[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Ministry of External Affairs has informed on June 15, 2018 in response to an RTI application filed on May 23, 2018 that it has not yet received a formal extradition request in reference to Nirav Modi, the fugitive accused in the alleged Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam. The following information regarding Nirav Modi was sought for through an RTI application filed by Paras Nath Singh:
Details of steps taken by the Ministry of External Affairs for the extradition of Nirav Modi, a fugitive at present.
Certified copy of complete correspondence made by the Ministry of External Affairs with foreign countries on the issue of Nirav Modi.
Date on which for the first time MEA wrote to the foreign country on the issue of Nirav Modi, seeking the certified copy of the response received, if any.
Date on which the Enforcement Directorate and any other agency approached MEA on the issue of Nirav Modi, seeking the certified copy of the said correspondence, if any.
The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) has replied (see below RTI reply 1) in response to query no. 2-4 that the requisite information cannot be provided pursuant to Section 8 (1) (f) and 8 (1) (h) of the Right To Information Act, 2005. Section 8(1)(f) bars the disclosure of information received in confidence from a foreign government, while section 8(1)(h) prohibits disclosure of information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.
RTI reply 1
The RTI application was forwarded to two divisions of the MEA — first, the Europe West (EW) division that deals with all matters relating to Andorra, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, United Kingdom, European Union; and second, the Consular, Passport and Visa Division (CPV).
The CPIO of the Europe West division replied on June 4, 2018 (see below RTI reply 2) that the sought information did not pertain to their division. Now, the First Appellate Authority cum Director, MEA, on June 18, 2018 has directed the CPIO (EW) division to transfer the RTI application to the concerned division.
RTI reply 2
Recently, it was reported that the fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi managed to travel by air through several countries, even though information about his Indian passport being cancelled by India was flashed in the Interpol central database on February 24, 2018, the CBI said on Monday.
Only MEA can forward extradition requests to foreign countries
As per the guidelines for Indian law enforcement agencies on extradition of fugitives from abroad available on the website of the MEA:
“A request for Extradition on behalf of the Republic of India can only be made by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, which formally submits the request for Extradition to the Requested State through diplomatic channels. Such requests are sent under the signature of the Minister of External Affairs.”
The guidelines further state that extradition requests are sent to the MEA for consideration by:
1. The State government under whose territorial jurisdiction the alleged offence took place;
2. The court of law by which the fugitive criminal located abroad is wanted;
3. The Ministry of Home Affairs in respect of cases put together by investigating agencies (e.g. CBI, NIA etc.)
As per the reply given in the Lok Sabha, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance on March 9, 2018 said:
“Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered two cases relating to the matter and, as of 6.3.2018, had arrested 18 persons. On the basis of FIRs registered by CBI, Directorate of Enforcement (ED) has filed two cases under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and conducted searches at various locations and seized movable properties and attached immovable properties. Further, mutual funds and bank accounts have been frozen. Letter of Request to 13 countries have been issued by the court seeking details of properties, bank accounts of companies, etc. ED has moved the court for obtaining non-bailable warrants against accused persons. Further investigation is in progress.”
The fact that no formal request has been received by the MEA on Nirav Modi’s extradition, coupled with the streaming news of the frequent-flier most-wanted fugitive travelling across continents without any apparent hurdles, do make for a lot of concern. After all, how can the agencies claim to be investigating the case if they haven’t even forwarded the courtesy request to the MEA for Nirav Modi’s extradition? Or, is this saga going to play out in the exact same manner as that of the liquor baron Vijay Mallya?