along with his wife Ami Modi, a US citizen, brother Nishal Modi, a Belgian citizen, and uncle Mehul Choksi, all accused in the CBI’s FIRs in the case, left the country in the first week of January, weeks before country’s biggest banking scam surfaced.

Choksi has been located in Antigua, where he has taken citizenship, officials said.

Nirav Modi and Choksi have refused to return to India to join the probe, citing business and health reasons, they said.

Nirav Modi managed to travel across several countries even after information about his passport being revoked by the Indian government was flashed in the Interpol central database on February 24, the CBI had said earlier.

“After the passport was revoked/cancelled by the External Affairs Ministry, we had updated this information in the diffusion notice. The information that Nirav Modi’s passport has been revoked was provided in the Interpol central database, available to all the member countries, on February 24,” CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal had said.

After the “diffusion” notice was issued by the Interpol on the request of the CBI, the agency followed it up with six countries where Nirav Modi was suspected to have fled to, he had said. The agency requested these countries to share information about his whereabouts and movements.

The agency sent these reminders to the Interpol coordination agency of the United Kingdom on April 25, May 22, May 24 and May 28.

The scam pertains to the alleged issuance of fraudulent Letters of Undertakings (LoUs) of more than USD 2 billion to companies of Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi by the Punjab National Bank’s Brady House branch in Mumbai during 2011-17, officials said.

An LoU is a guarantee given by an issuing bank to Indian banks with branches abroad to grant short-term credit to the applicant.

Nirav Modi and his companies allegedly availed a credit from the overseas branches of Indian banks using the fraudulent PNB guarantees given through LoUs and letters of credit issued by the Brady House branch which were not repaid, bringing the liability on the state-run bank, the officials said.

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Tandoor case: HC asks Delhi govt why Sushil Sharma not released after 29 years of incarceration

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Sushil Sharma

New Delhi | The Delhi High Court on Friday asked the city government why former youth Congress leader Sushil Kumar Sharma, serving life term in the 1995 murder case of his wife Naina Sahni, has not been released after having undergone 29 years of incarceration.

Terming the issue as “serious”, the court issued notice to the Delhi government and sought its stand on Sharma’s habeas corpus plea seeking release from custody in the case on the grounds that he has been jailed for 29 years, including the period of remission, and his continued incarceration was illegal.

A bench of justices Siddharth Mridul and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal asked the Secretary, Home Department and Secretary of Law and Justice department to be present before it on the next date of hearing, December 18, with the original records of Sharma’s application to the Sentence Review Board (SRB) for premature release and the reasons for rejecting it.

The bench said that “life and liberty of any individual is of paramount consideration” and asked the Delhi government how someone can be kept in custody “indefinitely”. Sharma, in prison since 1995, has contended that he has already undergone the maximum prescribed sentence as mandated under the SRB guidelines.

According to his plea, the guidelines on premature release state that life convicts sentenced for a single offence are to be released after completion of 20 years of incarceration and those who had committed heinous crimes are to be granted the relief after 25 years.

The petition, filed through advocate Amit Sahni, has said even though Sharma’s case falls in the first category, he has also undergone 29 years of incarceration, with remission, and 23 years and six months, without remission.

Now 56, Sharma had shot dead his wife in 1995 objecting to her alleged relationship with a male friend. He had then chopped her body into pieces and attempted to burn it in a restaurant oven. Known as the tandoor murder case, it is one of the landmark cases in India in which DNA evidence and a second autopsy were used to establish the guilt of the accused.

In his plea, Sharma has contended that his conduct in prison and while out on parole has been “exemplary” and he has never misused his liberty. Apart from that, he has also argued that even the Supreme Court, while commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment, had held that he was not a confirmed criminal and there was no evidence to indicate that he was likely to revert to such crimes in future.

Another ground on which he has sought release from custody is that both his parents are over 80 years old and suffering from various ailments and there is no one to look after them.

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Army to extend support to disabled war veterans: General Rawat

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Hyderabad | The Army is taking efforts to compile data on war veterans who suffered disability so as to provide them support, including prosthetic limbs in needed cases, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Friday.

Gen. Rawat, here to attend the Convocation Ceremony at the Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering (MCEME), said the aim was also to motive the disabled soldiers that disability does not mean they cannot do anything. “What we are doing is, firstly we are identifying these people. There are disabled soldiers some of them are in the village. Some are elsewhere. Some got disabled in the 1965 war. Some in the 1971 war. They are now very, very old. So, the idea is to first identify and see how their condition is,” he told reporters here.
He was replying to a question on the Army’s plans to extend the support system to soldiers who suffered disability
in the line of duty.

Gen Rawat said the Army was looking at compiling data on the present condition of the veterans. “And once we have compiled the data… then we have to work out the kind of support we have to give them… It is not just monthly support and some people need prosthetic limbs,” he said. The army was now providing very good artificial limbs and artificial systems which can help the affected lead a near-normal life, he said.

Noting that there were two distinct types of people who get disabled while serving the army, the General said some, who lost parts like an eye or a hand, need the support of family members and there were others who were disabled because of service conditions, stress and even lifestyle diseases, but can take care of themselves. Hence, there should be distinct support for the two types of disabled persons.

Earlier, Rawat, in his convocation address, said the graduating officers need to harness the latest technologies. “As technology refines and research throws open new vistas, your challenge would be to harness the latest technologies for the benefit of our great Indian Army,” he said.

He also said future battlespace would be dominated by guided missiles, Artificial Intelligence, unmanned platforms, robots, and network-centric operations.

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Have ‘constricted power’ to review government decisions pertaining to nation’s security, says SC

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New Delhi | The judiciary has “constricted power” to review the decision of procuring 36 Rafale fighter jets as it was crucial to the nation’s sovereignty and the government has far “more leeway” in such matters, the Supreme Court said on Friday.

The top court, which junked pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of Rafale jets, dealt extensively in its verdict with the scope and ambit of judicial review of such decisions, including on defence procurement, taken by the government.

Holding that the apex court has “constricted power of judicial review”, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “the scrutiny of the challenges before us…will have to be made keeping in mind the confines of national security, the subject of the procurement is crucial to the nation’s sovereignty”.

The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, said the deal in question did not pertain to the construction of road or bridges. “We also cannot lose sight of the tender in issue. The tender is not for construction of roads, bridges, etc. It is a defence tender for procurement of aircraft. The parameter of scrutiny would give far more leeway to the Government, keeping in mind the nature of the procurement itself.

“The triple ground on which such judicial scrutiny is permissible has been consistently held to be ‘illegality’, ‘irrationality’ and ‘procedural impropriety’,” it said. The top court said however that the scope of judicial review would vary with the subject matter of the contract and there cannot be any uniform standard which could be understood as an “across the board principle to apply to all cases of an award of work or procurement of goods/material”.

Referring to various judgments, it said the award of contracts is essentially a commercial transaction and such decisions are “not open to judicial scrutiny unless it is found that the same have been tailor-­made to benefit any particular tenderer or a class of tenderers”.

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